A heater can be an excellent addition to any home. It makes you feel warm and comfortable when cold outside, like now in the late winter, with temperatures below freezing each day. But is it safe to leave a space heater plugged in?
No. Space heaters are associated with dangers, including fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, and injuries. These are some of the things that could happen if you leave it plugged in. Accidents do happen, and a minor fault can lead to the destruction of property or even a tragedy.
So, it’s not safe to leave your space heater plugged in. This article takes a deeper look at the dangers of leaving the space heater running and explains the dangers associated with the action. So, you might want to read it before you leave.
Why is it Not Safe to Leave a Space Heater Plugged In?
Many people leave their space heaters running every day, but you might be surprised to learn that they are very dangerous when used incorrectly. Despite how convenient it is to use a space heater during the cold months of winter, unsafe use can cause injuries or even fatalities.
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According to NFPA’s most recent heat equipment data, 48,530 house heating fires occur each year in the United States, resulting in 500 civilian fatalities, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.
Most home heating equipment fires are caused by space heaters, accounting for over two-thirds of all blazes and most deaths and injuries.
The leading causes of home heating fire casualties involve either child playing around with the appliance or combustible materials such as clothes or bedding coming into contact with the heating element. And to prevent these types of accidents, it is essential to be aware of the dangers involved in using a space heater and take proper precautions.
And according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), portable electric heaters are involved in approximately 1,100 fires each year in the United States, resulting in around 50 fatalities, dozens of injuries, and millions of dollars in property damage.
Risk of fire
Space heaters are portable, easy to use, and require no installation. However, one of the greatest dangers associated with space heaters is the risk of fire.
When you use a space heater, typically, the only outlet it uses is for its power cord. You can plug several items into that single outlet, including table lamps, radios, televisions, or other appliances that you might want next to your couch or bed.
But this could lead to an overloaded circuit breaker which increases the risk of causing a fire in your home both from overloading the circuit and creating sparks if there is wear on wires creating loose connections.
Since they are used so close to flammable materials, there is a greater chance that these appliances could cause fires.
If the heater falls over or any fabric comes into contact with the heating element, it can easily catch on fire. Although manufacturers have prevented this by adding automatic shutoff switches and tip-over protection systems, accidents still happen.
Assume this; if the front face of the space heater is hot and falls over its cable, there is the risk of melting the cable and causing a short circuit, and before you know it, the nearest fabric is on fire.
An accident could also happen. Assuming the heater uses the mechanical tip-over auto-switch and when it tips over, something presses the switch, and it continues operating. That increases the possibility of your house catching fire.
If you’re using an extension cable, there is a chance it could draw too much power and end up overheating the extension cord. It does happen if the heater is left operational for an extended period. And know this, overheating can melt the cable insulation and what happens next is an electric short circuit capable of lighting the fabric near it.
If you’re tempted to leave your pet (cat, dog, or any other animal) in the house with a space heater plugged in, he or she might push away from the safe spot and maybe near fire-prone materials. And with the heater on, it can produce enough heat to create fire.
Carbon Monoxide Build-Up in the house from Fuel Heater
If you have a fuel heater, it might produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can build up in your house if anything goes wrong with venting due to lack of maintenance or carelessness.
It’s also important to remember not to bring any fabric near the burner area as this can lead to shorter circuits, sparks, and even explosions which could light up your entire house.
It can get even worse if you sleep with the heater plugged in. The killer gas can build up in the house and potentially incapacitate or strangle everyone in the house, turning it into a tragedy.
And even though you might argue you want to leave the heater plugged in so that it can heat the room and find it warm, carbon monoxide might accumulate in the house waiting for you to get back.
It Can Turn Out To Be a Waste of Energy and Money
Leaving your space heater plugged in might not be the best idea. It can turn out to be a waste of energy and money in the long run.
Space heaters are designed to heat a room quickly, so if you have it turned on all day long, you’re just wasting electricity. And if you have more than one space heater running at the same time, you’re even using more electricity and spending more money.
In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save up to 10% on your annual energy bill by turning off your space heater when you’re not using it.
So before you leave for work in the morning or go to bed at night, make sure your space heater is turned off.
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Can I use an extension cord with my space heater?
No. NEVER use your space heater with an extension cord or a power strip as it can lead to overheating of the cord or cause the breaker to trip.
Should I use a space heater when I sleep?
No. It’s dangerous to leave a space heater on when you sleep, even if it has an automatic shutoff feature.
How do I prevent my pet from getting too close to the space heater?
Ensure your pet has a designated safe spot away from the heater and never leave your pet unsupervised in the same room as a space heater.
What are the safest space heaters?
Oil space heaters are the safest as they don’t have an exposed heating element, and they heat the room through controlled radiation. They are safe to touch, and you can place them almost anywhere.