Never, Ever Do These 5 Things With Your Heat In The Winter

The USFA recommends using a wall outlet only if you are using a portable electric heater and advises against using a power strip or extension cord.

In fact, several manufacturers of portable electric heaters only recommend plugging their heater into a wall outlet that is not shared by any other appliances. That’s because those those power cords are more likely to overheat and cause fires, at least in a worst-case scenario.

“Those will catch on fire before it actually gets to the outlet to trip the breakers,” said Ayrica Walker, a Baltimore-based electrician and owner of Hers Electric.

Meanwhile, circuits on wall outlets are designed to trip and shut off the power to prevent more overheating. “Nine times out of 10, if you see a spark or an arc or a fire starts, then the circuit that the wall outlet is connected to will trip,” Walker said. 

Ideally, you should not be plugging everything into one power strip without looking at the amperage or voltage, either.

Walker said one of the most common winter calls she gets is from people who tripped their circuits after plugging in a space heater. She gave the example of buying a 20-amp heater and plugging it into a 15-amp circuit that’s already running four or five other devices. 

“You want to check the amperage on each appliance that you plug in,” Enoch said. Walker noted that all appliances have a spec sheet where you can look up the maximum amperage or voltage.  

Or simply see how many devices turn off with one part of your electrical panel, Walker advised, before you try to plug in a space heater. 

“Go to wherever your panel is … If you see something that says ‘living room,’ turn off the ‘living room’ and see what is turned off,” she said. “If five things in that room go off, and it’s a TV, computer, so on and so forth, and that space heater requires 12 amps, then it’s too many.” 

Ultimately, these extra steps for heating maintenance can cost you a little time and money, but they can be lifesavers in the long run. 

This post was previously published on HuffPost.


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