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Portable Heaters Can Be Dangerous

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Portable heaters are responsible for over 300 deaths and millions of dollars of property damage per year in the United States. With a little common sense, most, if not all, of these tragedies can be averted. If safety measures are observed, portable heaters make good economic sense.

Portable heaters can be fueled by electricity, propane, natural gas, and kerosene. All these fuel types present potential safety hazards. Electric portable heaters can cause fires when they malfunction due to improper use, are exposed to water (which is also an electrocution threat), or overload electrical circuits. Propane, natural gas, and kerosene all hold the possibility of danger from asphyxiation, fire, and explosion.

Simple precautions can easily mitigate these threats. To be safe, purchase the latest models. Older models may not have the built-in safety protections of portable heaters manufactured in the last few years. Purchase models that have tip-over safety protection. These models automatically turn off when inadvertently knocked over. Even with this protection, be sure to never leave portable heaters unattended.

Use unvented portable heaters with caution. Have a carbon monoxide monitor inside the home to monitor and reduce the risk of deadly carbon monoxide build-up, as unvented portable heaters exhaust combustion by-products into a room. Ensuring a source of fresh air is also a wise precaution, as unvented portable heaters use the air within a room to fuel combustion.

Electric portable heaters do cost more to run then other fuel types, but they do not exhaust gases into a room. Electric portable heaters can be hazardous in other ways, however. They can be very dangerous when used in a bathroom. Keep electric space heaters away from any water. They can also cause fires if combustible materials such as paper or cloth get too near the heater. Dust build-up on the heating element can also be a source of danger.

With all types of space heaters, the best defense is a good offense. Start out by reading the owner’s manual from cover-to-cover. This document relates vital safety information such as proper clearances for the heater, electrical capacity, the best surfaces to accommodate portable heaters, and how to properly maintain the unit. Do not run electrical cords under carpeting, and try to avoid using extension cords with portable heaters. With the proper safety measures, portable heaters can be a wise investment.

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