Do you know, in the United States heater appliances contributes towards the major cause of home fires?

First, to understand the safety of space heaters, one must know what a space heater is and its uses.

A space heater is a portable device that can be used to heat an enclosed, small area like a room.

Space heaters can be powered with electricity or by fuels like propane or natural gas, but the more modern ones are powered with electricity.

Now that being said, it was discovered that heating equipment are one of the major causes of home fire in the United States of America and more than 65,000 home fires are caused by heating equipment per year.

Space Heater Selection

These fire outbreaks results to a lot of deaths, injuries and accidents. Not to talk of the property damages and emotional effects.

Electric space heaters are very useful appliances for the home during cold weathers, but they can cause a lot of problems if they’re not handled right. Fire, shocks and electrical hazards can be caused by space heaters that aren’t set up properly, placed near combustible elements.

Safety should be a major factor when using a space heater because anything can go wrong if it’s not handled correctly and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Space Heater Quick Safety Tips

  • It is a must to unplug and keep the heater in a safe place when it’s not being used anymore.
  • Always ensure that any space heater you get has a label showing that it has been tested in a laboratory i.e. make sure it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Always make sure the space heaters are placed on a leveled surface. Never place it on a chair, table or a carpet to avid overheating. Overheating can cause a fire outbreak.
  • Always read the instructions manual written by the manufacturer before you make use of your space heater so that everything would be done accordingly and correctly.
  • Don’t allow kids or pets play very close to the heater. Always ensure that there is an adult figure in a room that has a switched on heater and a kid or pet in it.
  • Before you use your space heater, always check for broken plugs, cut wires, cracks or loose connections and if you notice any of these, do not use the heater. Make sure they undergo proper repairs before use.
  • Make sure you plug your space heater directly to the wall outlet and never in an extension cord or power strip. And do not plug any other electrical device to the same outlet as that of the space heaters to avoid overheating which may result into a fire outbreak.
  • Never ever leave a space heater switched on overnight or unattended to. Turn it off if you are not using it anymore or whenever you want to sleep.
  • It is very important to properly position your space heater. You can’t just keep it in any available space. It should always a few feet from things like clothing, papers, rugs or anything that is easily combustible.
  • Space heaters should only be used for what they were intended for, to provide heat in the home. It shouldn’t be used for any other things like drying clothes, making a meal etc.
  • Always make sure the space heaters aren’t placed in locations where a lot of traffic goes on in the house like for example, it should never be placed close to the doorway to avoid tripping hazards.
  • Smoke alarms should be placed on every floor of the home and all the sleeping area and should be tested monthly.
  • Make sure to keep your space heater away from water or damp spaces unless it is specifically designed for that. And do not operate the heater with wet hands.
  • Never use fuel burning heater in the home, unless it is extremely ventilated. Even though, it’s not so advisable.
  • Do not use the heater if it’s hot to the touch or if the cord is hot to the touch. Make sure it’s checked out by an expert before use.
Stay warm and stay safe with our list of space heater safety tips. In our latest infographic, you'll learn how to safely use your portable space heater.

infographic credits. compactappliance.com

What Is A Gas-Fired, Infrared Heater?

There are several types of gas-fired, infrared heaters, such as ceramic heaters, tube heaters, and patio heaters.

These heaters consist of a burner in which air and gas are combined to produce a flame (combustion); heat exchange tubing that emits heat; and reflectors that direct heat towards floors, equipment, and occupants below.

Clean, Quiet And Efficient Heating

There are many benefits to using gas-fired, infrared heaters. Just as the sun heats the earth, infrared heaters heat people and objects directly.

Safety guidelines for various types of heaters

Warmed objects, in turn, create a heat sink which allows for quick heat recovery and greater comfort at lower air temperatures. The result is proven lower fuel and electricity costs.

Unlike air heaters, infrared heaters do not blow dirt and dust, but instead provide quiet, clean comfort.

They are easy to install as well as to maintain; and with the many models on the market today, infrared heaters offer design flexibility to fit a variety of floor plans and building types

Why Building Owners Choose Infrared Heating?

  • Average 30% fuel savings over conventional heating methods.
  • Heating the floor level, not the ceiling, provides superior comfort.
  • Flexible heater placement allows heat concentration where it is needed most.
  • Infrared heaters are durable and can be easily maintained and cleaned.
  • They do not push dirt and dust around, resulting in a quiet and clean environment.

Proper Use

Infrared heaters are designed to provide warmth and comfort for commercial, industrial, and some approved residential applications. Most infrared heaters* are not approved for:

  1. Residential indoor living or sleeping areas.
  2. Process heating, such as paint booths, grain bins, material drying.
  3. Hazardous (class 1 or 2) environments.
Ensure that building materials with a low heat tolerance are protected to prevent degradation.

Proper placement of heater for optimal performance

Safety Inspection Checklist

Warning for heater safetyFor optimum performance and safety, the IRSC recommends that all installation, service, and annual inspection be done by a qualified person or agency. This is not a comprehensive list. For a complete checklist, reference the installation, operation, and service manual.

