There is no arguing the fact that winter is moving in with the change in temperatures occurring across the country and snow begins to accumulate in some areas. With winter comes concerns of falling on ice, questionable road conditions and hypothermia, but there’s one major risk you may be overlooking in your own home!
Weather officials warn that the influence of El Nino on our weather patterns will likely mean a significant drop in temperatures this winter compared to last year, especially in January and February. “New York City and Philadelphia may wind up 4 to 8 degrees colder this February compared to last February,” explained AccuWeather’s expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok. It’s going to be a chilly one!
In response, households across the United States will be taking whatever steps we can to keep ourselves warm. Gas bills are going to rise, warm weather gear is going to fly off the shelves and many homes will pull out the space heaters that have served them so well in past winters. Today’s space heaters are far safer than those of the past with guards in place to avoid any access to the heated components that could cause burns and fail-safes in place to shut the heater off if it’s ever tipped over.
However, fire departments across the country are taking to social media to issue a serious warning. Do NOT plug your space heater into a power strip! According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, portable electric heaters are responsible for 1,100 fires each year, resulting in approximately 50 fatalities!
Many of these warnings are accompanied by photographs that may shock you, depicting melted and deformed power bars. The shock value may seem extreme, but this is a real risk that many American families are completely unaware of!
Chief Technologist at the Good Housekeeping Institute, Rachel Rothman, explained that the biggest misconception is that a standard power bar limits or blocks surges in the same way that a surge protector is designed to do. With space heaters reaching temperatures greater than 500-600 degrees Fahrenheit, the amount of current flow required to support the units is significant. When this flow passes through the power bar it can become overheated to the point of melting or even catching fire.
“You should definitely not use an extension cord or power strip, which could easily overheat,” Rothman stated. “And you really shouldn’t plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater for safety reasons.”
Furthermore, Rothman adds that there are other steps you can take to ensure that your home is safe this winter season. Before plugging your space heater in, check it over for any damage, fray or worn out sections of the cord. Ensure there is space around the unit to avoid overheating of the space heater itself, especially when considering flammable materials that could be sparked from the intense heat. Finally, always unplug the unit when it’s not in use.
This is also a great time to check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home to ensure they are in proper working order. Remember, as you’re using your furnace, gas fireplace, space heater, or whatever other heating sources you rely on – you are counting on these devices to keep your family safe. You don’t want to take any chances.