Like many other New Jersey residents this time of year, you might have already brought out your trusty space heater to stave off the chill while cutting down the cost of your utility bills. However, before you switch on your small heater, you should understand the risks of these popular but potentially dangerous appliances.

The Electrical Safety Foundation cautions that heating equipment is responsible for more than 65,000 fires started in homes across the United States every year. Space heaters are particularly hazardous culprits, mostly due to improper use. You might, however, have a defective space heater without realizing it.

Before you use your space heater this year, you should check online for reports of fires and injuries caused by the make and model you own or are considering for purchase. This is a good idea for many common home appliances because a manufacturer or design defect can cause fires, electrocutions and other serious mishaps. The next step is to inspect your appliance for signs of damage and wear and tear, especially to the electrical cord and wiring components, and to discontinue use if you believe the product is unsafe.

The following tips are important to remember when using a space heater:

  • Place the heater at least three feet away from curtains, bedding and other furnishings that could ignite.
  • Never leave children or pets unattended while a space heater is in operation.
  • Turn off the heater when you leave the room.
  • Never place a rug over the electrical cord or plug the heater into an extension cord, which can cause it to overheat and start a fire.

Knowing how to use your space heater properly can keep you warm and safe this winter. If you believe a faulty device caused a fire or injury, you may wish to explore your legal options.