Reduce the risks of using electric heaters in Minnesota

Families that use electric heaters can reduce their risks by purchasing recent models and by maintaining a 3-foot radius around the heater.

Electric heaters, often called space heaters, can be dangerous in Minnesota. In fact, they are so risky that many fire deaths are attributed to them. As low winter temperatures set in, families can prevent fires by knowing the risks that electric heaters pose and how to reduce them.

Check for safety features

From playful pets to rambunctious children, there are many reasons that an electric heater might be tipped over. A fire could result, so families should purchase only those heaters that have element guards and that have shutoff protection when tipped over. In addition, the heaters should have been tested for safety. (Speaking of children and pets, they could be burned or shocked if they come into contact with a heater.)

If someone is looking to buy an electric heater through a forum such as Craigslist, one suggestion is to get the exact heater model, and check online that it has all of the necessary safety features. If possible, families should buy or upgrade to a new heater rather than buy or keep an older model.

Maintain a 3-foot radius

Electric heater safety entails giving a heater space to breathe. At least 3 feet is ideal, so furniture such as couches, dressers and coffee tables should be at least that distance away. The same concept applies for paint, blankets and towels-for anything, really, but especially for flammable materials.

Plug the heater in by itself

Overloading is a common problem with electric heaters, so use them without multiple plugs, extension cords and the like. In addition, the heater should be on its own circuit and not on one with, say, the refrigerator and the washer/dryer. Also, users should give the heater a break when they go to bed or are out of the room or house. Leaving a heater unattended can be dangerous.

In addition, families should not ask too much of a heater. For example, they are meant to help with heating and to not be a primary source of heat. Nor should they be used to, say, dry towels or to prepare a meal.

Keep the heater clean

Dust, dirt and debris can accumulate on a heater and possibly spark a fire. Thus, heaters should be kept clean. If problems that need repair arise, seeking professional help is best, especially if a warranty would be otherwise voided.

Stop using the heater if problems occur

When problems become evident in a heater, for example, if it sparks, it is possible that the heater was badly made. In such cases, use should be discontinued; families can contact the manufacturer for a replacement or seek professional repair.

It can be a confusing time when someone has been injured by an apparently faulty electric heater. Consulting an attorney can provide insight.