Keep Warm and Be Safe: Avoid Space Heater Electrical Fires

Space Heater Safety with Capital City ElectricalQ: What electrical device accounts for over $890 million in property damage each year.[1]

A: Electric space heaters!

With the harsh cold winds and frigid outdoor temperatures upon us, space heaters will likely become a must needed fixture in offices and commercial facilities. Keeping large and especially older commercial buildings well heated through the Winter months can be an uphill battle, making electric blankets, heat lamps, and space heaters essential.

If your office will use space heaters to supplement your building’s existing heating system, be sure to consider these safety tips to keep everyone warm and safe through the Winter season.

Tip #1: Distribute space heaters evenly throughout the office or building. Plugging in multiple space heaters and having them run continuously, at the same time, will overload the electrical circuits in your building. When possible, avoid using more than two space heaters for every 400 square foot space.[2] If you find that more than two space heaters are needed for even a medium-sized room, measuring 15’ x 25’, then, it is time to, contact a heating specialist.

Tip #2: Provide at least a 3 foot clearance from all furniture. Space heaters can crank out a lot of heat in a small amount of time. Having drapes, wood furniture, and papers within 3 feet of a space heater can increase the chances of starting a fire. If possible, place a barrier around the space heater or tape on the floor to remind everyone to keep clutter and debris away from the heater. For optimal results, consider placing heaters away from corners that may block the heat produced, and not under desks and tables, where they may be easily kicked over.

Tip #3: Check all cords and plugs. It is good practice to double check both the plug and the cord coming from the space heater before plugging it in. If the cord is frayed or beginning to detach from the base of the space heater, do not use it and buy a suitable replacement. Likewise, if the plug has been altered in any way or does not properly fit into the electrical socket, do not force it and consider using a newer space heater. If you’re ever unsure, schedule an appointment with a commercial electrical provider, who can inspect your space heaters to ensure they are in top-shape to keep everyone safe and warm through the Winter.

Tip #4: Get a circuit inspection by a professional electrical service provider. Space heaters consume a significant amount of electricity, upwards of 1,000 watts. To make sure your circuits do not overload and spark a fire, all space heaters must use a dedicated circuit to run properly. If you’re not sure which type of circuits are in your building, call Capital City Electrical and we can have a Master Electrician inspect your circuits and recommend the safest way to run a space heater in your office. Take note! If the closest dedicated circuit is too far for the space heater’s cord to reach, using an extension cord will not solve the problem.[3] You may be able to plug in the space heater, but standard extension cords are not designed to handle the amount of power needed to run a space heater.

Tip #5: Never leave space heaters unattended. It is always nice to walk into a warm building on a Monday morning, but leaving space heaters running around the clock increases the risk of sparking a fire. So, avoid leaving space heaters on and running, when the building is vacant for more than 3 hours. This includes overnight and when the building may be vacant, especially during extended vacations or weekends. If the space heater should trip a circuit, become overheated, or be tipped over the electrical risk dramatically increases if left unaddressed.

These tips are a great place to start, to keep everyone safe over the winter months. However, if you’re in the market for other heating options, there are safer and more energy efficient alternatives available. If you’re not sure which electrical heating source may work best for your heating needs and with your electrical system, contact Capital City Electrical today. Our fleet of electricians will be happy to perform an energy audit of your facility. This audit will provide you with recommendations to improve or supplement your heating system - all without putting your electrical system and wiring at risk.