A cold snap in the southeastern half of the United States typically means one thing. People will be busting out their portable electric heaters to try and stay warm until the weather changes. I learned that the hard way once I relocated to Georgia. During my first cold snap, I found myself working in an office that didn’t have heat. I was also working for an employer that prohibited the use of kerosene heaters. Thus, I had to familiarize myself with the electric space heater that I inherited from a former employee. With that said, here’s some of what I learned from the experience:
One of the first safety issues that I encountered had to do with the condition of the unit. I learned from my employer that the electric heater had to have an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label and be inspected by the maintenance staff before I could use it. They also had to check my smoke detector at the same time. Upon inspection, the maintenance staff deemed the smoke detector to be in working order. In addition, they determined that the heater had the right label and that the electrical cord was still in excellent condition. As such, I was given the okay to use it.
The second safety issue that I faced had to do with distance. I learned that in order to be safe, electric heaters need to be placed in areas that are three feet or more away from flammable objects. That was initially a difficult hurdle for me to overcome because my office was small and full of furniture. I rectified the situation by rearranging some of the furniture and putting non-essential items into temporary storage. I also rearranged the throw rug so it was nowhere near the heater. You may find it necessary to do the same in your office, more details.
The third safety issue that I faced had to do with electrical outlets. I learned from the maintenance staff that it is necessary to plug the unit directly into a 110 volt outlet. Otherwise, the unit could overheat and become a fire hazard. At first, doing so was also problematic for me because my office only had two outlets and both were in use. In the end, I solved the problem by unplugging and temporarily removing some of the other electrical items to make way for the heater.
The fourth and final safety issue that I encountered was perhaps the most inconvenient to deal with. I learned that while in operation, the heater could not be left unattended. That wouldn’t have been a problem for someone that shares an office or doesn’t have to leave it often. However, I did not share an office and had to leave it frequently to complete rounds. As a result, I found myself having to plug and unplug the unit more than 20 times a day. I eventually dealt with the issue by only using the heater when it got really cold or when I knew that I would be in the office for an extended period of time. Doing so seemed to work well.