AVOID THIS DEADLY MISTAKE! Winter House Fires: A Major Cause
This post is based on years of vast personal experiences, education, and researching advanced educational materials on physics and electrical current. If there is ANYTHING about which you are unclear -or which seems incorrect, or contradicts your own experience and/or education, or which simply inspires more questions- you are encouraged to get a 2nd and 3rd opinion, and you are also welcome to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further clarification, references, suggestions, corrections, or rational disagreement! This isn't Twitter; we welcome feedback in the spirit of improvement!
This blog is meant to inform, entertain, and encourage- NOT mislead! There are NO STUPID QUESTIONS! Only stupid answers- and, the stupid answers are either given by stupid people, or liars. We promise that we will not give you stupid answers.
Brrrr! It's the end of October. That means, for most of us, it will start getting cold outside in the very near future!
Be sure to check out our selection of cold weather clothing and coats (I have one of the
coats with the removable zip-in liner and, lemme tell 'ya, I could walk thru a blizzard wearing just a t-shirt underneath and still be warm!) OK, the shameless ad is over.
(Believe it or not) But this blog wasn't written just to advertise our store's inventory. This post is for the genuine safety of anyone who will be using SPACE HEATERS! -Especially for those of you who will be relying on them as a main source of heat:
1) Get the ones that blow the hot air out of the TOP, not the bottom. These heaters warm up the area MUCH better! If it comes out of the bottom, the hot air touches the cold floor and immediately cools off before it even gets a chance to circulate around the room. If there's a carpet (PLEASE don't put a space heater on a carpet!) then the hot air at the bottom just gets absorbed by the fibers.
2) Make sure it has a safety auto shut-off. For instance, if it gets tipped over, overheats, or there is a power surge, etc., it automatically cuts off. BELIEVE ME, several years back in poverty and winter desperation I melted more than my fair share of outlets/electrical sockets! Most times I didn't even know it had melted until the room temperature had cooled off several degrees so I went to check why the space heater wasn't working. If the heater I was using at the time hadn't immediately shut off, I can't even imagine...
3) DO NOT use a space heater with a janky-looking cord!
If the wires have fray,
THROW IT AWAY!
No, you are NOT going to get around to "fixing it" someday. Don't kid yourself! Also, PRIORITIES: You have more important things to do in your life right now. AND, this is too much of a safety risk to be messing around with! DO. NOT. HOARD. SPACE HEATERS.
4) DO NOT use an old-ass space heater! If the heater is older than the tires on your car, don't use it to heat up a room. It may be OK for your feet while you're watching TV, or under your desk at work; but, DON'T leave it on all night while you sleep, or for any time unattended! If it is older than your entire car, just bite the bullet and get a new one. What's more expensive, buying a new space heater, or your house burning down?
5) Make sure the plug is THREE-pronged for any space heater you're using as a heavy-duty appliance! Sure, those teeny-tiny personal heaters may only have a 2-pronged plug, but if you need to use it to heat up a room, or you're going to leave it on a lot, use the heaters with the 3-prong plug!
6) This probably goes without saying, but close off the room! Shut the doors to the room, and seal the windows. Curtains, curtains, curtains! If there is a gap under the door, stuff towels in it.
7) Try to stay in a room with the LOWEST ceiling. The rooms with high ceilings will just suck all the heat up to the top foot or two of the room, and you are not that tall. HEAT RISES. COLD SINKS.
8) SHOPPING FOR A SPACE HEATER: Look for the 3 sets of numbers- amps, BTUs, and square feet (sqft). And, really out of those 3, mainly look at sqft and BTUs. I can explain amps at the end of this post, if you really want to know, and don't worry too much* about volts or watts (ohms) when you're researching which heater to buy.
Square ft = how big of a CLOSED room that the heater has enough power to warm up when on the highest setting (anywhere between 400-1000 sqft. depending on the heater). The sqft. of a room is the number of feet from left to right across the floor, multiplied by the number of feet from back to front across the floor. The cheaper the heater, the smaller the room, usually.
BTUs = how hot is the heat? This is a measurement of how much heat is given off, as long as the heater has maximum power. 4500-4900 BTUs will usually warm a smaller 400-650sqft room, 5000 BTUs for around 700-800sqft, and 5100+ BTUs for around a 900-1000 sqft room. This is just a rough estimate.
Sqft and BTUs go hand-in-hand, obviously.
OK, now here's some technical stuff. Don't panic! You only need to know the teeniest bit of it! If it's too much, then don't worry; there will NOT be a test. Try to read down through the thing about extension cords, though.
*I'm going to say here not to worry about volts, then go back on my word in a couple of paragraphs. Stay with me; I promise it will make as much sense as you'll need it to make for buying a space heater.
You don't usually have to worry about volts (*see? I just said it) because in the U.S. our American outlets are standard 120v, with 115v or 110v occasionally having been used in the past. So, if it says anything like 110, 115, or 120v, that just means you can plug it into a normal wall outlet. A 240v means you have to use one of those weird-looking, ginormous outlets that your washer & dryer plug into. That's all you really need to know about volts and still skate by in life if you stay in the United States, lol.
Amps = how much power the heater pulls through the wiring from the electrical source at one time.
You can think of this power flow as "how fast" the electricity wants to drive down the electrical highway to get to the heater, and so it pushes on the gas pedal a certain amount- the faster it wants to go, the further it pushes down the gas pedal to try and give its car more gas, ok?
Normal for a space heater is usually about 12.5 amps (that's a LOT compared to things like your TV or charging your phone!). You should know this so you can understand why most space heaters want to be the ONLY thing plugged into a wall outlet (even though there are usually places for 2 plugs) and also do NOT want to be plugged into extension cords!
In an average house, each wall outlet can usually handle a maximum of 15 amps at once. That's for BOTH plugs put together! So you don't want to have over a total of 15 amps being sucked from both plug sockets at once from the same outlet! When you do that, that's what blows the fuse, which cuts off all of the electricity wired together on 1 circuit in your house, and then you have to go down into the spooky basement, find that big metal box, watch out for spiders, and "flip the switch" that represents the correct circuit you blew out!
Extension cords can also only handle a certain amount of electricity flowing through at once (amps). The cheap little brown or white extension cords you get from Walgreens or CVS to plug in your Christmas tree lights are usually only 8 or 10 amps max! A 12.5 amp space heater trying to get its power through an 8 or 10 amp extension cord = NOOOOOO!
Although the heater MIGHT turn on, not only will it not be at full strength, but it will also eventually overheat the extension cord. This can melt the plugs and literally fry either the cord or the wall outlet. Things smoke, you will see black coloring form at the connections, and fires will eventually start!
PLUG ANY SPACE HEATER DIRECTLY INTO THE WALL, NEVER INTO AN EXTENSION CORD!
Below is extra info for those who like the "science-y bits":
So, if the amps are how much you are pushing down on the gas pedal in the car to go faster, think of the volts as how much gas you actually have to give the car.
In normal wall sockets, it's 120v, as I said before (*see? I circled around and am talking about volts again, but keep reading and you'll see why it's still not that big of a deal). Well, take the amps and multiply the volts, and that gives you the Watts you need.
You can think of the Watts as how many lanes are needed on the highway to let all the cars through without causing a traffic jam.
So, if you have a 12.5 Amp heater in a 120v socket, you'll need 12.5 x 120 = 1500 Watts for the heater to have enough power to work 100%.
Stay warm, but please don't set your home on fire doing so!