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Space Heater Safety

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When winter comes, heating becomes an important issue in the house. Most houses have a main heater but it may  not be enough for houses with bigger areas. In addition to the main heater, people also use space heaters. However, space heaters can be dangerous so proper care must be taken to prevent accidents or injuries or even death.

Hazards

A space heater can cause a fire when a piece of cloth like a bed sheet or curtain comes in contact with it. Sometimes, electrical shorts from a space heater can also cause fires. If the space heater is too big for a room, then the oxygen supply is reduced while carbon monoxide is increased. Poor ventilation adds to the problem and there are cases where people have died. Being too close to a space heater can also result in injuries. Extra care must be taken when kids and pets are around the space heater.

Kerosene Space Heaters

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Kerosene heaters are suitable for people who want extra heat without spending too much money on electricity.  These heaters should be used very carefully to avoid any accidents. When using kerosene space heaters, extra care should be taken not to exceed the limit because kerosene expands when heated. Store the fuel outside the house and away from any combustible material. Use containers that are marked specifically for kerosene to prevent any accidents. Always keep the room well ventilated. Do not move the heater when in use and ensure children do not go near the heater to prevent burns from the heat. Always keep the heater clean as there could be carbon build up.

Portable Electric Space Heaters

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When you buy an electric space heater, ensure that the product is of good quality. There are basically two types:  radiant and convection. Radiant heaters use infrared to create heat by converting electricity and radiating it with a blower. Convection heaters use oil or fuel to generate heat. Convection heaters are better in the long run as they provide heat with less consumption of electricity. Radiant heaters are good for short durations. Buying a tip over switch is advisable for electric heaters so that they can automatically switch off when the heat is high.

Wood Burning Heaters

A regular wood heater is an economical and environment friendly option to warm up your place. Convection wood heaters warm the air and the entire room while radiant heaters warm objects and people in the room. For this option, there should be constant access to wood. Buy a good quality heater and follow the instructions to avoid any fires. Wood should be added moderately because it can be dangerous when too much wood is added. Also ensure that the fire is put out before you go to sleep. Do not burn anything other than the approved material in the wood heater.

Gas Space Heaters

A gas heater should be installed and serviced only by a professional. It should be maintained well and serviced regularly as the fumes are harmful. Do not try to clean or repair the heater yourself. Get the necessary service done as required by the manufacturer. Keep the room well ventilated and an auto switch off unit is highly recommended. Check the heater for signs of yellow flames and signs of heat damage. Stop using the heater when the pilot light goes off unexpectedly and the walls are too hot to touch.

Health Effects of Combustion Products

The major pollutants due to using heaters are carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Unvented heaters can also generate acid aerosols. Carbon monoxide causes dizziness, nausea, and headaches due to lack of oxygen to the body. Exposure to nitrogen dioxide causes respiratory problems and infections in the long run while other particles can cause damage to the lungs.

Reducing Exposure to Combustion Products in Homes

With some care, the exposure to these combustion products can be minimized. If unvented heaters are used, follow the instructions in the manual to the tee. Use exhaust fans over cooking ranges to reduce the pollutants generated during cooking. Get the heaters, air handling systems, chimneys, flues, and furnaces serviced and checked at least once a year because blocked or damaged systems can create a lot of pollutants. Change the filters as frequently as required.

General Safety

Place the heaters in an open place, well away from curtains, beddings, or any cloth. Check to see if the heater offers a cover for the safety of children or pets. Switch off the space heater at night to avoid any accidents. It's better to leave it on for a couple of hours before sleeping and switch it off. Have a fire extinguisher handy as a precaution. A carbon monoxide detector is also useful to check the levels in the air.

Suggestions for all Space Heaters

Place electric heaters on flat surfaces and turn it off when you are not in the room. When using gas heaters, ensure that there are exhaust fans to clear the air within the building. Also get the gas heaters cleaned regularly by a professional. Ensure that any heater you buy has been tested as per the current standards. Get a heater with the automatic switch off function which shuts off when it gets too hot.

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