How to use space heaters, generators safely during cold snap

Space heaters linked to 80 deaths a year

SAN ANTONIO – As downright cold temperatures approach, you may be getting out the space heater or even a portable generator. Before you plug in, there are some important safety tips to keep in mind.

Space heaters can keep you warm and cozy, but they can also be dangerous if not used correctly. Space heaters are linked to 1,700 house fires and 80 deaths on average each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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Often it’s not the appliance that’s the problem, but the person using it improperly.

First off, space heaters need space.

“Always make sure to keep space heaters at least three feet away from furniture, curtains, or anything else combustible,” said Paul Hope, home editor for Consumer Reports.

When plugging in a space heater, it should go directly into the wall outlet, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Don’t use extension cords or power strips because the current flowing through may be too much to handle and start a fire.

Fire safety experts also caution against putting space heaters on carpets or in a child’s room. They should go on a hard, bare floor. Also, turn them off when you leave the house or go to sleep.

Should the power go out for a while, a portable generator can keep the lights, fridge and other essentials running.

“These are never meant to run in an enclosed space or inside at all,” said Dominic Rodriguez with Northern Tool and Equipment.

Portable generators run on gasoline and can emit carbon monoxide fumes, so they should be placed at least 20 feet from the house with the exhaust facing away from the house.

Some models come with an emergency carbon monoxide shutoff.

Be sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed on each floor and inside or near bedrooms have working batteries.

About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.