December 2006 Edition 

What You Should Know About Space Heaters 

A space heater is a self-contained, free standing air heating appliance intended for installation in the space being heated and not intended for duct connection. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of room (space) heaters. More than 300 persons die in these fires. An estimated 6,000 persons receive hospital emergency room care for burn injuries associated with contacting hot surfaces of room heaters, mostly in non-fire situations.
General Suggestions for All Space Heaters 
CPSC offers the following general suggestions for selection, safe use, and maintenance of gas, wood, kerosene and electric space heaters: 
• Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or the heating element. This will help keep children, pets and clothing away from the heat source.
• When selecting a heater, look for one that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters have been determined to meet specific safety standards, and manufacturers are required to provide important use and care information to the consumer.
• Buy a heater that is the correct size for the area you want to heat. The wrong size heater could produce more pollutants and may not be an efficient use of energy.
• Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions. Keep the owner’s manual in a convenient place to refer to when needed.
• Keep children and pets away from space heaters. Some heaters have very hot surfaces. Children should not be permitted to either adjust the controls or move the heater.
• Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. This helps to prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Even vented heaters require ventilation for proper combustion.
• Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or leave the area. For fuel-fired heaters, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide could accumulate or uncontrolled burning could cause a fire.
•  Never use or store flammable liquids (such as gasoline) around a space heater. The flammable vapors can flow from one part of the room to another and be ignited by the open flame or by an electrical spark.
• Be aware that mobile homes require specially designed heating equipment. Only electric or vented fuel-fired heaters should be used.
• Place heaters at least three feet away from objects such as bedding, furniture and drapes. Never use heaters to dry clothes or shoes. Do not place heaters where towels or other objects could fall on the heater and start a fire.
Specific Suggestions 
• Different types of space heaters present some different safety problems. You should be aware of important information and advice about these specific types of heaters.
• Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually by qualified persons to ensure that they are properly adjusted and clean. Keep the wick of the kerosene heater clean and properly adjusted. Appliances that are not working properly can release harmful and even fatal amounts of pollutants.
• Be certain that your heater is placed on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets.
• Keep the heater in a safe working condition. Replace missing guards and controls at once. Never operate a defective heater. Have all necessary repairs done by qualified repair persons.
Kerosene Space Heaters 
• Never use gasoline in a kerosene heater. Even very small quantities of gasoline in the heater tank can cause a fire. Kerosene should never be stored or carried in a container that has had gasoline because the residual gasoline is enough to increase the flammability of the kerosene.
• Only use 1-K kerosene in kerosene heaters. Kerosene should be purchased from a dealer who can certify that it is 1-K grade kerosene. The fact that kerosene is “water clear” does not ensure that it is 1-K, since both 1-K and 2-K can appear clear.
• Never fill the fuel tank of a kerosene heater beyond the full mark because as the fuel warms, it expands and could spill and cause a fire.
• Do not attempt to remove the fuel tank, or refuel the heater when it is operating or hot. The heater should not be moved while it is operating.
• Refuel heater out of doors.
• If flare-up or uncontrolled flaming occurs, do not attempt to move the heater. If your heater is equipped with a manual shut-off switch, activate the switch to turn off the heater. Do not attempt to extinguish a kerosene-heater fire with water or blankets. If activation of the shut-off switch does not extinguish the flame, leave the area and immediately call the fire department.
• Keep kerosene stored outside in a sealed blue container labeled “Kerosene.”
Portable Electric Space Heaters 
• Portable electric heaters manufactured after 1991 include many new performance requirements to enhance safety. For portable electric heaters that may present a fire hazard when tipped over, a tip-over switch will turn the heater off until it is turned upright again. New heaters also include indicator lights to let users know that the heater is plugged in or is turned on. Some manufacturers have included technically innovative safety controls such as infrared or proximity sensors, which can turn a heater off when objects come too close, or when children or pets are near. These kinds of controls may prevent burn injuries to children who might play too near a heater, or reduce the risk of ignition of combustible materials that could contact the heater.
• Use heaters on the floor. Never place heaters on furniture, since they may fall, dislodging or breaking parts in the heater, which could result in a fire or shock hazard.
• Unless certified for that purpose, do not use heaters in wet or moist places, such as bathrooms; corrosion or other damage to parts in the heater may lead to a fire or shock hazard.
• Do not hide cords under rugs or carpets. Placing anything on top of the cord could cause the cord to overheat, and can cause a fire.
• Do not use an extension cord unless absolutely necessary. Using a light-duty, household extension cord with high-wattage appliances can start a fire. If you must use an extension cord, it must be marked #14 or #12 AWG; this tells the thickness or gauge of the wire in the cord. Do not use a cord marked #16 or #18 AWG. Only use extension cords bearing the label of an independent testing laboratory such a U.L. or E.T.L.
• Be sure the plug fits snugly in the outlet. Since a loose plug can overheat, have a qualified repairman replace the worn-out plug or outlet. Since heaters draw lots of power, the cord and plug may feel warm. If the plug feels hot, unplug the heater and have a qualified repairman check for problems. If the heater and its plug are found to be working properly, have the outlet replaced. Using a heater with a hot cord or plug could start a fire.
•  If a heater is used on an outlet protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) and the GFCI trips, do not assume the GFCI is broken. Because GFCIs protect the location where leakage currents can cause a severe shock, stop using the heater and have it checked, even it if seems to be working properly.
• Broken heaters should be checked and repaired by a qualified appliance service center. Do not attempt to repair, adjust or replace parts in the heater yourself.
For additional information about space heaters, go to CPSC website the view the entire brochure.  
Source: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/463.html 

If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at rodharrison@christianbuildinginspectors.com. We reserve the right to edit questions for length. 


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