January 15, 2002
CPSC Offers Tips to Prevent Home
Fires Caused by Space Heaters
-- Devices Associated with 21,800 Fires and 300 Deaths Annually
- As fire departments across the country battle winter home fires, the U.S.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reminds consumers to demonstrate
care when purchasing and using space heaters. CPSC estimates that space
heaters, including both fixed and portable heaters, are associated with
about 21,800 residential fires every year. About 300 people die each year in
fires started by these heaters.
Fuel-burning space heaters also can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and
indoor air pollution, because of improper venting or incomplete combustion.
"We're still seeing too many space heater fires," said CPSC Acting Chairman
Thomas Moore. "While CPSC has worked hard with industry to improve safety
standards for space heaters, consumers must exercise care in their purchase
Consumers should be aware that older space heaters might not meet the newer
safety standards. The CPSC has worked to upgrade the industry standards on
electric, kerosene and unvented gas space heaters. An automatic cut-off
device is now required, which turns off electric or kerosene heaters if they
tip over. More guarding around the heating coils of electric heaters and the
burner of kerosene heaters also is required to prevent fires. CPSC worked to
upgrade the industry standard on unvented gas heaters, as well, to provide
an oxygen depletion sensor to shut off the heater if the oxygen level drops
Here are some CPSC safety tips for buying and using space heaters:
Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or heating element.
Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or
carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least three feet from
bedding, drapes, furniture, or other flammable materials.
Choose a space heater that has been tested and certified by a nationally
recognized testing laboratory. These heaters meet specific safety standards.
Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented
fuel-burning space heater. This helps prevent pollutant build-up and
promotes proper combustion. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to
provide sufficient combustion air to prevent CO production.
Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space
heater close to any sleeping person.
Turn the space heater off if you leave the area. Keep children and pets away
from space heaters.
Have a smoke detector with fresh batteries on each level of the house and a
carbon monoxide detector outside your sleeping area.
Be aware that mobile homes require specially designed heating equipment.
Only electric or vented fuel-fired heaters should be used.
Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually.