Important Home Heating Safety Tips

Space Heaters, CO2 & Fire Prevention Safety Tips

My husband sent this to me and as he takes care of the safety issues, I thought we were ok in this department. But then I remembered my middle daughter’s room which is always 10 degrees colder or hotter (depending on the weather and the swing is to the more extreme end) and thought of the mini space heater we added after she complained that her room was the coldest in the house. We are not sure why and my husband who is handy has been caulking and sealing in her room like crazy.

And then I thought about the electric blankets we added the kids’ beds as a measure to  lower the temperature in the house at night. I’m a little paranoid that electric blankets might cause fires but that’s not a proven correlation, just a personal fear of mine. Still, I am enjoying the heated mattress pad we have on our bed.

Please take a moment to check off these fire safety tips for your own home. I’m sure you are fine, but let’s all be careful this winter. A fire would be a bummer!

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the United States Fire Administration (USFA) are urging consumers to play it safe as winter weather blankets the United States. According to USFA, home fires spike in winter months. Cooking and home heating are the leading causes of residential building fires during the winter. The risk of fires also increases with the use of supplemental heating, such as space heaters.

The CPSC recommends the following for the safe use of electric heaters:

  • Never operate a heater you suspect is damaged. Before use, inspect the heater, cord, and plug for damage. Follow all operation and maintenance instructions.
  • Visit www.cpsc.gov or www.recalls.gov to see if your electric heater has been recalled.
  • Never leave the heater operating while unattended, or while you are sleeping.
  • Keep combustible material such as beds, sofas, curtains, papers, and clothes at least 3 feet (0.9 m) from the front, sides, and rear of the heater.
  • Be sure the heater plug fits tightly into the wall outlet. If not, do not use the outlet to power the heater.
  • During use, check frequently to determine if the heater plug or cord, wall outlet, or faceplate is HOT! If the plug, outlet, or faceplate is hot, discontinue use of the heater, and have a qualified electrician check and/or replace the plug or faulty wall outlet(s). If the cord is hot, disconnect the heater, and have it inspected/repaired by an authorized repair person.
  • Never power the heater with an extension cord or power strip.
  • Insure that the heater is placed on a stable, level surface, and located where it will not be knocked over.
  • When purchasing a heater, ask the salesperson whether the heater has been safety-certified. A certified heater will have a safety certification mark. See the following web site (OSHA) for a list of accepted certification marks:
  • Never run the heater’s cord under rugs or carpeting. This can damage the cord, causing it and nearby objects to burn.
  • To prevent electrical shocks and electrocutions, always keep electric heaters away from water, and NEVER touch an electric heater if you are wet.

CPSC and USFA recommend that in addition to having working smoke and CO alarms, consumers should follow these safety tips to prevent fires and CO poisoning:

Preventing Fires:

  • Place space heaters on a floor that is flat and level. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, and other flammable materials; and place space heaters out of the flow of foot traffic. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • To prevent the risk of fire, NEVER leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater close to any sleeping person. Turn the heater off when you leave the area. See CPSC’s electric space heater safety alert for more space heater safety tips.
  • Never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater. Even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of a fire.
  • Have fireplace flues and chimneys inspected for leakage and blockage from creosote or debris every year.
  • Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire, and keep it open until the ashes are cool. An open damper may help prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home.
  • Store fireplace ashes in a fire-resistant container, and cover the container with a lid. Keep the container outdoors and away from combustibles. Dispose of ashes carefully, keeping them away from dry leaves, trash or other combustible materials.

Preventing CO poisoning:

  • Schedule a yearly professional inspection of all fuel-burning home heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues and vents.
  • Keep portable generators as far away from your home and your neighbors’ homes as possible – away from open doors, windows or vents that could allow deadly carbon monoxide into the home.
  • When purchasing a space heater, ask the salesperson whether the heater has been safety-certified. A certified heater will have a safety certification mark. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features. A unvented gas space heater that meets current safety standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.
  • Do not use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space, unless they are designed specifically for indoor use. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper use.
  • Never use gas or electric stoves to heat the home. They are not intended for that purpose and can pose a CO or fire hazard.

More information can be found in CPSC’s Safety Alert, Reducing Fire Hazards for Portable Electric Heaters at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/098.pdf

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Infrared heaters do not heat the air. A true infrared heater will heat any object it comes in contact with including water molecules, carpet, furniture, and even the human body. Because the human body is over 75% water infrared heat will warm our bodies similar to the rays of the sun without the damaging UV rays.

  2. If you are using portable space heaters then you should familiarize yourself with the safety features incorporated into the device. You should also never use an electric space heater on an extension cable as the electricity draw from space heaters can exceed the rating of the extension cable causing it to overheat. thanks for the tips!

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