CHOOSE AND USE
•Buy a newer-model device
that carries a UL-listed
mark, indicating that
it meets their safety
•Select a unit with current
safety features, including:
– Tip-over safety switch.
– Overheat protection.
– Auto shutoff.
– Adjustable thermostat.
– Element guard.
•Choose a device properly
sized for the room you
intend to heat.
•Read and follow the
•Set the heater on a level
surface away from
curtains and foot traffic.
•Keep the cord away from
the heat, and occasionally
inspect the cord and plug
•Dust off and lightly clean
the unit’s surface regularly
to improve efficiency and
decrease fire risks.—EJM
Safety tips for portable electric heaters
BY ERIK J. MARTIN
MAYBE YOUR furnace is out. Perhaps you’re
busy at work in a chilly garage or o;ce. Or you
want to turn down your thermostat but keep one
room nice and toasty. For these and other scenarios, a portable electric-powered space heater
sure comes in handy at home or at work.
Many portable electric heaters employ fan-forced convection heat—circulating air in an
interior space—while others use radiant heat in
the form of infrared radiation that directly
warms people and objects in front of it.
Regardless of the technology, the important
thing to remember is that electric-powered portables are the only unvented space heaters safe to
use indoors. That’s because they don’t ;ll your
living space with undesirable combustion products like carbon monoxide, which can be generated by liquid-fueled heaters.
But their compact size and convenience
come with a tradeo;: Extra diligence and careful
operation are required to prevent ;res, injuries
and property damage.
Three feet from the heat
The most signi;cant risk to safety is placing
electric heaters too close to combustible materials like bedding, furniture, drapes, carpets or
clothing, says Costco member John Drengenberg,
consumer safety director for Northbrook,
Illinois–based Under writers Laboratories, which
tests many of these devices.
“Keep these materials at least ; feet away
Be the adult in the room
from the heater, and prevent anything from
getting too close and blocking the release of heat.
This could overheat the motor, switch or the
wires and cause a ;re,” Drengenberg says. “Also,
never drape garments like a hat, gloves or pants
over a space heater. These units are designed to
heat a space, not dry clothes.”
Likewise, be aware of what is above and
around the heater. “You want to minimize the
likelihood of having something fall on the heater,
like a blanket, that could create an overheat situ-
ation or a ;re,” says Bob Soden, a Costco member
and sales director for Vornado Air, an Andover,
Kansas–based maker of portable heaters.
Kids and pets are particularly vulnerable to
injuries or damage caused by a portable heater.
“Children and pets are unpredictable, so you
want to keep a kid-free and pet-free zone around
the space heater,” says Lisa Braxton, associate
project manager for the National Fire Protection
Association, in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Drengenberg agrees. “Don’t operate a space
heater in a room with a nearby child in a crib or
playpen or an enclosed pet like a dog in a crate.
They can become overheated while con;ned.”
For these and other reasons, never leave a
working portable heater unattended. “Always
remain in the room when a space heater is operating,” says Braxton, who advises turning o; the
heater before going to sleep or leaving the room
CONTINUED ON PAGE 58
FOR YOUR HOME