Electrical Fire Prevention: Winter Edition

Personal Heaters, Electric Blankets, & More

While Georgia is known for its hot summers, it gets chilly in the winter. As the temperatures start to dip, many people pull their electric blankets, space heaters, and more out of storage. While personal heating devices and appliances help take the chill off, they also pose an electrical fire and shock risk.

Common personal heating appliances:

  • Space heaters
  • Heating pads
  • Electric blankets
  • Portable heaters
  • Heated vests and jackets
  • Pet heating pads

Whether powered by your home’s electrical system or batteries, safety should always be a priority when using personal heating appliances. Keep reading for tips on how to use these devices safely.

Tip #1: Beware of Overheating Hazards

Electric blankets, heating pads, and other personal heating devices are great for keeping you warm and cozy. However, they do carry a risk of overheating. When one of these devices overheats, it can injure the person using it or even start a fire. As such, personal heating devices should be used sparingly and only under direct, adult supervision.

Tips for avoiding overheating of personal heating devices include:

  • Do not pile things on top of heating pads or blankets while in use
  • Do not fold or roll heating pads or blankets while in use
  • Use space heaters in well-ventilated spaces
  • Never place blankets on top of space heaters
  • Only use or run heating pads, electric blankets, and space heaters for the recommended amount of time

If you notice any signs of an electrical heating device overheating, stop use immediately. Turn the device off, unplug it from the wall, and be very careful when moving or handling it to avoid burns. Do not rely on the device’s internal automatic shut-off feature. If the product’s internal thermostat is broken or damaged, its ability to detect overheating will be compromised and unreliable.

Tip #2: Look for Signs of Damage on Older Personal Heating Devices

Most personal heating appliances, like space heaters and electric blankets, will last for years if well cared for. However, there will come a time when they wear out and need to be replaced. Additionally, they may become damaged if not stored well or when used improperly, creating a fire or electrical shock hazard. When you pull your electric blankets, heating pads, and space heaters out of storage this year, give them a once-over to ensure they are in good shape.

Signs that your heating device should be replaced include the following:

  • Cords are frayed or thinning
  • Bent or damaged plugs
  • Cracked plastic around cords, plugs, or connections
  • Burn or scorch marks anywhere on the product

According to the ESFi, personal heating devices like heating pads and electric blankets cause around 500 home fires every year, and most of these fires were started by electric blankets that were over a decade old.

Tip #3: Make Sure You Understand How Your Specific Heating Appliance Is to Be Used

With the wide range of personal heating appliances and devices on the market, it can be difficult to appreciate what each one is rated for, especially similar products. For example, heated mattress pads are designed to lie directly on a mattress, while a heated blanket typically is not. Similarly, some heating pads must have a protective cover on them or cannot be placed directly on the skin. Always use your heating device as intended and follow all instructions and safety guidance. Failing to do so can lead to injury or fire.

Other helpful safety tips for using personal heating devices:

  • Never leave electric blankets, heating pads, space heaters, etc. unattended
  • Do not use electric or battery-powered heating devices while away from home or sleeping
  • Always inspect and test heating devices before use

Additionally, if you are using an electrical heating device and it causes an electrical short, stop using the device. The problem may be an issue with the device, a problem with your electrical system, or an overloaded electrical circuit. If you have consistent issues with a specific circuit or device, call our electricians for an inspection to ensure that there is nothing wrong with your system and that all circuits are operating safely.

Are you having trouble with your electrical system? Reach out to Lightning Bug Electric for a repair inspection. Our team is standing by to help you today.