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Seasonal Electric Safety Tips - Winter

Reduce High Energy Bills
Find tips and ways to improve your home's energy efficiency and reduce high energy bills with the Energy Star Home Advisor.

Space Heater Safety
Thanks to new regulations and up-to-date designs, portable electric space heaters are safer than ever to use at home. That's good news, because a space heater can be a cost-effective way to warm up an unheated room or add some extra heat in cool spots throughout the house.

Many new models are cool to the touch and automatically shut themselves off if they tip over. Still, it's a good idea to keep safety in mind when using heaters and all electric appliances. To make sure your family is keeping warm and not getting burned by space heaters, here are a few safety guidelines:

  • Leave three or four feet of space between your portable heater and drapes, furniture and bedspreads.
  • Don't plug a space heater into an extension cord. Extension cords are meant for temporary use only and can overheat if they're used constantly.
  • Never run a heater cord (or any other electrical cord) under carpet or furniture.
  • Water and electricity don't mix—never touch an electric heater if any part of your body is wet or if you are standing in water.
  • Turn off your heater when you go to sleep or leave the room.
  • Buy a heater with a protective grill or screen that covers the heating element.
  • Dry your clothes in the dryer—never drape them over a portable heater.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International offers the following tips:

  • Have your heating systems inspected by a qualified service professional at least once a year. This inspection should include lubrication and cleaning, replacing filters, a check of belts and thermostats and having vents cleared of obstructions, as necessary.
  • Make sure window air conditioners do not allow cold air to sneak through or around sides, top and bottom, putting an extra strain on heating systems and adding cost for homeowners. Local hardware stores can provide covers and other easy, low-cost ways to keep that cold air out.
  • Caulking around windows and other openings can stop the cold air invasion dead in its tracks. Caulking and a caulking gun from your local hardware are inexpensive and easy to use. A warmer home and lower utility bills can result.
  • Use products only for their intended purposes. Hair dryers aren't intended to thaw frozen pipes, dry clothing or warm bedding.
  • When using a portable electric heater, keep flammable materials - bedding, clothing, draperies, rugs and furniture - at last three feet away even if it has safety features such as cut-off switches or heating element guards.

If you use an electric blanket to keep warm on a cold night, follow the manufacturers instructions and make sure you turn it off and unplug it when it's not in use. Never tuck an electrical blanket in.


updated Feb 18, 2016