During the cold winter months, many homeowners turn to space heaters in an attempt to offset high utility bills. Space heaters typically heat only one room at a time and homeowners incorrectly assume they can use an extension cord to power the device all around the home. Space heaters consume between 750 and 1,000 watts, and they are often used for long periods of time.
According to the he U. S. Department of Energy, “Electric heaters should be plugged directly into the wall outlet. If an extension cord is necessary, use a heavy-duty cord of 14-gauge wire or larger.” However, don't be fooled by the gauge number because the smaller the number, the larger the wire. So, a 12-gauge extension cord is actually thicker than a 14-gauge extension cord.
“Extension cords are rated for different load applications,” Breton says. “If an extension cord is overloaded, it could very well melt and arc and spark before it trips a conventionally protected circuit.”
Ceriello says the New York tri-state area electric company frequently observes the misuse of extension cords and space heaters, and she informs homeowners of the potential dangers. She recommends moving electrical loads to different outlets or installing new outlets all together.
“Overloading is one main reason fires tend to start in homes. When too much power is drawn on one breaker, and for some reason the breaker does not trip, the wire can get extremely hot and cause a fire.”