Don’t Burn your House Down! Here’s how to not suffer a disaster with your Electric Heater.

I love electrical heat, but it’s dangerous. Electric heaters burn down more houses than anything else. Be sure you understand the electrical needs of your heater and the electrical system in your home before using them for an extended period of time, like an entire winter.

Prevent Electrical Fires

Never plug more than one in at a time, the typical electric heater will pull almost 15 amps, and the typical older home in canada only has circuits that go up to 15 amps. If your wiring is 15 amp like mine is, you should dedicate 1 entire circuit to the heater, don’t plug in anything else on that circuit, not even a light bulb. You can test circuits by flipping one breaker and plugging something into various outlets. Outlets that don’t work are on the chosen circuit. Outlets that do work are on another circuit.

Never use an extension cord with a space heater unless you know what you are doing. If you must use extension, make sure you use the shortest possible and the highest gauge possible (lower numbers are thicker.) I use a 6 foot, 16 gauge extension cord for our heater. I would not go any smaller. You can get higher gauge extension cords at Home Depot, that’s where we got ours. The “contractor’s” stuff is usually a good gauge because it’s meant for power tools which are max 15 amps, the same power draw of a heater.

You can always test whether your heater is drawing a dangerous amount of power.  Run your heater on your chosen circuit for a few minutes, then unplug the cord from the wall and feel the plug. A little bit warm is ok but if it’s hot you need to either reduce draw or buy a thicker extension cord. A electrical heater fire starts in the walls which is why they go out of control fast – you can’t get at the fire to put them out.

Heat the Smallest Space Possible

The proper way to keep warm is to heat as small of a space as possible. I live in 206 ft^2 RV but I still close up the cab, the bedroom, the bathroom, and the overcab sleeping area when I run the heater. So I’m only heating about 120 ft^2 which means it gets warm in here and it gets warm fast. Don’t try to heat 900 ft^2 with electrical heat, that’s a good way to increase your risk of fires and to make yourself broke. One electrical heater going all out will cost 16 cents an hour (assuming you are in Ontario) which is 115$ a month just for one single heater. To keep a 900 ft^2 home warm you probably need 3, which will run you almost 400$ in electricity, not counting everything else you run – dryer, computer, oven, etc.

Try to heat up a room in the “heart” of your house rather than the periphery. The fewer windows the better. If you must have windows, pick a room on the south side rather than the north so at least you can heat partially with the sun.

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