With record-setting low temperatures expected this week, furnaces and space heaters will be running full blast across Texas. Before turning up a thermostat or plugging in a space heater, remember to think twice about both safety and energy efficiency.
The National Fire Protection Association states that heating equipment, like space heaters, are the No. 1 cause of home fires during December, January and February and the second-leading cause of home fires year-round. Most accidents involving space heaters are the result of human error – heaters are placed too close to combustible material like drapes and furniture, or they have not been properly maintained.
Don’t end up a statistic. Follow these tips and share them with your friends and family:
• Give space heaters their space. Space heaters pose a higher risk of fire and death than central heating systems. Keep the space heater at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including walls.
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• Unplug the heater every time you leave the room and when you go to bed.
• Plug electric-powered space heaters into an outlet with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.
• Make sure the plug fits snugly in the outlet, since a loose plug can overheat. If you’re using the space heater in the bathroom, be sure to use a ground-fault circuit interrupter. Remember, electricity and water do not mix.
• Don’t hide the cord under a rug or carpet. This can cause the cord to overheat and start a fire.
• Keep it stable. Don’t put your space heater on plush carpet or other surfaces where the space heater may tip over easily.
• Check the tag. Make sure an independent testing laboratory (Underwriters Laboratories) has approved your new space heater.
To conserve energy, try to keep your thermostat at 68 degrees or lower. Space heaters should be on timers when you’re at home. Use programmable thermostats to lower temperatures automatically when you’re not at home, leave drapes or curtains open to take advantage of solar heat, and throw an extra blanket on the bed rather than turn up the heat. As a rule of thumb, heating and cooling are responsible for 40 percent of energy use in the home. Stay safe and warm, but conserve where you can.