As many homeowners look for ways to save energy during the winter months, space heaters have become a popular solution to help heat one room in the home (like the living room) without wasting energy heating empty spaces.
While space heaters are easy to use, they also pose a fire hazard if not used properly. According to Fire Prevention Canada, residential fires are most common during the winter months in Canada. To keep yourself and your loved ones safe this winter, while keeping your home warm and cozy, heed the following space heater safety tips.
Choose the Right Type
Before you actually make your purchase, it’s wise to figure out what type of space heater is right for you and your home. Be sure to get a heater that’s the right size for the room that you plan to heat – a heater that’s too large for the room in which it’s placed will lead to more energy consumption and higher energy bills. A heater that’s rated for a small room, however, will have to work harder to heat up a larger space. Make sure the heater you choose is rated for the type of rooms you will be heating in your home.
What’s more, choose a heater with the right safety features, such as tip-over and overheat protection. A tip-over switch feature is an important element to look for, as this switch will shut off your heater in case it’s tipped over, avoiding a potentially dangerous fire hazard.
Similarly, overheat protection uses a sensor to detect when the internal components of the heater become too hot for it to continue functioning safely, at which point the sensor will automatically shut off the unit to prevent overheating.
Look for Safety Certifications
When shopping for a space heater, the size of the unit is not the only factor you should keep in mind. Make sure to choose a unit that is labelled by a recognized testing laboratory, like the Canadian Standards Association, Intertek, or Underwriters Laboratories. If you choose a product that’s listed or labelled by one of these trusted laboratories, you can rest easy knowing that it’s been constructed following the proper national safety standards, and that its performance has been thoroughly tested and approved.
Keep Placement in Mind
When you’ve purchased a properly sized space heater, with the right safety certification, it’s not enough to simply place it in your room of choice. When you’re looking for a spot to place your heating unit, you’ll want to keep placement in mind and choose a safe area, minimizing the risk of fire hazards.
Place your heater on a level floor, on a non-flammable surface – never place your heater on a shelf, as this increases the risk of it tipping over. Avoid placing your space heater in a bathroom, as moisture can damage the unit.
The most important space heater safety rule, however, is to keep your heater at least three feet away from flammable materials, and choose an area that’s well away from pets and children.
Avoid Extension Cords
After you’ve made the right space heater purchase, and placed it in the proper location in your room of choice, there are a few things to keep in mind before you begin to heat up your home. For one, you should avoid plugging in your new space heater using an extension cord, as this can lead to overheating. Make sure to plug your space heater directly into a wall outlet, and that your heater is the only thing that’s plugged into that particular outlet. What’s more, make sure to avoid tripping hazards by keeping cords out of high-traffic areas.
Never Leave It Unattended
It’s important to keep an eye on your space heater at all times when it’s in use. Never leave your heater unattended, even if you’re just going to leave the room for ten minutes.
If you’re going to walk your dog, going to work in the morning, or going to bed for the night, do not leave your space heater on thinking it will warm up the room when you’re away – always turn off and unplug your space heater whenever you’re not in the room.
Inspect and Maintain It Regularly
Just as you would with any other appliance, it’s important to inspect and maintain your space heater regularly in order to keep it functioning safely and properly for years to come. Clean your heater as well to make sure that it stays in good condition, and wipe it down every so often to keep it from dispersing dust around your home.
Space Heater Safety 101
While the season of warm sweaters and crackling fireplaces is upon us, you don’t need a fireplace to keep your home cozy this winter – space heaters are an effective way to heat any room in your home, without spending a fortune on heating.
These tips are provided for information and prevention purposes only. They are general in nature, and Desjardins Insurance cannot be held liable for them. We recommend using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, tailored advice.
In Quebec, Desjardins Insurance refers to Desjardins General Insurance Inc. In Ontario and Alberta, Desjardins Insurance refers to Certas Direct Insurance Company, underwriter of automobile and property insurance.