Portable heaters can prove very handy. From providing essential warmth and comfort during a boiler breakdown, to enabling people to control their energy bills by heating up just small parts of their home, portable heaters’ versatility and practicality has seen these appliances become commonplace in homes across the UK.
The next few weeks could see many people firing up these heaters and basking in their warm glow. But while you may be aware of the advantages of these appliances, do you fully understand their dangers?
As part of Electrical Fire Safety Week, national charity Electrical Safety First has joined up with the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) Fire Kills campaign to underline the dangers portable heaters can pose.
Research by the charity revealed that 78% of people are worried about the increasing cost of gas and electricity, and that more than 50% would consider using portable heaters to stay warm over the winter.
But their popularity could prove dangerous: Electrical Safety First also found that:
- 38% of people would leave these appliances switched on while they are unattended
- 21% admitted they would leave one on overnight
- 33% would keep an elderly relative warm with a portable heater, despite the fact that around 40% of the deaths caused by these heaters last year involved people aged 80 or over
Since 2009 to 2010, portable heaters have led to 3,800 fires, and have caused 1,000 injuries and taken the lives of 73 people, DCLG data shows, revealing that the risks posed by these heaters are serious and can be devastating.
Portable heaters – electrical safety
To prevent fires, injuries and deaths caused by domestic heating systems, Electrical Safety First offered the following advice:
- Don’t leave portable heaters on when you are asleep or when the heater is otherwise unattended
- Keep them well away from anything that could cause them to fall over
- Keep them at least one metre away from paper, curtains and other combustible items
- Don’t buy second-hand halogen heaters
- Regularly check portable heaters for damage, and do not use any that appear damaged
- Do not power halogen heaters with extension leads, as this may overload the extension lead and cause a fire
Electrical Safety First representative Emma Apter said that the charity welcomes portable heaters, describing them as a “low-cost option” in the face of “spiralling” energy bills.
Nonetheless, she said that it is “vital” for people to understand the risks of these appliances, particularly as the organisation has found that people are putting their loved ones in danger by using portal heaters in a hazardous manner.
The charity’s advice is simple yet effective, and could make a real difference to the number of deaths caused by portable heaters. Don’t let these innocuous-looking devices fool you – while they can be very useful when used properly, they can also be unnecessarily dangerous when misused.