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Portable Electrical Heaters – safety and use

October 1st, 2009 No comments

Electrical Tip of the Day:  The number #1 cause of electrical house fires in the US is the misuse of portable electrical space heating equipment.  The truth of the matter is that these things have a pretty high degree of danger associated with them that many people are just not fully aware of.  Here are a few quick tips:

  • Do not use them on extension cords, and if you must – use a grounded #12 gauge cord that is just long enough to do the job
  • Make sure the heater is not on a circuit that already has a large load on it. A 1500 watt heater on high will draw as much as 13 amps.  If you are using a 15 amp circuit that is really only supposed to be run at 80%  (per NEC code) the heater alone puts you at the limit of the permissible load rating of the circuit
  • Do not plug in other cords into the same outlet as a heater.  Most outlets are only rated for 15 amps, so adding an additional load could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back
  • Do not use space heaters on wiring systems that have not been upgraded to ground 3 wire circuits and modern toggle style breakers.  Most of these old systems were not design for these kinds of loads
  • Ideally space heaters should be used on 20 amp circuits that does not share power with the lighting system or other outlet loads
  • If the heater keeps tripping the circuit, then don’t “force” the breaker back into reset.  It is tripping for a reason and a larger problem could be in progress
  • Use heaters of a “sealed” design – such as the portable electric radiator type.  They do not have exposed elements that can ignite combustible materials
  • Make sure your heater has a UL listing for safety and has an automatic shut off device in case it gets knocked over – if it does not it is time for a new heater
  • Do not use plug adapters and multi-outlet plug strips with electric heaters
  • Never leave a heater unattended with pets and small children
  • Make sure you have working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in your home, ALWAYS!

If you have any questions on how to safely use space heaters in your home or office give us a call – we would be happy to get you on the right track.