As Fall settles in and the temperatures begin to drop, the use of space heaters will increase and so will the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning and fires caused by them. Accordingly, the Consumer Products Safety Commission encourages consumers to be careful when it comes to space heaters:
- Choose a space heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features, while older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards. CPSC worked to upgrade industry standards for electric, kerosene, and vented and unvented gas space heaters. An automatic cut-off device is now required to turn off electric or kerosene heaters if they tip over. More guarding around the heating coils of electric heaters and the burner of kerosene heaters also is required to prevent fires. CPSC worked to upgrade the industry standard for unvented gas heaters to provide an oxygen depletion sensor to shut off the heater if the oxygen level drops too low. CPSC and industry amended the vented heater standard to provide a spill switch to turn off the heater if the vent is blocked or disconnected.
- Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or heating element. Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, or other flammable materials.
- Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. This helps prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to provide sufficient combustion air to prevent CO production.
- Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
- Turn the space heater off if you leave the area. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- Have a smoke alarm with fresh batteries on each level of the house and inside every bedroom. In addition, have a carbon monoxide alarm outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area.
- Be aware that mobile homes require specially designed heating equipment.
- Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually.
In these hard economic times, it is tempting to find ways to supplement or replace more expensive heating methods with relatively inexpensive space heater options. Don’t be discouraged from doing so, just be careful and up to date on how to use them safely.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.