Never plug a space heater into a power strip


burnt power strip cord

The recent frigid weather from the polar vortex prompted fire officials to issue warnings about space heaters, which are a frequent source of home fires: Never plug a space heater into a power strip or an extension cord. Space heaters have a high energy load and should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Power strips are not designed to handle the energy load of a space heater and can overheat and cause a fire.

Check out this screen grab of a recent tweet from the Deer Lake Fire Rescue department:

Heating equipment is responsible for nearly half of home heating fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Energy.gov says that when buying and installing an electric space heater, you should follow these general safety guidelines:

  • Electric heaters should be plugged directly into the wall outlet. If an extension cord is necessary, use the shortest possible heavy-duty cord of 14-gauge wire or larger.
  • Always check and follow any manufacturer’s instructions pertaining to the use of extension cords.
  • Buy a unit with a tip-over safety switch, which automatically shuts off the heater if the unit is tipped over.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International offers this safety infographic.

Home Heating Fire Prevention infographic

Protect your kids from electrical shocks


child playing with electrical outlet

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) says that every year, about 2,400 children suffer severe shock and burns when they stick keys, pens, paperclips and other small items into electrical outlets, Many parents put covers or caps on the outlets, but studies show this is not a particularly effective deterrent to little fingers – a study by Temple University found that 100% of all 2-4 year olds were able to remove one type of plastic outlet cap within 10 seconds.

There’s a better solution called tamper resistant receptacles, or TRRs, that offer a simple, affordable, reliable and permanent solution to help protect kids. They look just like ordinary outlets but are equipped with spring-loaded receptacle cover plates to close off the opening slots. Since 2008, the National Electrical Code has required them to be installed in all new home construction – but many older homes do not have them. If you have children, you may want to consider converting to them – but TRRs should only be installed license electricians.