The high cost of heating oil and natural gas combined with the efforts to save energy, raises the potential for increased use of alternative heating sources. A combination of more heating appliances being used and homes not being properly treated and weatherized before winter set in last year has resulted in countless fires throughout southern New Jersey. While some fires are the result of electrical errors, fire officials said most of the fires that occur in winter are simply the result of user error.
Space heaters carry a much greater risk of causing a fire than central heating, such as furnaces. Space heaters present a greater potential for human error such as leaving them too close to combustible materials or failing to install, fuel, operate and maintain them properly.
If you must use a space heater, the following steps and safety precautions must be observed:
- The space heater selected must be tested by an independent testing laboratory such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL).
- The preferred style of space heaters are fully enclosed by design and have no external surfaces that reach temperatures capable of igniting, such as an oil filled radiant heater.
- Keep the space heater accessible – do not storage anything within three feet of the unit. The leading cause of space heater fires was combustibles too close to the heater.
- The unit must have thermostatic controls and automatic shutoff features.
- The space heater must be plugged directly into an outlet. Do not use a light-duty extension cord or a multi outlet strip/surge protector; it can start a fire with a high-wattage appliance. The unit must be grounded with a three-pronged plug.
- Run the power cord so that no one steps on or trips over it.
- Turn off the heater when you leave the room - unplug the heater when you leave for the day.
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