The homes in your neighborhood are without natural gas due to a supply issue. Or maybe your utility has asked that you lower your thermostat. Or simply, your heating system is showing signs of struggle or has failed. In any of these situations, it is natural to lean on alternatives to keep your family and home at a reasonable temperature.
If you must use alternate ways to stay warm and your electricity has not impacted, please keep these safety tips in mind when plugging devices into an outlet to generate heat.
- If an outlet feels ‘loose’ in any way, do not use that outlet for a heating device.
- If the heating device plug feels loose in the outlet or has trouble staying firmly in the outlet, don’t use that outlet. However, if this happens in all outlets for a given device, it is the device cord; avoid using it.
- Don’t use more than one heating device in a single outlet, and avoid using more than one heating device on a single circuit. If you have more than one outlet along a wall or in a room, they very well could be on the same circuit, depending on the age of your home.
Space Heaters, Heating Blankets, etc.
- Electric space heaters must be plugged into walls, never into an extension cord.
- Keep space heaters level and at least 3 feet from any fabric (curtains, couch, carpet, etc.)
- For any heating device, if you have not used it for some time, carefully inspect the cord and plug to ensure there are no cracks or exposed wiring.
- Make sure the device is clean and free of dirt, dust, and debris.
- If a device appears to operate erratically in any way, please do not use it.
Extension Cords/Power Strips
- Do not use these for plugging in heating devices.
- If you are using them for other purposes, inspect them for any damage and only use them if necessary.
- Avoid overloading them. It is the energy ‘draw’ that matters, not necessarily the number of devices. Example: 4 mobile phones and a few laptops temporarily plugged into a power strip is Ok; however, connecting a single portable heater to a power strip would overload it (see the first bullet above!).
- Keep your senses tuned to potential hazards, like sounds of sparking, electrical smells, and erratic flickering from lights.
- Be aware that older devices may not have the same safety mechanisms as more modern devices (overload protection, auto shut-off, etc.)
- Don’t leave heating devices unattended, including heating blankets.
- Watch out for ‘sagging’ plugs: periodically check to ensure the plug and outlet have a firm, tight connection.
- A warm cord or outlet is to be expected for heating devices. Periodically check a device’s cord and the wall around the outlet – if it feels ‘hot’ and not just warm, discontinue use.
Why is this important? Heaters, heating blankets, and other devices can stress your home’s electrical system. Devices like these that use a lot of power can increase fire risk. Sometimes a home electrical network is ill-prepared to handle an increased demand of this nature, leading to hazardous arcing – sometimes hidden in walls. In other cases, a device is not plugged in or connected correctly – or is itself faulty due to age, wear, or poor design.
One final but significant reminder:
Smoke Detectors. Fires can occur with or without electricity, especially when your focus is on keeping your family warm and in good health during extreme conditions. Make sure your smoke detectors are in good working order.
In closing: If it is designed to generate heat, and it must be plugged into an outlet, take good care to ensure you and yours stay comfortable AND safe.