January 03, 2018 03:34 PM

With temperatures dropping (and heating costs rising!), families are turning to space heaters to add some extra warmth to their homes this winter. But before you operate one, there are precautions to take.

“When you take it out of the box, you want to inspect it,” Amy Praeveatt, with Home Depot, told WJAX. “That’s the first thing you should do.”

Praeveatt said customers should check the heater’s cord for splits or exposed wires. And inspect the body of the device for damages, which could be a sign of a defect.

Praeveatt adds that no objects should be placed close to the heater.

“No garments, no blankets, no curtains,” Praeveatt told the station. “Three hundred and sixty-five degrees of absolute clearance – with all heaters, especially electric heaters.”


In addition to inspecting the heater’s cord, Texas home repair expert Tom Tynan told the Houston Chronicle that customers should never use an extension cord with a space heater.

“The cord on the space heater was designed to handle only the load placed on it,” he wrote in an article for the site. “Cords will heat up, and if you add length to it you could start a fire by having a cord that will get overheated and literally catch something on fire.”

He said space heaters should not be used while everyone in the home is sleeping and added that all space heaters should have an emergency shutoff motor in the event that the device falls over.


“Turn your space heater on, turn it over on its side and make sure it automatically turns off,” he wrote. “If it does not automatically turn off, there is a problem with the mechanical cutoff and that space heater either needs to be repaired or replaced immediately.”

Chris Harvey, of the Sacramento Fire Department, told KCRA that not all space heaters are safe for in-home use.

He said that heaters that plug into a wall and are powered by electricity are safe for use indoors and in sleeping areas. But heaters that run off of propane or kerosene are best used for garages and shops rather than sleeping areas.

“Anything that burns or has products that combust you can’t have in the house,” he said.


Along with using space heaters, here are other ways to keep warm without breaking the bank:

  • Switch to flannel sheets and a down comforter – and pile extra blankets on your bed!
  • Do something active (like cleaning or exercising)
  • Place rugs on bare floors
  • Block drafts by weather-stripping windows or placing rolled up towels under windows and doors
  • Cover unused windows with plastic

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