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Don’t Plug Your Space Heater Into a Power Strip

With temperatures dropping, many people turn to space heaters to make their homes more comfortable. Unfortunately, that comfort comes with several hazards.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters account for about 32 percent of home heating fires and 79 percent of home heating deaths. Often, those fires start when the heater is too close to something flammable. But there’s another danger as well — plugging the heater into a power strip or extension cord.

The Umatilla County Fire District No. 1 posted a warning on Facebook of what can happen if you plug your space heater into anything other than the wall. The post, which included a burned and melted power strip (but has since been taken down), cautioned:

We just wanted to remind you that you should NEVER plug a heater into a power strip. These units are not designed to handle the high current flow needed for a space heater and can overheat or even catch fire due to the added energy flow.

The post went on to add that space heaters should not be used with extension cords or (worse still) an extension cord plugged into a power strip:

Extension cords are for temporary use only. The more power passing through it, and distance it travels causes heat build up, or resistance. This is a big cause of fires we have. Using numerous power cords together also called daisy chaining is actually a fire code violation for businesses.

In addition, using outlet adapters is a bad idea. The fire district wrote:

In general, outlets should only be used as designed. Putting six-outlet adapters into a two-outlet is overusing the designed wiring. If using with low voltage items like phone chargers or lamps, it should be fine. Using with high usage items like appliances or heaters … you may have issues. Truly, consult an electrician for professional advice on power consumption and outlet use.

In addition to plugging your space heater into wall outlets only, the National Fire Protection Association recommends maintaining a 3-foot zone around heaters where kids and flammable items are not allowed. Turn off heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep, and look for heaters with an automatic shut-off feature. Place heaters on a flat, level surface and inspect for damaged, broken plugs or loose connections before using.

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