Heater Safety with Your Children

The arrival of fall and winter often brings the necessity of adding additional sources of heat into our homes and play areas. And, with the dedication to conserving energy and cutting costs, many families are now using more portable room heaters in lieu of central home heating systems. These easily raise the temperature of a room a few degrees much more efficiently and with less cost than turning up the room thermostat. These heaters can be efficient ways to ensure that your children stay cozy and warm, but they also mean that extra precaution needs to be taken to guarantee safety. If you have, or are considering, a portable heater in your home, here are some safety tips we hope you’ll keep in mind.

Educate 1st
As with any source of heat, your children need to know exactly what the space heater is. Never bring one into the home, especially the playroom, without first explaining that it is a heater (hot!), that it can be dangerous if they get too close and that they should stay at a safe distance from it. A good rule of thumb is to keep your little ones at least 3 feet away from the heater at all times. Make sure to show them how far 3-4 feet actually is.

The Safest Options
The very safest type of space heater will be a wall mounted space heater because you will never have to worry about your children coming into contact with it. However, these are generally more expensive than a smaller floor model. Regardless of what model or brand, you should make sure that your space heater has the smallest possible grills so that tiny little fingers won’t be able to fit through. You also want to guarantee that it has an automatic tip-over switch that will immediately cut power should anyone accidentally run into it or tip it over.

Check the Safety Standard
Always make sure that your space heater is listed for UL (Underwriters Laboratories) safety standards. Never buy a space heater unless it is listed UL.

Place in Ideal Location
If you are using a wall-mounted heater, location will not be such an issue. However, if you plan on using a floor space heater, make sure that it is at least 3 feet away from anything, including the wall, furniture, curtains, etc. The air intake and outlet can never be near anything that could potentially block the flow or you run the risk of overheating and potential fire danger.

Extra Caution
If you are planning on using the space heater in the “play” area of a room, you may want to consider placing a small child fence/gate around it. This will add extra precaution against it getting in the way of running hither and thither and lively games of chase and tag.

Plug It In
Whenever possible, plug your space heater directly into the wall or into a power strip for the highest levels of safety. If it is plugged into a power strip, it will never remain “on” even when you think you have turned it off, since you can cut power altogether by turning the strip off. A power strip will also prevent against power surges that could potentially cause overheating. Whenever possible, do not use an extension cord, but if it is necessary, make sure to get a heavy duty option with at least 14 gauge wire.

Turn Off for Craft Time
If you and your kids are doing any sorts of arts and crafts projects with flammable materials like paint, hairspray or small pieces paper that could be tossed aimlessly, turn the heater off for the time being. Wait until all paint fumes are gone before turning back on.

Maintenance & Prevention
Regularly check the cord for any frays and the plug-in for any bends or dents that may be a sign the plug-in was jerked haphazardly out of the wall socket. Check your fire alarms at least once a month.

Enjoy the Warmth
With the proper precautions in place, using a portable space heater in your home can be a very easy and wonderful way to ensure that your little ones stay comfortable and warm, no matter what the outside temperatures might look like. It will also save both energy and cost, making it a great way to introduce some “green” lessons into your little ones’ minds!

Writer Amber O’Connell works alongside Air-n-Water and helps them instruct local communities in portable heater safety. Her top recommendation for homes with children is always a wall mounted heater.

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