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6 Safety tips for using space heaters (and keeping your home standing)

vipHomeLink-office-space-heater Here in the vipHomeLink office...

Though Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted an early spring, the U.S. Fire Administration lists February as one of the worst months for home heating fires. If we're lucky, we can turn down our heating systems in just a few weeks, but if Phil happens to be wrong, you might be using that space heater a bit longer. Unfortunately, the National Fire Prevention Association found space heaters are the leading cause of home fires when heating equipment is the culprit.

To help keep you safe (and warm) this winter, our experts put together these top tips to help prevent fires in your home during the coldest months of the year. 

Tip #1: Keep your friends close and your space heater at least three feet away

When it comes to space heaters, three feet is the minimum safe distance from literally everything – your curtains, your hand, your pet. Even the City of San Diego (which is known for their chilly winters, right?) made a video highlighting the dangers the heating element presents.

Tip #2: Pick the perfect space heater 

​Picking the right personal heater, desk heater, or room heater is essential. Check the safety features before buying, such as tip over protection, heat settings, and automatic overheat protection. When buying a personal heater, make sure it'll be safe in small spaces and offers a cooling fan. If you're looking at a ceramic tower heater or a portable space heater that will heat a living room, check that it's made for large spaces. If possible, elect for one that's energy efficient, such as ceramic heaters and electric heaters. And for ultimate convenience – get one with a remote control.

Tip #3: One outlet, one plug 

When using different heating devices – you first might want to make sure your home's electrical wiring can take that, and then plug only one device into one outlet. Never plug a space heater into an extension cord and mind those three feet!

Here in the office, we practice exceptional space heater safety (re: this blog's cover picture).

Tip #4: Keep one eye on your space heater

Similar to how you don't leave your children unattended, don't leave your space heater alone. If it's on, be in the room and be awake. Five out of six (or 85 percent) of home heating deaths are attributed to space heaters, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, so if you feel yourself nodding off – turn the unit off, unplug it, make sure it's cool to touch and stays cool, and then hit the sack.

Tip #5: Serve it the right fuel

When it comes to use different heaters, always use the correct fuel.

If you're using a fuel-burning space heater, always read the manufacturer instructions (super important), and use the fuel specified. Never use gasoline in a kerosene heater, as this can lead to a risk of explosion (you read that right).

Tip #6: Give your detectors a quick check

Since 85 percent of the home heating deaths come from space heater use (or so you may have heard), check your smoke detectors. This way, if a fire does occur, you'll be notified and can put your evacuation plan to good use. (You have one of those, right?) Also, if you're using a kerosene heater, double-check your carbon monoxide detectors. As you know, carbon monoxide is "the silent killer," so you definitely want to prevent buildup in your home.

Make your home as fireproof as possible this winter with safety procedures and information in our member-exclusive vipTIPS. Not a member? Subscribe today with our 90-day, risk-free trial. 

This post was originally published on February 5, 2020, under the title 5 Tips for keeping your space heater in live (and your home still standing). Updated May 1, 2020. 

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