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Posted at 10:28 AM ET, 11/26/2012

Space heaters 101: Quiz and safety guidelines

Officials are warning people to use caution if operating portable space heaters in their homes and businesses.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 25,000 residential fires each year are associated with the use of space heaters, resulting in an estimated 300 deaths annually.

Additionally, an estimated 6,000 people are hospitalized for burn injuries associated with space heaters in non-fire situations, and fuel-burning space heaters can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

Take our brief quiz to find out how much you already know about portable heaters, then read on for more safety advice from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Space heater safety:

— Choose a space heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

— Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or heating element. Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, or other flammable materials.

— Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. This helps prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to provide sufficient combustion air to prevent CO production.

— Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.

— Turn the space heater off if you leave the area. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

— Have a smoke alarm with fresh batteries on each level of the house and inside every bedroom. In addition, have a carbon monoxide alarm outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area.

— Be aware that mobile homes require specially designed heating equipment.

— Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually.

More on kerosene heaters:

— Use only water-clear 1-K grade kerosene. Never use gasoline. Gasoline is not the same as kerosene. Even small amounts of gasoline or other volatile fuels or solvents mixed with kerosene can substantially increase the risk of a fire or an explosion.

— Always store kerosene in a separate container intended for kerosene, not in a gasoline can or a can that previously has contained gasoline. This helps you avoid using contaminated fuel or the wrong fuel by mistake. Kerosene containers usually are blue; gasoline containers usually are red.

— When purchasing kerosene at the pump, make sure to use the kerosene pump, not the gasoline pump. Some service stations have separate islands for kerosene. Some oil companies also have established quality control programs to reduce the chances of gasoline contamination of kerosene.

— 1-K grade kerosene should be purchased only from a dealer who can certify that you are purchasing 1-K grade kerosene. State-operated and private sector certification programs that ensure the quality of kerosene are established in some states. Grades other than 1-K can lead to a release of more pollutants in your home, posing a possible health risk. Different grades of kerosene can look the same, so it is important that the dealer certify that the product sold is 1-K grade kerosene.

— Never refuel the heater inside the home. Fill the tank outdoors, away from combustible materials, and only after the heater has been turned off and allowed to cool down. Do not refuel the heater when it is hot or in use.

— Do not fill the fuel tank above the “full” mark. The space above the “full” mark is to allow room for the fuel to expand without causing leakage when the heater is operating.

— In case of flare-up, or if uncontrolled flaming occurs, do not attempt to move or carry the heater. This can make the fire worse. If the heater is equipped with a manual shut-off switch, activate the switch to turn off the heater. If this does not put out the fire, leave the house immediately, and call the fire department.

— Install smoke alarms in your home. As an added reminder and precaution, install smoke alarms on every level of the home, outside sleeping areas, and inside bedrooms.

— Replace batteries annually and test monthly.

— Reduce your exposure to indoor air pollutants by properly operating and maintaining your kerosene heater. Although kerosene heaters are very efficient while burning fuel to produce heat, low levels of certain pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, are produced. Exposure to low levels of these pollutants may be harmful, especially to individuals with chronic respiratory or circulatory health problems.

— To ensure that you and family members are not exposed to significant levels of these pollutants, you should follow carefully the following rules of safe operation:

*Operate your heater in a room with a door open to the rest of the house.

*Open an outside window approximately one inch to permit fresh air to effectively dilute the pollutants: if you must operate your heater in a room with the door closed to the rest of the house, or if your home is relatively new and tight, or older but has been winterized to reduce air infiltration from the outside.

— Always use your heater according to the manufacturer’s instructions, making sure that the wick is set at the proper level, as instructed by the manufacturer.

— Make sure the wick in your heater is clean and in good operating condition by following the cleaning and maintenance procedures recommended by the manufacturer.

By  |  10:28 AM ET, 11/26/2012

 
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