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Space Heaters and Heating Safety

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Space heater

One of the most dangerous things you can do is put a space heater too close to things that can burn like upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses and bedding.

Here are some general tips about space heaters:

  • Keep children and pets away from supplementary heating appliances.
  • Never use a heater overnight in the room where you are sleeping. It should never be left unattended.
  • Place heaters at least three feet away from objects such as bedding, furniture, draperies, and other combustibles.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions in installing, operating, and maintaining your heating appliance.
  • Check for fraying or splitting wires, or overheating. Have problems repaired by a professional before operating the space heater.

Kerosene Heaters - "Flare-up" fires are responsible for the majority of kerosene heater fires. An analysis of kerosene related accidents concluded that flare-up (uncontrolled flaming) occurs as a result of several factors, including the use of improper or contaminated fuels. Make sure you use only 1K kerosene as a fuel, never use gasoline or non-kerosene fuels. Kerosene heaters can emit air pollutants during operation. In an enclosed room, these pollutants can accumulate and prove harmful. This situation can be aggravated if the heater wick is lowered beyond the manufacturer's recommended setting. Therefore, before using a kerosene heater, people need to set the wick at the recommended height and make sure there is adequate ventilation.

Wood Stoves - Wood and coal burning have also been responsible for many home heating accidents. The dangers associated with this type of heating system are fire and burns resulting from improper installation and creosote buildup. When installing a wood stove, make certain that it is placed on the surface and at the distance from the wall recommended by the manufacturer. Most wood heating fires have occurred in the chimney. Such fires can result from poorly constructed or damaged masonry chimneys, poor installation of factory built chimneys or the ignition of creosote, a tar-like residue which builds up in chimneys over time and is caused by low temperature fires. To reduce the risk of fire, existing masonry chimneys should be inspected and repaired if necessary. Also, special care must be taken when installing a factory-built chimney to ensure it is kept the required distance from nearby combustible materials. People should have their chimneys checked by a qualified chimney sweep before, as well as during, the heating season to prevent a dangerous creosote buildup and resultant chimney fire.

Gas Heaters - Gas heating equipment can also lead to tragedy if not installed or used properly. These products are associated with the twin dangers of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. All new unvented gas-fired space heaters are equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). An ODS detects a reduced level of oxygen in the area where the heater is operating and shuts off the heater before a hazardous level of carbon monoxide accumulates. These heaters also have labels that warn users about the hazards of carbon monoxide.

If the pilot light of your heater should go out, remember these tips:

  • Allow five minutes or more for the gas to go away before trying again.
  • Do not allow gas to accumulate.
  • Light the match before you turn on the gas to the pilot. This avoids the risk of a flashback, which could occur if you allow gas to accumulate before you are ready to light the pilot.
  • IF YOU SMELL GAS, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LIGHT THE APPLIANCE. Turn off all controls and open a window or door. Leave the area, and then call a gas service person. DO NOT touch any electrical surfaces.
  • If your space heater is meant to be vented, be sure the heater and flue are professionally installed according to local codes. Vent systems require regular maintenance and inspections. Vented heaters manufactured after June 1984 provide a thermal shut-off device if the appliance is not vented properly.