The year-long COVID pandemic has forced most of us to change our lifestyles—some of us dramatically. Work-from-home has surged and is likely to become much more prevalent than pre-COVID days. Kids have been locked out of most schools for months. And going out, whether to dinner, movies or concerts, has dropped to near zero.
But things are gradually opening up. More kids are returning to school and teachers are getting vaccinated to ease their minds and yours. Restaurants and other locations are seeing restrictions loosened. But work-from-home may be here to stay.
That could mean that you find yourself home alone during the work day. But why pay to heat an entire house when you’re spending most of it in a room by yourself? That’s where a space heater can come in handy.
Space Heater Uses
Space heaters add comfort to drafty and hard-to-heat areas and can save money when used to heat individual rooms while keeping the central thermostat lower. And those savings can add up quickly in today’s work-at-home environment.
A space heater can warm a small space such as a home office or workroom quickly and efficiently. Some models can even be used safely in a bathroom. A small heater with a fan will usually work fine for rooms of 100 sq. ft. or so.
Some space heaters have metal coils or ceramic-encased wires, and both types generally have two heat settings. On low, they use around 1,000 watts of power and on high, it’s about 1,500 watts. Some have two fan speeds and may also oscillate to spread the heat over a larger area.
Portable radiators can be upright designs that look like traditional steam or hot water styles and horizontal ones function like baseboard heaters. Convection heaters can be free-standing or wall-mounted, and some are available as flat panels that can be painted to match the room.
How to Use a Space Heater Safely
The Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that around 25,000 house fires and 300 deaths are caused by space heaters each year. Another 6,000 people go to emergency rooms with burns from touching a heater’s hot surface. And these numbers are likely to go up during the recent stay-at-home environment.
But used properly, space heaters can add comfort while lowering heating costs. Here are some rules for using space heaters safely:
- Only use space heaters that are top-rated by consumer safety organizations like Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and Consumer Reports.
- Place the heater on a hard, level, and nonflammable surface. Don’t put heaters on tables, desks, counters, or shelves where they can be easily tipped over.
- Keep children, pets, fabrics, and combustible materials away from heaters and never leave the heater unattended. Think of it the same as you would a stovetop burner or candle and use similar precautions.
- Don’t leave a space heater in a child’s room at night. Besides the risk of burns from contact in the dark, a sleeping child will not react to smoke or bad smells as quickly as an adult.
- Don’t use a heater in a workshop or garage near paint, gas cans, or other flammable material.
- If using a space heater in a damp area such as a basement, garage or bathroom, be sure it’s plugged into a GFCI-protected outlet. GFCI outlets have been required in those spaces since 1975 and are inexpensive to add, but installation should left to an experienced electrician. Incorrect installation can defeat the protective circuitry in the outlet.
Better yet, also use a heater that has an appliance leakage current interrupter (ALCI) plug. ALCI plugs also monitor differences in current, adding extra protection.
- Turn heaters off when leaving a room and unplug them when not in use for extended periods.
- Don’t run the power cord where it can be a tripping or tipping hazard.
- Avoid using extension cords, which can overheat from a heater’s heavy load. If you must, use a heavy-duty cord and never run any heater cords under rugs or carpet.
- Check any cords for wear, damage or being hot to the touch. Discontinue use if any of these warning signs are present.
- Put smoke alarms on every level of your home, including basements, and in each bedroom and test them monthly.
Space heaters can add a considerable load to already taxed home electrical circuits. If using one causes a breaker to trip, try running it on a lower heat or fan setting. If the problem persists, a licensed electrician can help work on a solution with you. Although it may be feasible, never try replacing a breaker with one of higher amperage yourself. A pro will know if it’s possible and how to do it safely if it is.
If you think your home may have service or safety issues, don’t hesitate to contact Allstar Electrical Services. We deliver the quality results you expect and deserve for all your electrical needs. Just give us a call at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy online forms to request a free estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 20 years, are top-rated by the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List, and are proud to be listed as a preferred contractor by Home Advisor.