Thankful for a phone call that kept us near the space heater before it burst into flames
Space heaters can be a lifesaver during extreme weather conditions, but it’s important to ensure that any heater you might have is safe to use. My husband Drew and I recently had a scary experience with an electric radiator space heater that caused this warning to become a reality for us.
We currently have a home for sale, separate from the home we live in, and as the procrastinators we often are, we didn’t go to the sale house to check the propane level until New Year’s Eve after hearing the temperatures were going to be in the single digits. We arrived, flipped the lid on the propane tank and about passed out when we saw that the gauge was sitting at less than 5 percent.
It was Sunday, and the next day would be New Year’s Day, so we knew it probably wasn’t in the cards to get a propane delivery that day. To ensure the house wouldn’t get too cold and cause the pipes to freeze or burst over the next few days, we concocted a plan to use space heaters inside the home to take some of the pressure off the propane furnace until we could have another batch of fuel delivered.
We went to my mom’s garage and pulled out a couple of electric radiator space heaters that had been given to her. One was showing its age; it was dinged up and had packaging tape holding down the controls. The other one looked almost brand-new with a digital screen – and not a ding in sight. I knew my mom had never used them, so we decided we’d take them back to our house and plug them in to make sure they worked before we took them to the other property to leave overnight.
We plugged them in, and both started producing heat almost immediately. We were just about to unplug them and take them to the other house when, thankfully, Drew got a phone call from a friend. After about 15 minutes of Drew being on the phone, we started to sense a strange odor.
“I smell something hot,” he said.
Drew went over to the old, beat-up heater and began looking it over. He smelled the panels, and shrugged, unable to find anything wrong. He then went over to the newer heater with the digital screen. Just as he bent down and began to sniff the panels, the circuit board burst into a football-sized ball of flames!
He quickly grabbed the heater by the cord as the fire began to grow in size and then dragged it across the living room floor and out the front door onto our concrete porch. Once outside, he was able to blow out the flames.
I immediately grabbed my laptop and pulled up an internet search engine to try and find out why the heater might have burst into flames. We found a lot of articles and videos of electric heaters under similar brand names catching fire. We even saw news stories about multiple (and sometimes fatal) home fires where the heaters are the suspected cause. We couldn’t find an official recall on our model, although there are recalls for other products made by the same brand.
I am so thankful that Drew got the phone call when he did, and that the heaters were plugged in for an extended period of time before we left them at the house on their own. The way the one heater ignited, and considering the videos of other electric radiant heaters catching fire that we watched on YouTube, I think it’s likely our house would have caught fire.
If you would like to check to see if your heater has been recalled or if other consumers have reported issues, visit www.saferproducts.gov.