When Jack Frost comes nipping at your nose, it's time to turn up the heat. For many people, this just means raising the temperature on the central heating system's thermostat. In many cases, though, you only need heat in a small area for a brief time, and it makes more sense to use a space heater than to heat the whole house.
The best way to use a space heater to save money is to only heat one room, but leave the rest of your home cooler. That said, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reminds us that space heaters account for 1/3 of all home fires and 4 out of 5 home heating fire deaths, so paying close attention to safety is a must.
Whatever your reasons for using a space heater, here are tips to help you choose, use, and maintain yours so you can stay safely toasty warm, even when the weather outside is frightful.
No matter what type or brand of space heater you opt to use, follow these safety tips from the NFPA to reduce the chances of fires and injury:
Keep anything that can burn, including bedding, furniture, and curtains at least 3 feet away from a space heater.
Have a three-foot "kid-free zone" around space heaters and never use a space heater in a child's bedroom.
Run power cords on top of carpet and step over them to avoid abrading the cord. Do not use extension cords.
Turn off space heaters when going to bed or leaving a room.
Don't use a space heater in a damp or wet area unless it's specifically made for that purpose.
Turn space heaters off before leaving the room or going to bed.
Never put a space heater on a countertop unless it's specifically designed for it.
Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and test monthly.
Only purchase "UL Listed" heaters which display the UL mark on their label. This is an independent organization which tests for safety.
Don't use gas- or oil-burning space heaters indoors, only outdoors or in spaces open to the outdoors like tents or porches.
Read and follow all manufacturer's directions for your space heater.