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Staying warm in winter months can seem like an intimidating challenge. Running your central heating and cooling system can be expensive, and those on a tight budget may not want to fire up their furnace. Many people turn to inexpensive and simple heating alternatives to stay comfortable, and one of the most popular of these alternatives is an electric space heater.

Space heaters are generally compact units that use a fan to pull air in from the back, heat it using an electrical heating element, and then force it out the front. Their small size and light weight make these units portable and usable in almost any room in your home. Plus many modern space heaters are actually remarkably powerful and can make a limited space (such as a living area or bedroom) considerably warmer in a short amount of time.

However, there are tradeoffs when it comes to space heater systems, and misuse could actually be extremely dangerous for you, your home, and your loved ones.

Space Heater Dangers

Space heaters have an inherently flawed design that simply can’t be avoided. The heating elements for your central heating and cooling system are hidden inside the indoor unit—well away from curious hands, prying eyes, or stray debris. With a space heater, however, that’s simply not the case. With these units, the extremely hot heating element is protected by nothing more than a simple metal grid that’s designed to offer protection while still maximizing airflow. While these metal grids do offer protection from larger debris or accidental contact, they can still cause flammable material to combust or burn injuries to accidental brushes or touches. Some of these grids have built-in heat indicators to show that the grid is hot, but others don’t and it’s extremely easy to accidentally touch one of these grids that you may not realize has recently been used.

There’s another flaw to the idea of space heaters: they are usually light weight, small, and located on the floor in the middle of a room. Because of this, it’s extremely easy to accidentally bump one of these units and tip it over. As we mentioned previously, the extremely hot grid can quickly burn anything that it touches, and that could include your flooring, carpet, rug, curtains, furniture, or anything else that a falling heater could accidentally bump into. At best, this could leave burn marks where it fell. At worst, it could spark a fire. This is why we never recommend leaving a space heater running while you sleep or when nobody is home.

Finally, space heaters actually draw a fair amount of electrical current. Generating the heat needed to effectively heat your room takes a significant amount of energy, and thus their electrical connection is going to have to sustain a pretty serious load. This could be a problem if the equipment you have handling the electricity isn’t exactly built to sustain it. Unfortunately, the market has been inundated with extremely cheap, poorly built electrical strips that are available from almost any big box store for just a few dollars. While these power strips work for many things, many of these power strips simply can’t withstand the electrical load needed to power one of these space heaters. As a result, they overheat, melt the plastic they’re built from, and in many cases can catch fire themselves. And a burned-up power strip could deal immense damage to your home in mere moments.

Space Heater Safety Tips

Why do we bring these things up? Simple: because we want you to be fully aware of the risks of using a space heater. We are not encouraging you not to use space heaters, but rather we’re encouraging you to use them responsibly and take some extra precautions when doing so.

So what can you do keep your home safe while using a space heater? Here are a few valuable safety recommendations and tips you can follow for a safer and warmer winter.

  • Keep a three-foot radius around space heaters. Never place anything inside this radius and teach children not to sit or move inside it.
  • Never plug a space heater into a power strip—always plug it directly into the wall. Your in-wall electrical equipment is built to withstand higher electrical loads.
  • Never plug a space heater into a worn-out, aging, or otherwise compromised outlet. For example, if you plug in a space heater and the plug just falls right back out of the wall, the electrical leads on your plug are worn. Replace the plug before plugging in your space heater there.
  • Check your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors before the start of winter and then test again every month throughout the winter season. Smoke and heat exhaust can contain carbon monoxide—a gas that can be lethal in high volumes. Leaks are not common, but you want to be prepared in the event one happens.
  • Always make sure your fireplace vent or chimney flue is completely open when starting a wood-burning or gas fire to stay warm. Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen in place to prevent sparks or debris from flying into the room.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.

Do you need a furnace tune-up service, an electrical inspection, outlet replacement, or heating system repair? Call the experts at Carter Services at (310) 872-1898 to request a quote today.

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