With winter now in full swing, we can expect to see more snow and, of course, cold temperatures.
While we all do our best to stay warm during this time of the year, we may occasionally need a little extra help to keep ourselves, and our homes, cozy. This may mean using anything from a plug-in, portable space heater to, in the event of a severe storm, a portable generator.
Winter is no different than any other time of the year. And even though it may seem easier to take a shortcut when trying to stay warm, you should always keep safety top of mind. Here is some information on the dangers associated with three common pieces of electrical equipment used during winter, as well as tips on how to use them safely.
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), heating equipment — like portable space heaters — are the second leading cause of home fires in the United States and more than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment annually. It’s important to use these devices sparingly, and only when needed, to prevent something from going wrong. Here are some tips to ensure you’re being safe:
- Before using a space heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions in full.
- Don’t plug space heaters into extension cords or power strips.
- Be sure to give space heaters plenty of room and keep them on a level surface away from flammable objects and foot traffic.
- Remember to only use a space heater when needed and don’t leave a heater unattended while in use. Make sure you turn it off and unplug the cord when you’re not using the device.
- It may be advantageous to ditch your older space heater for a new one that has built-in safety features like a tip-over switch.
If the power goes out during a winter storm, you may turn to a generator. While the ability to keep the essentials running is certainly amazing, generators can pose a serious risk to your health. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 50% of all generator-related carbon monoxide deaths occur during the winter months. Follow these tips before firing up your generator:
- Be sure you are reading, and following, the manufacturer’s guidelines for operation and take heed of any warnings. This includes making sure you use the proper fuel for the generator and only add fuel when the generator is cool.
- Before each use, inspect the generator to ensure it’s in good working order.
- Generators should never be used in an enclosed area or placed inside a home or business. Be sure to also keep them away from windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to sneak inside.
- Even though you will be using the generator outside, make sure that your home has battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors that are in good, working condition.
- Make sure you never backfeed power from the generator into your home. Doing so can create serious safety hazards for our linemen working to restore your service by sending power back outside of your home.
Electric Blankets and Heating Pads
Both electric blankets and heating pads can provide some relief from the cold. While they may seem harmless, they cause almost 500 fires each year, according to ESFI. Here are some helpful tips to keep you safe:
- Heating pads and electric blankets are not designed to be used interchangeably or at the same time.
- Always be sure to inspect the device before using it. Start by checking the electrical cord and replace the item if you find any damage.
- Do not place other objects or blankets on top of an electric blanket while it’s in use as it can easily overheat.
- Do not tuck an electric blanket into the mattress and avoid folding it. Both can cause the blanket to overheat.
- Never leave these devices unattended or use them while you are sleeping.
Remember, with a little preparation and a few precautions, you can keep you, your family, and your home safe and warm this winter. For more information about how we promote safety in the communities in which we all live and work, visit PPLElectric.com/Safety.