Proper Care and Handling of Indoor Electric Heaters

I have an indoor electric heater and I almost had an accident with it the other day. Actually, I almost caused a fire. I run it almost always 24 hours per day at 1500 Watts (it can also run at 750 Watts).

I connected it to an extension cord and about one week after I turned it ON (I had been running it almost all through December) part of the extension cord melted. It was the part that connected to the heater’s output cord.

For about two days prior to my discovering this meltdown, I could swear that I smelled some kind of electrical burning or melting. I tried to locate it but was unable. A friend of mine was over when I discovered this and he told me that one should never use an extension cord when running an indoor electrical heater. But I have run them for years and this is the first time I ever had a meltdown.

The extension cord only had two prongs and it was kind of flimsy. I think that was the problem and that if I used a sturdy extension cord with three prongs, I would not have had this kind of problem. But I don’t know and I’m coming to you with hat in hand to ask for your opinion.

1500 W appliances should not be run on extension cords, particularly flimsy ones. Using a sturdy cord will save you from it melting, but you still increase the number of connection points that could be faulty and heat up.

Shouldn’t be using an extension cord at all. It normally says right on the unit not to use an extension cord. Because you’ve been doing something wrong for years doesn’t mean it’s OK it just means you’re lucky.

If you do use a cord you need to make sure it’s rated for a 15 amp or 14 gauge minimum, a 12 gauge cord is preferred. 1500w is the max output for a typical household circuit so if you are using that heater on it you shouldn’t have anything else on the same circuit.

I am reminded of my student days. I lived for a while in a room which had a fixed 3Kw heater as the only source of heat. Electricity was paid for via a coin-in-the-slot meter at some extortionate rate fixed by the landlord.

The single overhead 40W light was included in the rent, so I bought an adaptor from Woolworths which allowed me to plug a bulb and an extension cord into the light socket. I ran a 1Kw electric fan heater from this which I hid in a suitcase whenever I went out.

Since lighting circuits in this country are only rated at 5 amps, and in those days were not earthed, I guess I was lucky to not burn the place down or electrocute myself.

Yikes! Bob++ You were definitely very lucky.

Boytyperanma and Bob++,

Thank you both very much for your info. I certainly do feel lucky. One woman in our apartment building did cause a fire a few years ago. She is a very objectionable kind of person - always talking in a loud voice. But some kind soul did take pity on her and invited the fire starter to come into her apartment and stay there for the 10 weeks it took to restore her apartment.

I couldn’t believe there were such kind souls in this world. I seriously doubt that anyone would ever do me that kindness.

However, I will be certain from now on never to use any extension cords with my heaters. Thank you both ever so much!

yeah for sure like the instructions say, don’t use an extension cord.

if you are going to using one anyway then

use a 20A 9 ft. appliance cord which has AWG 12/3 wire.

big and short.

the $20 that you spend on a quality cord might save your life.

you cheated death. when you smell something burning, especially plastic smell. then don’t stop until you’ve found it. unplug things, inspect everything. look and feel, get your nose in there close.

Out of curiosity, what is an output cord? (From context, this seems to be referring to the heater’s normal power cord. I have never associated ‘output’ with this.)
A general comment: if a space heater is being run 24/7, it’s a pretty good indication that a better heating setup is called for.

Yes. I should have said “power cord”. I was half asleep. It was very late.

Indeed. Excellent advice. If I would have started a fire, my life would have been in a terrible state. I once tried to get fire insurance. But the agent wouldn’t give me a policy because there was not enough money in it for her. Pretty sad, huh?

I find that pretty incredible. In my experience you can insure just about anything that is reasonably unpredictable. After all - insurance is just gambling. The insurance company is betting that you will not have a fire/crash your car/break your leg and you are betting that you will, while hoping you wont, but happy that someone else will pick up the tab if you do.

In the UK, I would just go online and get half a dozen or more quotes in an instant. Of course, someone with a conviction, or even previous claims for arson would have problems, but that aside, most insurance companies will take me on, even at a loss, in the hope and expectation of upselling later.

The annual premium would be around $100 and the agent’s commission would be a small chunk of that.

The woman agent was real harried and nasty to me and told me flat out that the amount of her commission would just not make it worth her while to proceed.

Of course, she worked for Allstate which is a very big Insurance Company in North America. Maybe a smaller agency would be more responsive. I just became so disgusted that I didn’t want to bother after that.

Find a better insurance broker who doesn’t mind writing renters’ insurance. A lot of auto insurance companies also offer rental insurance, so if you’ve got a car, start with your agent.

Around here, it’s pretty common for leases to require the tenants obtain their own insurance, so the insurance people are used to it. True, they may only get ten bucks or so in commission, but that’s not your problem.

Safety concerns aside, isn’t it pretty expensive to run a 1500W appliance 24/7? Do you not pay for your own electricity?

Living somewhere cold is costly.

Are you even supposed to run space heaters that long? I was under the impression that you’re supposed to turn them off now and then. (Get some sweaters and blankets for the time being)

I think she might have been trying to spare your feelings. You know how you can’t get a payday loan without a job/payday? Or you need to have assets to get a cash loan at the bank? Maybe you don’t have enough fire. They can’t give you fire insurance unless they think that you have a certain amount of fire to back it up.

I recently bought a 120 VAC, 1500 W electric heater. I wanted to use it with a short extension cord, so I bought this one. This extension cord has 12/3 AWG wires, a 15/20 A plug, and a 15/20 A receptacle. While the AWG of the wires is a bit overkill, I mainly bought it for the rating of the plug and receptacle. (Plugs and receptacles tend to be weak links.)

The heater, BTW, uses a 16 AWG power cord.

There are extension cords designed for use with irons and other appliances that get hot. One I found on Amazon is good for up to 13amps and 1625 watts.