Feb 5, 2014 11:19 PM by Zach Thaxton

Space heaters popular, risky option amid extreme cold

Portable space heaters are flying off store shelves amid the extreme cold temperatures gripping southern Colorado, but the devices can be dangerous fire hazards if not used properly.  The Colorado Springs Fire Department warns that all portable heaters require safety space.  "It's really important to maintain a 3-foot clearance around the heater," said Jane Zook, Fire and Life Safety Educator for CSFD.  "So, nothing that's combustible around a space heater."  Zook also says space heaters should not be run through the night.  "The rule is that anything that gets hot has the potential to burn something else," Zook said.

The number of home fires soars this time of year, Zook says.  "December through February -- those are the highest times of year that we see home fires," she said.  Heaters ranging from $25 to $400 have been selling briskly at the ACE Hardware near North Circle and Uintah in Colorado Springs.  Manager Timothy Sailor says the least expensive options, such as forced-fan, ceramic, and radiant heaters are also the most dangerous.  "You're looking at an element that basically heats up," Sailor said.  "If you throw something on them, they will catch fire."  Sailor recommends infrared heaters, which use quartz light bulbs to heat copper chambers and then the heat is softly "exhaled" out into the nearby space.  The infrared heaters present the least significant fire hazard, but they are also the most expensive, ranging up to $400 at ACE.


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