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Beware of Space Heater Hazards

Burns and carbon monoxide poisoning are two of the dangers of using space heaters.

Cooler temperatures are a reminder that the winter heating season will begin soon.

Using space heaters to warm small areas of the home can save money, but the heaters need to be used safely.

“Burns from hot elements and the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning are just two of the safety concerns with using space heaters,” cautions Carl Pedersen, North Dakota State University Extension Service energy educator.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas released from fuel-burning space heaters. If these gases are not exhausted outdoors, they can cause a variety of health problems and even death.

“Do not use unvented combustion heaters in a home,” Pedersen says. “Even if heaters are vented, homeowners should make sure to have a carbon monoxide detector.”

The heating element and, in some cases, the covering of a space heater can be very hot, so avoid touching the heater. Because burns can result from touching a space heater, you need to teach small children to stay away from any space heater or find ways to keep them from getting near the heater.

You also need to keep space heaters away from combustible materials such as furniture, carpet, walls, curtains and tablecloths. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on how far the heater needs to be from combustible materials.

Avoid placing space heaters in high-traffic areas as well. Many electric space heaters will shut off automatically if they tip over, but the element still can be hot, which could cause a fire if it comes in contact with combustible material.

“Also avoid purchasing space heaters advertised as ‘miracle heaters,’” Pedersen advises. “Radiant and convection space heaters can be found at any hardware store for a fraction of the hundreds of dollars of the advertised heaters and heat just as well.”

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Sept. 20, 2011

Source:Carl Pedersen, (701) 231-5833,
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391,
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