I felt compelled to write a quick post after an event that occurred in my house last night. Here in Wyoming, it can get pretty expensive to heat with gas, especially during the colder months. So it often makes sense to buy a couple of electric space heaters, as it’s cheaper to heat the single room you occupy as opposed to the whole (empty) house.
Yesterday, I left my electric heater on probably a little longer than I should have. I want to start by saying there’s nothing wrong with this particular $15 electric heater; this warning applies to any high-draw electric appliance. Anyway-I left my heater on too long, probably for about 8 hours. When I came into the office to shut it off, I noticed a dull melted plastic smell in the air. I turned off the heater and grabbed the cord, and I noticed that the rubber insulation was very hot. Upon closer examination, it appeared as though I’d inadvertently overheated the electrical outlet by leaving the heater plugged in too long. In the photo, you can even see some charring on the surface of the outlet.
No fuses were blown, and the outlet turned out to be functionally sound. But the point of this post remains the same. Electric heaters can and do start house fires, often at the outlet. If I’d forgotten to turn off the heater and just went off to bed, the outlet would have gotten much hotter. In summary, if you use electric heaters in your home, be sure to check the outlet often and make sure it’s not too hot. Also, don’t leave your heaters turned on too long, and unplug them after use. After all, an electric heater is really just a short-circuit with a fan, so be careful.
It’s interesting to note that the warning tag on the power cord does mention the risk of overheating an outlet. Unfortunately, too many of us (like me) are too careless to read the giant warning tag before plugging something in. Read it next time, and reduce the risk of setting your walls on fire. Cheers.