  • Clearances to combustibles warning signs are posted as indicated.
  • The manufacturer’s installation, operation, and the service manual are legible. Keep manual in a clean, dry place. Contact the manufacturer for replacement labels or manuals.
  • All warning labels are attached and legible.
  • The area around the heater is free of combustibles.
  • The reflector is in good condition and free of dust and debris. Clean outside surface with a damp cloth, if needed. Reflector must be properly resting on mounting brackets and not the tube itself.
  • The vent pipe and outside air inlet are free of dirt, obstructions, cracks, gaps in the sealed areas or corrosion. Look for bird or insect nests. Remove any carbon deposits.
  • Tubes are connected and suspended securely. There should be no holes, cracks or distortion on any part of the tube, especially the top.
  • The gas line has no gas leaks. Check gas connection; see the proper gas connection in this brochure and refer to the manufacturer’s installation, operation, and service manual

Safety should always be a top consideration when using space heaters. Here are some tips for keeping your home safe and warm when it’s cold outside:

Clearances to Combustibles Safety Issues

  • Make sure your space heater has the label showing that it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Before using any space heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully.
  • Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep, and don’t let pets or children play too close to a space heater.
  • Space heaters are only meant to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothing or thaw pipes.
  • Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas and test them once a month.
  • Proper placement of space heaters is critical. Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing, and rugs.
  • Locate space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways where they may pose a tripping hazard.
  • Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater.
  • Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces. Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
  • Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use.

Clearances To Combustibles Safety Issues

Consult the NFPA 54/ANSI Z223.1 or CAN/CSA-B149.1 Gas Vent Termination criteria if roof pitch exceeds 9:12 and refer to manufacturer’s installation instructions for vent size and length.

Clearances are the required minimum distances that combustible objects can be placed from the heater to prevent fire hazards. Combustibles are materials which may catch on fire and include common items such as wood, paper, rubber, and fabric. Clearances to combustibles must be maintained at all times to ensure safety.

Even if the equipment is installed with the proper clearances to combustibles, some materials may be present that have lower heat tolerances and may be subjected to degradation.

All infrared heaters shall have the clearances to combustibles prominently displayed on the product, as well as in the installation, operation and service manual. Read, understand, and follow the safety guidelines below:

  1. Keep gasoline or other combustible materials including flammable objects, liquids, dust, or vapors away from the heater or any other appliance.
  2. Maintain clearances from heat sensitive material, equipment, and workstations.
  3. Maintain clearances from heat sensing devices, such as sprinkler systems, and make sure these devices are not overheated.
  4. Maintain clearances from vehicles parked below the heater.
  5. Maintain clearances from swinging and overhead doors, overhead cranes, vehicle lifts, partitions, storage racks, hoists, building construction, etc.
  6. Hang heater in accordance with the manufacturer’s suspension requirements.
  7. Do not run gas pipe or conduit in the area of exhaust discharge of flue products or in the clearance zone.

When Building Ownership Changes

It is imperative that current and future building owners are well informed regarding the infrared heating system in their building.

If the building is sold to a new owner, it is the responsibility of the seller to transfer all documentation of the heating system, including the installation, operation, and service manual to the new owner.

Placards should be properly placed and/or relocated. Contact the manufacturers for additional copies of the above-mentioned manuals

Change To Building Construction And/Or Heating System

Special consideration is required if:

  1. The building has been remodeled or renovated since the last inspection.
  2. Additional heaters or racking system(s) have been added.
  3. Equipment has not been operated for an extended period of time.
  4. Usage of the building has changed.
  5. The user has questions or concerns about the operation of the equipment.

Infrared Heater Types

Patio Heaters: Sometimes referred to as a suspended, radiant, mushroom style, free-standing, or decorative patio heaters.

  • Ceramic or stainless steel radiant emitters.
  • Designed to heat a concentrated outdoor area.
  • Permanent or portable products that may be deck mounted or suspended.

High-Intensity Ceramic Heaters: Sometimes referred to as box heaters, unvented heaters, spot heaters, luminous heaters, radiant heaters, or plaque heaters.

  • Combustion takes place on a ceramic tile surface with surface temperatures of approximately 1800°F. Higher temperatures (hence, “high-intensity”) result in higher clearances to combustibles.
  • Direct fired operation releases products of combustion into a properly ventilated heated space.
  • Often used in a high bay or high air change applications

Low-Intensity Tube Heaters: Sometimes referred to as positive/negative pressure tube heaters, tube heaters, radiant heaters, stick heaters, tube brooders, or pipe heaters.

  • Hot exhaust gases travel through the inside of the tube resulting in tube surface temperatures of approximately 1100°F (hence “low-intensity”).
  • Can be vented and commonly have the capability to use fresh air for combustion.
  • The most popular choice for total building heat

Construction Heaters: Sometimes referred to as salamanders, spot heaters, portable construction heaters, or tank top heaters.

  • Heat turns a ceramic or stainless steel emitter red hot.
  • Used in spot heat applications and/or as warm-up stations.
  • While commonly used in outdoor applications, units may also be used in industrial applications or temporarily used inside buildings under construction or repair.
  • At no time shall construction heaters be used in residential applications.

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Further Reads:

  1. https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics/Major-Causes/osHeating.pdf