23 October 2015

Using electric backup heating the right way

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Let’s welcome Jean-François, our inhouse prevention expert. Today he’ll be giving us advice on how to safely use and maintain backup heaters.

Hello, Jean-François! First off, can you give us a few examples of backup heating?

Sure! Backup heating is used temporarily when your central heating isn’t enough. You never use it all day. So we’re talking about things like portable electric radiators and electric space heaters.

Thanks for the clarification! Why is it important to talk about backup heating?

A significant number of fires are caused by overused, improperly used, or poorly installed backup heaters—especially during extremely cold winter weather. So let’s be ready for it this year!

What tips would you give someone wanting to purchase an electric backup heater?

First of all, you can choose from a wide selection of devices.

Let’s start with portable electric heaters. The good thing about them is they’re safe. And they’re easy to use—just plug them in. Here are my tips for using them safely:

  • Make sure the device bears the seal of a recognized certification body like CSA or ULC.
  • Check that it has a switch or electrical disconnect that will automatically shut it off if it overheats.
  • Don’t use it in a damp area or somewhere water could get on it, like a bathroom.
  • Avoid using extension cords and plug the heater directly into an outlet.

Now let’s talk about portable space heaters. There are many kinds: natural convection, pulsed air, radiant, and combined. What I recommend above all is choosing a heater according to the size of the room you want to heat. Each has its advantages: for example, pulsed air heaters heat quickly, while radiant heaters are silent.

Now you have an overview of the various devices. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it covers the most common heater types.

Thanks for these great tips! Now we’ll let you wrap things up.

Thanks, there are quite a few! Here are my last ones for a cozy and safe winter:

  • Don’t leave your electric backup heater unattended. Turn it off when you leave the house or go to bed.
  • Don’t place anything that could burn next to the heater. This includes paper, gasoline, chemicals, paint, fabrics, or cleaning products.
  • Don’t put flammable items on top of the heater, even when it’s no longer putting out heat.
  • Keep the heater out of reach of children.
  • Be sure air is circulating freely to the heater.
  • Clear the space around the heater of anything that could block the way.

Stay nice and warm this winter, but remember to get outside once in a while!