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fartness
computersoc dot com
Premium
join:2003-03-25
Look Outside

1 recommendation

Unplug stuff?

Growing up, I was always told to unplug toaster ovens and ceramic heaters (or any type of electric room heater/space heater) when they are not in use.

Is this necessary, FUD, or a relic of times past when knob and tube was popular or some other reason?

My parents seem more paranoid about electricity than I am. I grew up in times of grounded outlets. They didn't. I've been told "stories" of bad shocks, etc.

I mainly want to keep an electric heater plugged into a lamp timer at night when I go to bed, this way it turns on before I wake up, and the room is nice and warm. I have a fancy thermostat for the house to accomplish this, but it's a waste to heat the whole house up that much. Not sure if this is a good idea.


shdesigns
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I use a ceramic heater, they don't have hot elements that can catch dust on fire. Most have several safety features (over temp, tipover etc.)

My last Ceramic heater lasted 20 years then the fan seized. The over temp sensor turned it off.

If you use a timer, make sure it is rated for the load.

I bought a new one and it works well but even in the off position, the LED is on. I hate that and know people who unplug things like that because "it is still on".
--
Scott Henion

Embedded Systems Consultant,
SHDesigns home - DIY Welder


tschmidt
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reply to fartness
If stuff is unplugged it can't catch fire or consume power in the off state, called phantom load.

The only way to determine how much power a device consumes in the off state is to measure it. As mentioned many times in the forum the Kill-a-watt is a very useful tool for measuring power consumption.

Once you know how much power something draws in the off state you can make an intelligent decision about whether it makes sense to unplug it.

For arguments sake lets say the device draws 1 Watt in the off state and electricity cost $.15kwh.

1w x24h x365d = 8.75kwh per year or $1.31

Does not sound like much and it isn't but the average home has tons of these parasitic loads and some draw much more.

/tom

Zach1
Premium
join:2006-11-26
NW Minnesota
reply to fartness
With nearly 40 years in the trade and witnessing the many house fires and "near misses" caused by either space heaters or their use cooking the components of the branch circuit, there is absolutely NO chance of myself or anyone who lives in my home using ANY portable space heater with ANY commonly available plug-in timer. Just my two pennies and YMMV.
--
Zach


davidg
Good Bye My Friend
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join:2002-06-15
none
reply to fartness
if you use the timer you can plan on replacing the house soon. just hope you are alive to see the new house.
--
Lack of Preparation on YOUR Part does NOT Constitute an Emergency on Mine!


mackey
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join:2007-08-20
kudos:14
reply to fartness
Not sure about space heaters or toaster ovens (my family had neither), but we always unplugged the toaster after use. I think it was one of those 'something could fall on it holding the knob down causing it to catch on fire' type of things.

I do now have a space heater though (oil radiator), but I only unplug it when it's not going to be used for a few days. I'm more worried about something falling on the cord causing it to become partially dislodged more then anything. By unplugging it I always give the outlet, plug, cable, and heater itself a once-over before firing it back up. Periodic inspection will catch things like loose connections that are starting to melt before they get bad enough to start a fire, and unplugging it forces you to look at the plug at a minimum.

/M


mackey
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join:2007-08-20
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reply to fartness
said by fartness:

I mainly want to keep an electric heater plugged into a lamp timer at night when I go to bed ... Not sure if this is a good idea.

No, don't do that. Get a heater with a timer built into it such as »www.amazon.com/DeLonghi-TRN0812T ··· 00G1CXZI

/M

Mr Matt

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reply to fartness
Unless you are constantly unplugging and replugging the appliances into electrical outlets that are hospital or commercial grade you are most likely to have an electrical fire caused by high contact resistance at the outlet.

My mother in law insisted on unplugging her toaster and coffee maker every time she left the house. I was very concerned because the plastic on both plugs were slowly melting because they became so hot due to high contact resistance at the outlet. I replaced all counter outlets in the kitchen with hospital grade outlets. I only unplug sensitive electrical equipment in my home when thunder storms are forecast.


LazMan
Premium
join:2003-03-26
canada
reply to mackey
A lamp timer? No...

