Many think of space heaters as safe-to-use machines that can deploy anywhere inside the house. Although modern space heaters have many safety features and are considered to be far safer than old-fashioned space heaters, they are still dangerous and can cause massive fires. The Kentucky tragedy is a clear example of it where 8 children and their mother were killed in a house due to fire caused by a space heater.
Space heaters are taken as an efficient solution to the winter chill and are becoming more popular. There are various reasons why space heaters can cause fires, and the users should use them with extreme precaution and safety measures even if all the safety features of the heater are in working condition. In this article, we will learn about the hazards and risks that are hidden in the use of space heaters and how they can cause fires. We shall also discuss methods to avoid it and things to do in case of fire.
Fire Caused By Space Heaters
Space heaters are not taken lightly, even though the companies market them as entirely safe. They contain both electrical hazards as well as fire hazards. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report, space heaters are responsible for over one-third of all domestic fire incidents in winters. They are responsible for 80% of deaths in winter heating fire incidents. The leading cause of fire in the space heater case is negligence.
According to a 2018 NFPA report, space heaters are the second leading cause of fire in homes and a third leading cause of death. In America, two out of every five domestic fire incidents were caused by space heaters, and five out of six deaths were caused by space heaters from these events; strict measures have been taken to avoid these in the future. There are many causes by which space heaters can cause a fire.
Generally, space heaters work on two different principles: convection and radiation. Radiation space heaters are considered more efficient because they directly heat objects and people. Although many heaters are equipped with overheat protection, it is only limited to heaters, and the surrounding things like pillows and clothes can easily catch fire if heated for a long time. Overheating for a long period of time is the primary cause of domestic fire incidents.
Space heaters are electrical devices requiring a high power source to heat the room. Generally, space heaters are built at 1500 watt input. Extreme precautions are required in the plugging of space heaters because any slight disturbance can cause an electrical spark that can cause a fire. Using a space heater with an extension wire is also an electrical hazard because extension wires are generally rated for 1000 watts.
Space heaters that run on fossil fuels like natural gas, propane, or any other fuel are hazardous not just because of their lack of temperature maintenance but also due to fuel leakage that can cause immediate fires. Due to these reasons, fuel-fed space heaters are not rated for home use.
Wear And Tear
Appliances degrade as they are used frequently; using the space heater for a long time can degrade the wiring quality and joints. It also loosens the casing. The working of safety features also gets disturbed with time. Using the incorrectly working space heater can also cause a fire without warning.
Other than these significant fire causes, space heaters are also considered to be dangerous due to the following reasons:
Injury Or Burn
Many space heaters are not safe to touch when working conditions. The surface of space heaters can get extremely hot, and the skin may burn to 2nd degree if anyone touches the surface of space heaters.
Besides fire, using a poor-quality electrical cord, extension wire, or power source can cause severe electrocution.
Especially portable heaters, if not placed and installed correctly, can cause massive damage by falling on the victim. The problem gets doubled if the space heater surface is hot.
Safety Tips For Space Heaters
The first step in the safe use of a space heater is the purchase of one that has full safety features. The compulsory safety features to look for in the space heater are overheated protection, tip-over protection, a digital thermostat for temperature regulation, and a timer for controlled use. Cool-to-touch surfaces are also a compulsory feature if your house has pets and kids.
Buying a space heater with maximum safety is essential, but it is not enough. There are specific guidelines to follow if you want to ensure the safe working of space heater:
- Do not plug the space heater into an underrated power supply; if it uses 1500 watts, you should not plug it into a 1000 watt supply.
- Thoroughly check the power cord for any damage before plugging it into the socket.
- Do not use extension wire to power the space heater.
- Do not place the space heater on the carpet or fabric surface. Always place it on a tiled or wooden floor.
- Remove all the flammable objects like a couch, mattress, cushion, pillow, cloth from the three feet radius of the heater.
- Do not leave your space heater unattended in any circumstance.
- Place fire alarms in the house to get an immediate alert in case of fire.
- Do not touch the space heater if you are wet; similarly, do not place the space heater near water.
- If water is spilled near the space heater, immediately turn it off while wearing insulating slippers.
- Use the timer if necessary to use the space heater while sleeping and switch the space heater at low settings.
- Regularly check the space heater to point out any damage.
- Even in the slightest delusion of fire, immediately turn off the space heater.
Space heaters are one of the leading causes of domestic fire-related incidents in winter. They are also responsible for many casualties in these incidents. Space heaters are necessary for some environments, but they possess many risks and hazards and must be used with extreme caution. There are many ways a space heater can cause fire, and the overheating of objects is on top of the list. Other significant fire causes include electrical shock, leakage of fuel, use of damaged space heaters. Not only that, but space heaters also contain other hazards like skin burns on touching the surface and electrocution.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Fires A Year Are Caused By Space Heaters?
Space heaters are responsible for around 1700 to 2000 fire incidents per year in the United States. Not only that, almost 80% of all casualties in fire-related incidents in homes are caused by space heaters.
Do Space Heaters Catch Fire Easily?
Yes, they are electrical devices and are used to produce heat. These factors can make it very easy for space heaters to catch fire. Although many safety features are installed in space heaters, they can also cause nearby objects to catch fire.
Can 110 Volts Kill A Person?
One hundred ten volts is more than enough to kill a full-grown man; if a person is electrocuted and the current reaches your heart, death will occur within a few minutes.