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Safe use of portable outdoor heaters

Photo: aozora1/iStockphoto

Portable outdoor heaters are a popular appliance for people with patios and decks. If you’ve got a heater, it’s important to understand the hazards associated with them.

The obvious hazards are fires and burn injuries, says the National Fire Protection Association, which offers two general safety tips:

  • Keep all flammable material at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
  • Turn off all portable heaters when the area in which they’re being used isn’t occupied.

Also of concern? Hazards related specifically to propane heaters and electric heaters. The NFPA cautions that propane heaters need to be used in accordance with their listing and manufacturer instructions. In addition, propane cylinders need to be stored properly, the association says. Tips include:

  • Don’t store cylinders indoors.
  • Place them where there will be minimum potential for physical damage, tampering or exposure to excessive temperature increases.

Electric heaters should be placed where they can’t be easily overturned. And as with propane heaters, they should be used in accordance with manufacturer instructions. Other tips:

  • Electric heaters should be used only where they can be plugged directly into the appropriate receptacles or extension cords of adequate current capacity.
  • Extension cords should be grounded, and maintained in good condition without splices, deterioration or other damage.
  • Extension cords shouldn’t be affixed to structures; extended through walls, ceilings or floors; or placed under doors or floor coverings.

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