36% of house fires caused by 'misuse of equipment or appliances'Which? advice on how to stay safe

30 December 2016

Portable Heater

Make sure your appliances don't become a fire risk by flowing these simple steps. 

36% of accidental house fires in the UK in 2014/2015 were caused by ‘misuse of equipment or appliances,' according to the Home Office. To help you minimise the risk of fire in your home this winter, read our expert tips.

Cookers, portable heaters and electric blankets are just some of the household gadgets used more regularly in the cold winter months and over Christmas. But misuse of these appliances could result in disastrous consequences. 

To make sure you avoid an accidental fire in your home, we’ve put together some tips to help your family stay safe this Christmas.

Make sure your portable heater is stable

Portable heaters can cause fires if they tip over while being used or when they’re still hot. Make sure yours is only used on a stable surface and somewhere it is not likely to be knocked over.

When we test portable heaters we try knocking them over to see how stable they really are. Read our portable heater reviews to find out which ones passed our test, and which are on shaky ground.

Follow appliance instructions

You might find reading all the fine print a bore, but it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for appliances.

For example, you might not be aware that some electrical products shouldn’t be used with extension leads. It may be tempting to use one to get your product exactly where you want it. But you can avoid having to do this by making sure you check out the cord length of the appliance before you buy.

This is particularly important with items that you might be using for long periods of time, such as electric blankets. Check out the cord length of each electric blanket we've reviewed to make sure it is long enough to reach where you need it.

Get a carbon monoxide monitor

Some appliances, such as cookers and portable heaters, can leak carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide in a confined space can result in fire and/or carbon monoxide poisoning. In the winter, a leakage could be particularly dangerous as you’re likely to be keeping your windows shut.

If you don’t already have one, we would recommend getting a carbon monoxide monitor. But how can you be sure that is it is actually doing its job? We recently tested carbon monoxide detectors and found that some models don’t work as they should.

Check out our guide on how to choose a carbon monoxide detector to make sure you get one that won’t fail when you need it.

Make sure your smoke alarm is working

You may be shocked to hear that in 2014/2015, 6,326 smoke alarms in the UK failed to operate, according to the Home Office. It also says that this indicates that smoke alarms have a 28% fail rate. The failure of a smoke alarm to let you know when there is trouble could mean the difference between a short moment of panic and a visit from the fire brigade.

We test smoke alarms to see whether they perform when they should, and have found that not all smoke alarms can be relied on. Avoid buying a smoke alarm that will let you down by checking out which smoke alarms failed our tests. 

Make sure your alarm has long-lasting batteries

It isn’t enough that your smoke detector works; if it's battery operated, the batteries need to be working too. According to the same report from the Home Office, a whopping 40% of fire alarms that failed were battery operated.

Although your alarm should alert you when the battery is running low, you'll want to make sure you have a battery that you can trust in your fire alarm. We test batteries for how long they will power your devices, and the best are not necessarily the ones that cost the most. Check out our battery reviews to find the best.

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