Space heater use is common during the winter months. They are safe to use if you follow some simple rules but they also have an inherent danger. They can cause grave injury and even death from burns and carbon monoxide poisoning. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (USCPSC) estimates that there are approximately 25,000 house fires and approximately 300 fire deaths per year attributed to improper use of space heaters. They also estimate approximately 6,000 emergency room visits per year for burns when people come in contact with the hot surfaces of a space heater.Space Heater SafetySpace heaters can be used safely if you use common sense, follow the manufacturer’s advice and the advice given by organizations such as the National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA) and Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Whether your choice of space heater is electric, propane or kerosene, the rules of safety will generally be the same.Choosing a Space HeaterChoice of space heater is important. Choose one that has been approved by a by an independent testing laboratory. Make sure that the space heater has a guard around the heating element to prevent burns to yourself and children. Be sure to buy a space heater that will heat the space that it will be in. An undersized space heater will run constantly, making its use inefficient. If the heater you chose is LP gas or kerosene fired, an undersized unit will put more pollutants into the room. When considering electric space heaters, choose one with a cut off switch that will automatically shut the heater off should it tip over. Some electric space heaters come with an infrared or proximity sensor which will shut the unit down if placed too close to an object. The unit will even shut down if approached too close by a pet or a child. If you by a wood fired space heater make sure that it meets EPA emissions standards. With a LP gas or kerosene fired space heater, make sure that the unit comes equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor. This sensor will shut the unit down before the oxygen in the room is replaced by dangerous carbon dioxide.Use of Space HeatersHere is a list of points to keep in mind for safe space heater use.- Always follow manufacturer’s recommendations.- When purchasing heating equipment look for units that have been tested and approved by an independent testing laboratory.- Buy heating equipment that is the proper size for the space you wish to heat.- Look for safety features such a tip over switches, oxygen depletionsensors and proximity sensors.- Be aware of the type of fuel being used to heat the space. Make sure you have proper venting for combustible fuels and make sure you follow all local codes concerning venting and fuel type. Consult your local building department for this information.- Make sure your home has at least one smoke alarm per floor especially outside the sleeping areas.- Have a fire escape plan and practice this with your family.- Have at least one carbon monoxide detector in your house.- Keep space heaters at least three feet from furniture, paper and trash.- Never store combustible materials such as kerosene fuel, gasoline or paint thinners in the same room as the space heater.- Monitor children and pets around the heater.- Have your heater, especially kerosene or gas, inspected annually by a qualified person.- Always use your heater on a hard, level, non-combustible surface.- If using a combustible fuel space heater, make sure it is properly vented according to manufacturer’s instructions and local codes.- Have any venting device such as a chimney or flue pipe inspected and cleaned annually.- Always use the proper fuel. Never use gasoline in a kerosene heater.- Don’t use extension cords with electric heaters.- Never go to sleep with the space heater on.