Residential Tips

Electrical Tips for the Home

Checking Your Heaters and Electric Blankets Before Winter

When the cold months roll around and you pull those dusty portable heaters and electric blankets out of storage, stop and think before you turn them on, as they could be potential hazards.


Every winter, fire brigades across the country attend several house fires started by household appliances that were faulty or incorrectly used. To keep your family safe:

•Check portable heaters for frayed cords, loose plugs or exposed wires. Clean dust-off elements and ensure that they are securely attached. If any faults are  found, either have them inspected and repaired by a licensed electrical contractor or discard the heater and buy a new one.

•Lay electric blankets flat on the bed and check for loose or frayed wiring. Turn them on for at least five minutes to ensure they are working correctly before using. Again, if a fault is detected, have it checked by an electrician or throw the blanket away and buy a new one.


Even if your appliances are in good working order, it’s important to observe certain basic safety rules when using them. These include:

•Never using an electric blanket on a waterbed or with a hot water bottle

•Always turning it off before you go to sleep

•Never folding it up to store it, which can bend or break the wires

•Never putting it in a washing machine and always following the manufacturer’s care instructions

•Making sure that children and pets are always supervised  around portable heaters

•Ideally, only buying those heaters that have a cut-off switch, in case they are knocked over

•Always placing clothes airers at least 3 feet away from a heater

•Never leaving heaters on overnight or while you are not at home.


It isn’t just heaters and electric blankets that can cause fires. You should also check the following items before every winter:

Fireplaces – make sure the chimney and flues have been professionally cleaned before lighting a fire and always use a fire guard to prevent sparks from spreading.

Clothes dryers – these can get very hot if the filter is blocked and could potentially start a fire, so don’t leave them unattended during winter use and regularly remove lint build-up from filters.

Hot water bottles – the rubber in these can perish and cause serious scalding if a leak occurs, so if they are more than two years old, they should be discarded and replaced.

Heating units – many gas or wood heating units require an annual maintenance check by a qualified person to ensure they conform to safety standards.


Even when you inspect and maintain your appliances conscientiously, there is always the risk of an accident happening. Therefore, to increase your family’s safety, it is also a good idea to:

•Install good quality smoke alarms in every room, test them regularly and replace the batteries every six months.

•Have an electrician install a safety switch, which will cut the power in a fraction of a second, should someone be electrocuted.

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