Using Heaters Safely A UL sticker means a heater has met safety guidelines set by Underwriters Laboratories. But despite that assurance, accidents can happen. "Like any electrical appliance, using your heater inappropriately can still put you or your home at risk," says Jim Novak, a senior product engineer at UL. To avoid the most common heater-related accidents, follow these simple safety tips: Establish a safety zone. Even with high-temperature shutoffs and protective grilles, Novak recommends establishing a 3-foot safety zone around a heater. In addition to placing your heater away from drapes and furniture, keep it out of traffic zones. "Kids and pets can get burned by poking at a hot element or brushing against a hot case," he says.

Don't use the heater to dry clothes or defrost pipes. Clothes can get scorched before the thermal switch cuts out. Leaving a heater unattended in a basement/crawl space can also lead to fire.

Most extension cords are not designed to handle 1,500 watts. If you must use a cord, make sure it's rated for 1,875 watts. A 9-foot cord using 14-gauge wire, for instance, is rated for 1,875 watts.

Water and electricity don't mix. To date, only one space heater is approved for bathroom use. The Holmes HFH-430BR features a GFCI plug that shuts off the heater at the first sign of electrical leakage.

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