MASON CITY, Iowa - With the colder months upon us, some families are firing up their furnaces for the first time this fall, while others try to hold off by using space heaters instead. But they can also pose as a fire hazard.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters accounted for 2 out of every 5 fires caused by heating equipment, and accounted for 85% of deaths and 78% of injuries resulting from those fires from 2011-2015. Some of the leading causes of space heater fires are failing to clean them and keeping them too close to combustibles.
Clay Trytten runs a space heater in his garage and home, and says safety is key.
"If I work in the garage, I don't work around gasoline at all. I'm very careful in the garage. I always leave the garage open so I can have open air come in there, and I'm very cautious."
Tony Johnson with Johnson Heating and Air Conditioning has space heaters at his shop, and notes that while you could heat a whole house with one, it's not recommended, and it will cost more in the long run.
"It takes a lot more kilowatts per hour to heat a home when we can do BTUs of gas. Just the cost difference between gas and electricity, just makes it more conducive to heat with gas."
So before turning yours on, Trytten recommends taking time to look it over.
"Just spend a half hour giving a visual inspection and clean all the debris out that's inside the heater."
But if its starting to show signs of wear and tear, and also depending on how often you use it, it may be time to get a new one.
"If the bearings are worn in them, just throw it away and go buy a brand new one. That's just the way to go. That way you have a brand new unit in your home, because the old one, you're going to draw more current, and the bearings could go out, and that can start a fire."
If you plan to use a space heater, be sure to put it on a level, flat surface, not on any tables or furniture, which could overheat and cause a fire. Also, you should always plug a space heater directly into an outlet instead of an extension cord or power strip because those are more likely to overheat.