Many households rely on heaters to battle the cold during the winter. Heaters can make a home comfortable although they also pose some risks. Heaters that are used incorrectly could lead to fires, injuries and even death. Here are eight heater tips you could use this winter.

Keep the Area around the Heater Clear

Keep a two to three-foot area around the heater clear of everything while it is running. You specifically want to keep things like shoes, blankets and boxes away from the heater. This is important since the heater could ignite flammable materials that are too close.

Never Plug the Heater into an Overloaded Outlet

Some of the roughly 1,200 fires caused by heaters each year are caused by problems with the electrical cord or plug. Never plug the heaters into an overloaded outlet. Never plug a heater into a power strip or surge protector. This will prevent fires caused by sparks or overheated cords.

Do Not Leave the Heater Unattended

Never leave a heater running unattended. Someone always needs to be near the heater when it is active. This will ensure that a fire does not start in an empty room. Turn off your heaters when leaving a room even if you are going away for just a few minutes.

Clean the Heater Regularly

Take time to clean the heater regularly. Cleaning once a month is usually enough. Clear away any dust and debris that might have gathered on the vents and fans. Wipe it down well. Wipe down the heating elements or burners if possible. This will prevent fires caused by igniting layers of dust on the unit.

Stop Using Malfunctioning or Damaged Heaters Immediately

You need to take a close look at your heater every couple of weeks. Look for signs of damage or frayed cords. Stop using a malfunctioning or damaged heater immediately even if it still seems to run. If the buttons or dials stop working, then the heater needs to be serviced before it can be used again.

Keep Heaters on Level and Stable Surfaces

A total of 155 people died due to heater fires between 2010 and 2012. Something that can start a fire fast is if the heater tips over. The heater could quickly ignite carpeting or light on fire itself in this situation. Keep heaters on level and stable surface at all times to prevent this from happening.

Always Use the Correct Type of Fuel

If your heater requires some type of fuel, then use the exact type specified by the manufacturer. Never attempt to use something else even if someone says it will work. Using the wrong fuel can have catastrophic results and could injure everyone around the unit.

Keep the Heater Away From Water and Moisture

A final tip is to keep the heater away from moisture. Keep it far from sinks, tubs and toilets. Never touch a heater if your hands are wet. If the heater is wet, then make certain that it is completely dry before attempting to run it. This will prevent electrocution and possibly electrical fires.