Space Heaters: How to Stay Warm AND Safe

It’s getting colder in Maine. With today’s high fuel prices, many of us try to delay turning on the heat as long as possible. For some people, that means using a space heater to “take the chill off”. As with any appliance, it’s important to know the associated hazards and best practices for avoiding them.

Fires and Burns

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that space heaters are involved more than 25,000 home fires every year, causing more than 300 deaths.The SPSC estimates that another 6000 people, many of them children, visit emergency rooms for burns from touching hot surfaces.

  • Check the wires, fuel lines and tanks often to make sure they’re in good condition.
  • Keep combustibles at least 3 feet away from space heaters.
  • Leave your space heater on the floor, unless it’s designed otherwise.
  • If you smell gas, turn off all controls, open a window, and leave the area.
  • Propane is heavier than air. Avoid electrical switches or appliances if you smell gas. And, of course, no smoking!
  • Do not use electric space heaters in wet areas, such as the bathroom.
  • Keep children and animals away from space heaters.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

CO is an odorless, colorless gas produced by incomplete combustion of gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene, coal or wood. Symptoms of CO poisoning include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

Prolonged exposure can cause lack of coordination, confusion, loss of consciousness, and even death.

Modern space heaters (made after 1983) have sensors that automatically shut off the appliance if a reduced level of oxygen is detected. In addition, your best protection is a good, working CO detector.

If you have property in Maine, and have questions about home, renters or condominium insurance, our Portland area insurance agency can help. We’re locally owned, and represent many of  Maine’s best insurance companies. That means we can provide you with customized choices.  Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent for answers!

Here’s to a mild – and safe – heating season!