Fire Department's Warning About Space Heaters Is A Winter Must-Read

by Christina Marfice
Image via Umatilla County Fire District #1

They explain the safest way to plug in a space heater

Baby, it’s (getting) cold outside. And as that winter weather starts to really hit, it’s time to dust off the space heaters for keeping those particularly chilly or drafty parts of the house nice and cozy.

But a fire department in Oregon has a chilling warning for anyone who’s turning to space heaters to warm up right now: Whatever you do, don’t plug them into power strips.

Alongside a photo of a charred and melted power strip, the Umatilla County Fire District #1 wrote this warning on its Facebook page: “The weather is getting colder, and people are pulling out their space heaters. We just wanted to remind you that you should NEVER plug a heater into a power strip. These units are not designed to handle the high current flow needed for a space heater and can overheat or even catch fire due to the added energy flow. Please share and stay safe this Winter season.”

According to Good Housekeeping, the problem with this is that people often confuse power strips and surge protectors, when in reality, power strips don’t limit or block surges at all, which is why they can’t handle the high-volume power needs of something like a space heater. The same goes for extension cords, which can also overheat and melt or catch fire. It’s also important to check the user manual for your specific heater, because it may come with a manufacturer’s warning to only plug it directly into a grounded wall outlet.

The US Department of Energy offers a list of safety guidelines for space heater use, and with that chill wind blowin’ outside, it’s probably a good time for a refresher course. Here’s what they recommend:

  • Only purchase newer model space heaters, since they have the most current safety features. Also look for the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label, as this means the heater has gone through some pretty rigorous safety testing.
  • Choose a heater that allows you to adjust its temperature, so you’re not overheating a room or the heater.
  • Choose a space heater that’s an appropriate size for the room where you plan to use it. Bigger isn’t better in this case, and big space heaters in small spaces are at risk for overheating.
  • Put your heaters on hard, level surfaces that are out of the way, so they aren’t a tripping hazard. And don’t ever put them where kids or pets can get to them. Keeping the house warm for kids is good, but so is protecting little hands from the burns they could get if they get a hold of a space heater.

Staying warm this winter is important, but so is doing it safely. Now put on some cozy PJs and enjoy the fall weather.