WVU Extension Service urges residents to put safety first when heating homes

Stories | WVU Today | West Virginia University

With
frigid temperatures well below normal and not much relief in sight, many West
Virginia residents are turning to additional heat sources to help their primary
heater keep up with the arctic chill that has dominated early winter.

One
of the most affordable and common alternatives are space heaters. While they
can keep certain rooms warmer, they’re a bit of a double-edged sword according
to West Virginia
University Safety and Health Extension specialists.

Space
heaters are one of the leading causes of home fires through the winter months,
and according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, roughly 25,000
residential fires occur due to misuse. 

Consumers
should be aware of a few key things before purchasing and using space heaters.

There
are many different types of space heaters including room gas heaters, portable
kerosene heaters (which are illegal in many states) and portable electric
heaters. Regardless of the type of space heater, make sure that the heating element
is not exposed.

Look
for space heater models with thermostatic controls and automatic shutoff
features to ensure the safest possible operation when using a space heater.
Most new models of electric heaters also feature a “tip switch” which automatically
shuts off the heater if the device is tipped over.

After
purchasing the heater, read the manual and warning labels on the heater itself
and always follow those recommendations.

The
most important rule to follow when using a space heater is to keep all outside
objects at least three feet away. A combustible object that is too close to the
heater is the main reason that fires occur.

Also,
when in use, keep all children and pets away. Space heaters can reach extremely
high temperatures that can cause severe burns to those who come in contact
with their surfaces.

Never
plug your space heater into a light-duty extension cord or multi-outlet surge

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