If you really want to do this - and I'd suggest the-thinking it, myself - use a block heater timer... At least they are designed for the load; and would stand a better chance of holding up to the load.


mackey
Premium
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said by LazMan:

A lamp timer? No...

That's what I said...

/M

Mr Matt

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reply to fartness
Try one of these it is rated at 15 Amps:

»www.lowes.com/pd_148297-207-TM01 ··· cetInfo=


nunya
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reply to fartness
Toaster oven? No I leave that plugged in.
Electric space heaters, on the other hand, make me very nervous.
I've personally seen too many fires caused by electric space heaters.
I would never leave one plugged in "unsupervised". The thought of a space heater on a timer throws up giant red flags in my mind.

For other appliances, I do not buy into the "vampire draw" bull shit. I'll pay a few extra bucks a year and have my appliances / devices ready to work when I want them too.
--
If someone refers to herself / himself as a "guru", they probably aren't.


cybersaga

join:2011-12-19
Welland, ON
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reply to fartness
You don't have to worry about phantom draw. In most simple appliances like toasters and heaters, the switch is just that: a switch. When the switch is off, the electricity is totally cut off from the appliance.

Any appliance that has a light that's always on, a clock, or that's turned on by a remote control - those, yes, will always draw some power when they're off. But it's not much.

But as others have mentioned, your biggest worry is the chance of fire. Many space heaters will shut off if they're knocked over, but if someone's inadvertently thrown a shirt over it, you don't want it turning on by itself.


jrs8084
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reply to fartness
I don't think your grandparents were overreacting. Any high current resistive device that generates heat needs to be used with extreme care. Space heaters are not only a fire hazard from heat generation, but they also tend to push wiring near its limits. I avoid the using a space heater.

Now, I don't unplug my toaster oven when not in use, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to do so. Better safe than sorry.

That said, I worry more about all these laptop chargers/Lithium Ion batteries around the house. :-(


bobrk
You kids get offa my lawn
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join:2000-02-02
San Jose, CA
reply to fartness
I have K&T and leave stuff plugged in all the time.

TheMG
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reply to fartness
I would not do the heater into timer thing. Buy a good quality heater with a built in timer, preferably oil radiator type. Also, make sure the receptacle you plan to use grips the plug tightly and that during heater operation the plug does not get uncomfortably warm (slightly warm is normal). If in doubt, replace receptacle with a good commercial grade receptacle.

Another alternative would be to permanently install a baseboard heater into the room. Programmable thermostats designed for use with baseboard heaters do exist.


cdru
Go Colts
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join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
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reply to tschmidt
said by tschmidt:

If stuff is unplugged it can't catch fire or consume power in the off state, called phantom load.

You also can't have convenience. If I wanted to live an Amish lifestyle, I'd be Amish. Or at least Old Order Mennonite.

For arguments sake lets say the device draws 1 Watt in the off state and electricity cost $.15kwh.

1w x24h x365d = 8.75kwh per year or $1.31

Does not sound like much and it isn't but the average home has tons of these parasitic loads and some draw much more.

But in the case of this thread, a space heater is only likely to get used a quarter of the year at a cost of $.33. That's the same cost as running the heater for an hour or two.


dandelion
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join:2003-04-29
Germantown, TN
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reply to fartness
I keep one of these hooked up in my bathroom in the winter: »en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_heater ...and turn it off if I go somewhere.

pandora
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Outland
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reply to fartness
said by fartness:

Growing up, I was always told to unplug toaster ovens and ceramic heaters (or any type of electric room heater/space heater) when they are not in use.

Is this necessary, FUD, or a relic of times past when knob and tube was popular or some other reason?

My parents seem more paranoid about electricity than I am. I grew up in times of grounded outlets. They didn't. I've been told "stories" of bad shocks, etc.

I mainly want to keep an electric heater plugged into a lamp timer at night when I go to bed, this way it turns on before I wake up, and the room is nice and warm. I have a fancy thermostat for the house to accomplish this, but it's a waste to heat the whole house up that much. Not sure if this is a good idea.

