How Using a Space Heater Could Kill You

Winter temperatures usually start invading the Rock Hill, Fort Mill and Charlotte area in late October. That’s when you’ll start to notice that one room may be colder than the rest of the house. A common solution to this problem is buying a portable space heater. But you’d be better off getting a comfort checkup from your trusted local heating and cooling contractor.

Space Heaters are Deadly Fire Starters

A report by the National Fire Protection Agency shows heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States. And 40% of heating equipment fires are caused by space heaters. Worse yet, 84% of deaths and 75% of injuries from heating related fires are from use of space heaters. That’s over 25,000 fires each year, with the majority happening during the winter months.

Space heater causing a fire

It doesn’t matter if you use a portable electric, kerosene or ceramic space heater. The danger remains. Electrical cord problems, overloaded circuits and leaving the heater too close to combustible material (curtains, fabric, etc) are some of the main reasons space heaters cause fires. Non-electric space heaters have been known to catch their fuel supply on fire either due to careless storage, spills or mechanical malfunctions. About 16% of these fires started in a bedroom or a living room/family room/den, which are commonly rooms we see not being as comfortable as the main part of the house. Even with safety features like overheat protection and tip over protection, space heaters continue to cause fires.

Here is a video from the North Carolina State Fire Marshall’s office that shows what can happen when space heaters are used incorrectly.

Space Heater Fires in the Carolinas

Here in the Charlotte area, we’ve seen space heater related fires and deaths.

In January, 2019 a family’s home was destroyed and their dog was killed when fire officials say a space heater caught an old dry Christmas tree on fire.

In November 2018, fire investigators blamed a deadly fire in Indian Land, SC on a space heater. The fire started overnight and only two of the three family members inside were able to escape.

A home just outside of Rock Hill caught on fire in November, 2017 when a space heater was operating too close to a sofa in the home. One person was injured.

A 2013 condo fire in Charlotte that injured two people was blamed on a space heater.

Central Heating Systems are Much Safer

Comparatively, central heating systems, like a gas furnace or heat pump, were responsible for only 5% of deaths and injuries from heating related fires during the 5 year period being studied. Central heating systems were responsible for about 7,000 fires each year. That is a big difference for systems that are in place in just about every home.

Get Professional Help for Cold Spots in Your Home

You don’t have to live with cold rooms in your home. And you don’t have to risk fire and injury by using a space heater either. Trained heating and cooling professionals can often determine the cause of the cold rooms and help you correct them.

Ductwork is Often the Problem

In most cases, the problem is related to the ductwork in your home.

  • Leaking Ductwork and distribution boxes
  • Improperly sized ductwork
  • Poor ductwork design
  • Poorly insulated ductwork

As the distribution system for your heating system, ductwork is likely the cause when certain rooms remain colder than others. Insulation, windows and other items unrelated to your HVAC system may contribute to the problem, but most of the time these factors can be overcome with proper duct design. You can read a lot more about the importance of ductwork in our Information Center.

Leaking ductwork in part of your home can cause most of the hot air intended for that cold room to escape before it ever gets there. Leaks are often found around the joints of your ductwork, when it connects to a distribution box or the register for your room. You can also end up with leaks if ductwork has gotten old, been chewed by pests or damaged for some reason. Poorly insulated ducts, especially on longer runs from the furnace, could cause the air too cool before it reaches the problem room.

Most often, we find that ductwork was poorly designed, causing a lack of airflow to certain rooms. In these cases, we can use a number of techniques to improve the comfort in your cold room. We may replace the ductwork on the run to that room with a larger size to increase airflow through the register. We might add an additional register to the room. We might need to add an air return to improve air flow through the room.

Thermostats and Sensors can help as well

Newer technology has improved the types of things we can do to fix cold spots in your home. Adjustable thermostats are no longer the limit. Many smart thermostats can also use remote sensor technology to average the temperature across several rooms to determine when to kick the furnace in. Placing sensors in any cold rooms you have can help improve comfort in the home because the system is not relying on just one temperature reading. We install a variety of smart thermostats, depending on the need of the home.

There is almost always something we can do to make the room more comfortable so you can avoid the danger, cost and inconvenience of using a space heater.