By Mike Sokol
It’s that time of year when the frost is on the pumpkin, so now is a good time to remind you about the dangers of portable electric heaters, both in your house and your RV.
I just received this update from ESFI.org, the organization that monitors electrical-related fires and deaths:
The Electrical Safety Foundation International says heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the U.S., with more than 65,000 fires being attributed to them each year. The ESFI reports the fires result in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and millions of dollars in property damage.
And here’s a picture of a surge strip that couldn’t withstand the constant current draw of an electric space heater and overheated until meltdown. As you can see, it not only got hot enough to melt the plastic, I’m sure it could easily have caught any flammable material in the area on fire. In fact, just last year in my hometown there was a residential fire that left two dead from smoke inhalation, and the cause was several surge strips plugged together in a row, with newspapers laying over top of them. That was bad enough, but none of the smoke detectors in the house had batteries in them.
You may have seen this video before, but it shows just how quickly an undersized extension cord can overheat, nearing the boiling point of water in just 5 minutes. Click on the video screen grab or watch it HERE
And HERE’s what I wrote about portable space heater safety last winter. And while it’s best to never use a portable space heater in an RV unattended, sometimes it’s unavoidable if you’re trying to prevent pipes from freezing, etc. So, if you do need to use one, here are a few safety tips.
Always inspect the contacts of the space heater plug for discoloration indicating oxidation or overheating. Use deOxit spray to remove any signs of corrosion.
Don’t run a space heater unattended on the high/1,500 watt setting unless you’re right there in the room to monitor it. The low/600-750 watt setting should be enough to keep your pipes from freezing and is much safer.
NEVER plug a portable electric space heater into an outlet strip. They’re not designed for continuous loads and many are not UL listed.
It’s best practice to plug any electric heater directly into a wall outlet, but frequently check the wall outlet for signs of overheating such as discoloration, warping of the plastic, or feeling warm to the touch.
If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is a 12-gauge cord with high-quality connectors. Never use a skinny orange extension cord from a big box store to power a space heater.
Never place anything flammable anywhere near the space heater or the power cord. That includes anything that could possibly fall on it.
And always make sure your smoke, LP and CO detectors are operational.
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 40+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.