Buying space heaters can seem like such a great idea to some people. They add an element of coziness to any room, and they can help save money on your electric bill by allowing you to lower the thermostat without freezing. For others, they can be a necessity. Maybe your HVAC system has broken down and you need a short term or a long term solution to get through the cold winter weather.
Unfortunately, space heaters can cause catastrophic burn injuries, and they can be deadly. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), more than 65,000 house fires occur annually as a result of heating devices. These fires cause hundreds of unnecessary deaths and injuries. Some of the dangers associated with portable heaters include:
- Placing them on carpeted flooring or rugs that can easily catch fire.
- Placing them too close to upholstered furniture or curtains that can quickly ignite.
- Plugging space heaters in via extension cords that can pose tripping and fire hazards.
- Leaving heaters unattended that may spark or start a fire that can get out of control, trapping you inside your home.
Should a heater cause a fire, you may wind up losing your home, losing a family member, experience smoke inhalation that causes internal burns and respiratory distress, or you or a loved one may suffer severe external burn injuries that can take months or years to recover from – if ever.
There are ways to minimize your risk of using space heaters
Make sure you know how to safely use a space heater before plugging one in and placing yourself and your family at risk. Some simple rules to follow are:
- Read all instructions specific to your heater before using it.
- If any part of the plug is loose, frayed, or damaged, do not plug it in and return the heater.
- Never leave a running heater unattended, and keep children and pets away from them to prevent accidental tipping over or becoming injured from tripping and falling.
- Be sure you have working smoke alarms on each level of your home.
- Keep the heater a minimum of 3 feet away from anything that could catch fire.
- Place the heater on a level, hard surface that cannot easily catch fire.
- Never unplug a space heater by pulling on the cord. Always grab the plug and pull it straight out from the electrical socket to prevent damaging the plug.
Another step you can take to protect yourself is to research product recalls on the space heater you intend to purchase, or already own. Recalls that result in product liability claims do not always get relayed to every customer unless you are actively looking for them. You may have no idea that your space heater has been listed as dangerous until it’s too late. Every season when you pull out your space heater, do a search on the Consumer Products Safety Commission website to make sure your heater is still safe before plugging it in for the first time.
A word about kerosene heaters
Kerosene gas heaters pose their own separate risks that users should be aware of. These heaters use liquid fuel rather than electric power. According to the Insurance Information Institute, kerosene heaters cannot be used in small spaces or rooms as the burning kerosene eats oxygen, which can cause oxygen levels in smaller spaces to drop dangerously low. While these heaters come with their own safety features, they pose an additional risk of explosion. You should also be aware that kerosene heaters are illegal in some areas. Check with your local fire department or fire marshal for any restrictions on use in your area.
Choosing the right space heater can make all the difference in your safety
Space heaters come in all price ranges with basic heaters costing as little as $10. While it’s tempting to buy a cheaper heater to cut your electric bill down, basic heaters rarely come with as many safety features as those that cost a little bit more.
Space heaters have safety features that everyone should be aware of if you are going to buy one. Here are some features to look for:
- Choose a space heater that has stay-cool housing that won’t heat up floor surfaces.
- Make sure it has a safety tip-over switch.
- Be sure it has an auto shut off feature should it exceed an unsafe temperature.
You can find a space heater that includes these safety features for as little as $50, but no heater is ever fully free of risks. Precautions and good practices need to be incorporated when using these devices. If you or a family member has been injured or killed due to the use of a space heater, the trusted personal injury attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP will thoroughly investigate your case to determine your best legal options.
Schedule your free consultation today with one of our product liability attorneys by calling our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or by reaching out to us through our contact page.