What is one to think when one comes across window trim that looks like this?
Sure enough, right below this nasty melted paint there was more evidence of what a forced air wall heater can do.
Heat does rise after all (especially in a chimney created by curtains) and this is a good example of why it is so important to make sure these electric wall heaters don’t get covered with drapes, towels furniture or anything else that can prevent them from doing the job they were designed to do.
While they might appear, on occasion, to be fire starting devices, they are actually designed to heat the space they are in.
While we are on the subject of these little heaters, it is a good time to remind everyone that they must routinely be taken apart and professionally cleaned. Cleaning them can also be dangerous so make sure the power is off and that you know what you are doing–otherwise hire someone that does.
All year long, while the heaters are not in use, they are busy collecting dust that circulates through the units. When the unit is fired up (no pun intended) the lint is literally burned off and if there is enough of it a little fire can start up that can damage the unit and/or burn your house down.
One time as an inspector, I turned one of these heaters on that apparently had not been operated for several years and there was so much dust and lint in the unit that it actually did catch on fire. In the next picture you can see the little flames flickering at the top of the unit and the smoke billowing out.
It actually made quite a stench (burning skin and dust mites will do that) and I was grateful that the unit had been vacant for many months and that prior to being rented again the unit was to undergo renovations due to roof leaks. I was also grateful the dang thing didn’t burn the place down.
Ever since this lesson, I turn the units on ONLY long enough to see if they warm up and then turn them back off as quickly as possible. In the report it merely states that the heater “turned on” and to make sure the heater gets cleaned prior to use.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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