A space heater is a good option to keep warm this winter – just make sure you are familiar with the manufacturer’s instructions and use the heater safely.

The use of space heaters or portable heaters is growing because they are economical and easy to use. Although portable heaters are designed to be safe, if used improperly, they can cause fires, burns, explosions or electric shock.

Space heater designs currently have better insulation around the heating coils and smaller grates so fingers don’t get in so easily.

Do not place heaters on shelves or up high. The best flat smooth surface is the floor. Space heaters should be kept away from kitchens and bathrooms (electricity and water do not mix).

Space heaters should be at least 3 feet from furniture, walls, bedding, etc. Never leave a heater unattended, especially if you have young children or pets.

Before you buy a space heater, look for a listing by a testing lab to insure certain safety standards. Look for heaters that have automatic turn-off switches should the heater get too hot or if it tips over.

Space heaters should not be plugged into a surge protector or extension cord, but directly into a wall outlet. These heaters normally come with enough cord to position the heater in a safe place in the room.

Resist the temptation to use your heater as a dryer. Keep clothing and other combustibles away.

Stay warm and safe this winter!

Cinda Seamon is the fire and life safety educator for Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue.