As winter get colder, the spaces that were heated sufficiently by normal building heating sources, can become colder as well. An easy fix for most, is to plug in an old-fashioned space heater to supplement that drafty air. While this may seem like a simple fix, several things should be considered before cranking up the dial on that jet powered heater.
First, space heaters draw a considerable amount of power. A normal 1500-watt space heater will draw 12.5 amps when turned on High, and if you are plugging into a 15-amp circuit in your house, you are close to that circuit threshold. If other items are plugged into that same circuit, you are adding more load, feasibly resulting in overloading the circuit. Where this becomes particularly dangerous is in older homes with older wiring. This wiring can possibly be frayed or damaged over the years, have loose connections along the circuit, or have oversized overcurrent protection (i.e., 20/30 fuse or circuit breaker on 15-amp rated wire).
Another concern is when space heating equipment is plugged into power strip cords. Most of the time, these strips are old, have worn out receptacles, and have low wattage ratings. When combined with space heaters and other equipment all plugged into one power strip source, you are creating an overload potential and the possibility for failure inside the power strip.
Other obvious considerations are the physical placement of a heater inside your house. It should always be placed at least 3’ from any combustible material. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported in 2018 that heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths. More than half (53%) of all home heating fire deaths resulted from fires that began when space heating equipment was too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, or bedding.
So, What Are Some Electrical Considerations When Using Space Heaters?
- When possible, plug your space heater into a dedicated receptacle circuit. This will insure you are not overloading the circuit you are using. Having a dedicated circuit installed near a window can double as an outlet for a space heater in the winter and an AC unit in the summer.
- Never plug more than one space heater into a receptacle.
- Never use a power strip or surge protector strip.
- If an extension cord is necessary, use the shortest possible heavy-duty cord of 14-gauge wire or larger. Always check and follow any manufacturer’s instructions pertaining to the use of extension cords.
- Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use.