Safety Practices for Using Supplemental Heating

As the weather grows colder, we depend more on our heating systems to keep indoor temperatures warm and comfortable. It also means we’re more likely to utilize supplemental heating items like space heaters to keep feet and legs warm under a desk, or electric blankets to keep warm in our beds when we turn down the heat at night to save energy.

Equipment that provides supplemental heat keeps the cold at bay and keeps everyone comfortable. However, as our reliance on these supplements increases, so should our safety awareness. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment fires are the second leading cause of home fires, with nearly half of all home heating fires occurring in December, January, and February.

Take care with space heaters

Space heaters are a great way to supplement heat into areas where you need a little boost of warmth. Many of today’s models are built with safety mechanisms, like automatic shut off when it gets knocked over. The most common mistake people make involving space heaters is placing them too close to flammable materials. You should make sure all space heaters are at least three feet away from anything that can burn, like bedspreads, draperies, furniture fabric, or clothing.

Other safety tips for using space heaters include:

  • Always turn off your space heaters when you leave the room or retire to bed.
  • Do not overload circuits when using electric space heaters.
  • It’s best not to use an extension cord to power an electric heater.
  • Do not use electric heaters in bathrooms or other places where they may come in contact with water to cause electrocution.
  • Burn only kerosene in a kerosene heater; gasoline or any other type of fuel can be extremely dangerous.
  • Use water-clear, not yellow, kerosene for your kerosene heater.
  • Refuel kerosene heaters outdoors.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for turning a portable heating device on or off.
  • Look for the mark of an independent testing lab for fire safety.

Safe use of heating pads and electric blankets

While not common, heating pads and electric blankets do cause nearly 500 fires per year.

Heating pads are used directly on the mattress to provide heat from underneath. Electric blankets are used as a top cover. You should not try to use an electric blanket under you like a heating pad. They are designed to heat in a particular way, so they are not interchangeable. Also, they are not meant to be used at the same time.

Safety tips for using heating pads and electric blankets include:

  • Replacing your electric blanket every few years—almost all fires involve blankets that are more than 10 years old.
  • Don’t allow anything on top of a heating pad or electric blanket when it is on (including pets and other blankets) because it may cause overheating.
  • Do not fold your electric blanket when it’s on. This may cause overheating and lead to a fire.
  • If the electric cord is cracked or frayed, or if there are darkened or charred spots anywhere on a blanket or heating pad, discard it.
  • It’s not recommended that you leave either item on all night.
  • As with any heating appliance, heating pads and electric blankets should never be left on unattended.

Remember to keep your big heating equipment maintained as well

Supplemental heating equipment is nice, but the most important heating element in your home is your furnace. Remember to have it regularly inspected and maintained to keep it running efficiently and safely. For more information, contact the certified HVAC professionals at Heating Specialties, Inc.