It's getting chilly outside, and for many that means it's time to break out the space heater to keep you and your family warm. But be careful, as space heaters can potentially cause injuries.
Space heaters, including wood stoves, contributed to 32 percent of home heating fires and 79 percent of home heating fire deaths between 2005 and 2009, the Cumberland Times-News reports. But you can minimize the risk of damage to your home and yourself by being aware of the most common kinds of space heater-related injuries.
Here are a few examples of what could go wrong:
Fires. Even if your heater has a covered heating unit, there's a still a risk it could cause a fire. Space heaters take a lot of energy, and if you plug one into an extension cord it can cause the cord to overheat. Because it's not part of the heater itself, people may be less likely to notice this problem, but it can still lead to a fire. When buying a space heater, make sure the cord is long enough so that you can plug it into the wall and decrease your risk of fire. If any damage does happen, make sure to file a claim.
Burns. The location of the heating coil in your space heater matters, especially if you have children or pets. Even if you aren't worried about a person getting hurt, if the heater gets too hot it can damage your floors and other items nearby, like a blanket. If you can, try to choose a space heater with a stand that doesn't get hot, or put a floor protector under it. It may also be wise to install a gate or guard around the heater to keep little hands -- not to mention paws and clutter -- away.
Carbon monoxide poisoning. Many space heaters today are electric, but some models still use fuel to keep the heat going. If yours is one of them, make sure it has a way to vent fumes outside. Those kinds of heaters can give off carbon monoxide and poison you and your family if you're not too careful. Just in case, install a carbon monoxide detector and make sure the batteries are working.
Of course, if your space heater is defective these warnings and precautions may not be enough. If you're injured by a defective heater, contact an experienced attorney near you to get advice on how best to proceed.