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Weighing costs and safety Space heaters must be used properly

January 10, 2011
By JOHN PEPIN Journal Staff Writer

ISHPEMING - Like air conditioning in the summertime, space heaters during the winter months can provide comfort to your home.

But Upper Peninsula Power Company officials are reminding consumers the devices can put a drain on your pocketbook and should be used appropriately and safely.

In a recent news release, UPPCO officials said the small heaters use a lot of electricity and are somewhat costly to operate. A typical electric space heater using 1,500 watts of power can cost over 20 cents an hour to operate. Using one space heater 24 hours a day for one month will add $160 to your electric bill. If multiple space heaters are used, electric consumption would increase substantially, costing the customer a lot of money. Multiple heaters in a home can add $300 to $400 a month to a customer's electric bill, UPPCO officials said.

The company has an on-line electric appliance calculator to help consumers determine how much money it can cost to operate various appliance. For example, a coffee maker used for 60 minutes a day will cost $4.96 per month and $59.4 a year to operate, while a flat screen television on for five hours a day will cost $2.84 a month and $33.90 a year.

UPPCO officials said there are safe ways and potentially dangerous ways to use electric space heaters. There are also substantial energy costs associated with operating multiple space heaters in a home or office. UPPCO advises using a space heater in a smaller confined area or office work space to provide supplemental heat that the building's regular heating system cannot provide. Space heaters are not intended to heat an entire house. If a supplemental space heater is used in home heating, UPPCO recommends turning down the house thermostat a few degrees and then use a space heater in the area that is occupied the most.

Users should keep space heaters away from the house's thermostat so the thermostat doesn't react to the warmer room temperature, not allowing the furnace to operate, causing the rest of the house to become cold.

UPPCO officials say another concern in using multiple space heaters is the increased electric load on the home's circuitry. The typical space heater can tie up more than 80 percent of a standard 15-amp circuit found in a typical home. The circuit breaker could easily trip as a safety measure.

There is also a potential fire risk associated with space heaters. Space heaters using a filament can get extremely red-hot. Children and pets should stay far away.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that each year an estimated 21,650 home fires and 1,512 fire-related injuries are caused by careless or wrongful use of home space heaters, usually associated with overloaded, undersized or frayed power cords or drapes and furniture that come in contact with the heating element. UPPCO recommends a safe distance of three feet be maintained when using space heaters.

Space heaters should have a protective guard over their heating coils and include a tip-over shut-off feature. If a heater is accidentally knocked over, it instantly should shut itself off. The unit should also have an overheat protection feature, which shuts the unit down if it reaches dangerously hot temperatures. The unit should also have the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) Seal of Approval which means it complies with industry-wide safety standards.

Other safety precautions suggested by UPPCO include:

- Don't use a space heater in a damp or wet area. Moisture could damage it.

- Keep the heater away from any flammables, like paint, paint thinner, gasoline cans or matches.

- Do not run cords under rugs or carpeting.

- Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when you leave the room.

- Consult the unit's operational manual for a complete list of safety precautions and suggested use.

To access the UPPCO appliance use and cost calculator visit:

For more Information, contact UPPCO Customer Service at 800-562-7680.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His e-mail address is



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