The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 23, 2013

Be safe when using electric space heaters

By Jessica Nickels, columnist
Enid News & Eagle

— With temperatures slowly making their annual nosedive in Oklahoma, all of us will be seeking ways to stay toasty warm throughout the winter months.

Electric space heaters may be an option when you are looking to heat a room or specific area in your house, said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

“Space heaters aren’t designed to replace a home’s heating system, but, when used safely and properly, they can provide plenty of supplemental heat,” she said.

As a first step, inspect your heater before firing it up. Check the cord and the plug for damage.

It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when operating your space heater, but don’t use it if you suspect it is damaged in any way.

If you are purchasing a new electric space heater, look for the latest models to ensure it incorporates the most up-to-date safety standards, as well as products with the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) certification mark.

Use heaters on level, hard, nonflammable surface such as ceramic tile floors, but not on top of other furniture where it could fall. Place your heater least 3 feet away from bedding, drapes, furniture or other flammable materials. It also shouldn’t be located near anyone who is sleeping.

Avoid using heaters in damp, wet areas such as outdoors or in bathrooms, unless the product is designed to operate in those conditions.

Heaters should be plugged directly into the wall, and extension cords should only be used when absolutely necessary.

Once the heater is plugged in, if you notice the plug getting hot, it could be a sign the outlet may need to be replaced, and you should contact a qualified electrician for assistance.

Be sure to keep children and pets away from space heaters, and turn it off when you are not in the area or when you go to sleep.

Space heaters are a source of heat when you just want to warm up a small area. Following a few safety precautions will help you take advantage of that warmth without worrying about fire, electrocution or other hazards.

Nickels, MS, RD/LD, is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Garfield County.