Caution for those that use and electric heater. - Page 2 - Fiberglass RV

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Old 11-16-2015, 08:27 AM   #15
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Name: Paul
Trailer: '04 Scamp 19D, Tacoma 4.0L 4door, SB
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Originally Posted by CasitaRick View Post
Tips from a retired fire investigator...

Most space heaters (gas and electric) work on the radiant heat method. The heat produced from the glowing elements travels in a straight line until it strikes an object (usually furniture or a wall), which is then warmed up. Very little heat is sent up into the air to warm the interior of the RV. The furnishings that receive the heat rays eventually warm the air.

So-o-o-o, it gets cold in your trailer. First you pile on the blankets. When that still won't do, you turn on the space heater. Because of the insulation of the blankets, you can't feel the heat coming off the space heater under the covers, so you move the space heater closer and closer to the bed-until it's too close.

The next thing you know, the bedclothes are on fire while you slumber blissfully unaware. Tragedy usually follows.

Best rule of thumb for space heaters-keep at least three feet between the heater and anything that can burn (not only on the sides, but above). And even at three feet away, use your hand as a thermometer. If you lay your hand on the closest object to the heater and it's too hot to leave your hand there, the heater is too close.

Don't use an extension cord from the outlet to the electric space heater cord, and it's best not to coil any excess cord up-which creates an induction coil that can produce heat on it's own.
Excellent advice and explanation. I would like to add a few words about the extension cords. All electric wires get warm, including extension cords. Leaving a part of an extension cord coiled up and plugging in a high power load (such a space heater) causes more heat being concentrated in a small space, hence greater temperature rise. The induction is negligible, the current flows in opposite directions inside the cord, after all. I once had my work bench powered by a long extension cord and some of it was coiled up. Everything was fine for my hand drill, grinder, fluorescent light, and such, until I ran a space heater from it. The coiled cord melted, shorted and threw the breaker to teach me a lesson: don't leave part of an extension cord coiled up, unless the power is low. Think. Better, never leave it coiled up. That was a dumb idea...

The second lesson is that using a two conductor extension cord requires another caution. If the load on the far end of the cord is inductive, such as an AC (air conditioning) compressor on top of the Scamp, you may end up with a few dozen Volts AC (alternating current) on the AC unit frame, and if you stand on an aluminum ladder and touch it, you get a buzz! I did and measured about 40 Volts AC. Think again.

Do they still sell any two-wire cords these days? I have not bought one in ages.

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