It depends on how old your appliances are. Older appliances used to use up to 40 to 50 watts when "off". I had a Brother MFC that used about 47 watts when off.

Newer appliances should follow the 1 watt initiative. This means most newer appliances use 1 watt or less (there is a California half watt initiative as well).

See - »en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Watt_I ··· itiative

The One Watt Initiative was launched by the IEA in 1999 to ensure through international cooperation that by 2010 all new appliances sold in the world use only one watt in standby mode. This would reduce CO2 emissions by 50 million tons in the OECD countries alone by 2010; the equivalent to removing 18 million cars from the roads.[5]

In 2001 US President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13221, which states that every government agency, “when it purchases commercially available, off-the-shelf products that use external standby power devices, or that contain an internal standby power function, shall purchase products that use no more than one watt in their standby power consuming mode.”[6]

By 2005 South Korea and Australia had introduced the one watt benchmark in all new electrical devices, and according to the IEA other countries, notably Japan and China, had undertaken "strong measures" to reduce standby power use.[7]

In July 2007 California's 2005 appliance standards came into effect, limiting external power supply standby power to 0.5 watts.[8]

After realizing my old Brother MFC was burning a lot of power when supposedly off. I resolved to purchase low wattage (when off) appliances. Just about every new appliance in my home uses 1 watt or less when off.

Assuming 20 appliances at 1 watt are off most of the time, I estimate my bill is slightly over $2 per month at .17 cents per KWh. YMMV

Some older video game consoles still burn energy when off, but I have no TV, PC, or network device that consumes a lot of power.

All my PC's are 80 Gold or Platinum rated. When off consumption is less than .5 watts.

It costs money to purchase new stuff. The largest draws on electric power are likely to be your electric dryer, an electric hot water heater, electric stove or fridge / freezer.

A kill-o-watt meter or similar device can help you identify what stuff costs to operate in your home.
--
Congress could mess up a one piece jigsaw puzzle.


AVD
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Onion, NJ
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reply to fartness
better safe than sorry.

8744675

join:2000-10-10
Decatur, GA
reply to fartness
A lamp timer is not rated for the amperage that a space heater requires. You're going to get some extra heat when the timer bursts into flames!

lutful
... of ideas
Premium
join:2005-06-16
Ottawa, ON
kudos:2
reply to fartness
said by fartness:

I mainly want to keep an electric heater plugged into a lamp timer at night when I go to bed, this way it turns on before I wake up, and the room is nice and warm.

You could use an infrared bulb which is lower than the wattage of your lamp timer. You will feel the warmth much quicker than a low wattage space heater.

P.S. There is very little risk leaving toasters plugged in all the time.


DataDoc
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1 edit
reply to fartness
I lived in Alaska as a kid and my bedroom was in the 40s during the winter. I had a door to the outside and the curtains froze to the windows, embedded in the frozen condensation.

Man up and get rid of the heater.
--
Sequestration must be a great idea. Obama thought of it.


fartness
computersoc dot com
Premium
join:2003-03-25
Look Outside

1 recommendation

With that logic I should use DOS rather than a GUI.

rfnut
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reply to fartness
Most conversation seems to be pointing towards current draw. I think the real reason for this was the possibility of shock as the OP stated. Non polarized plugs/outlets, K&T reversed at the outlet and poor design led to elements that could be energized all the time, such as dropping the neutral when off, leaving a shock hazard if left plugged in.
I still wont stick a fork in a turned off toaster if it is plugged in. Even if newer rules governing everything say its safer today than it was 50 years ago.

lutful
... of ideas
Premium
join:2005-06-16
Ottawa, ON
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said by rfnut:

I still wont stick a fork in a turned off toaster if it is plugged in. Even if newer rules governing everything say its safer today than it was 50 years ago.

Curiously UL accepted that some people will stick forks inside a turned-on toaster. The risk of shock from a turned-off toaster is really insignificant.

The main concern with space heaters on a timer was the fire hazard.


Cho Baka
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My toaster is grounded.


PSWired

join:2006-03-26
Annapolis, MD
reply to lutful
I think rfnut is referring to the possibility of the toaster element being switched only on the hot side of the circuit, combined with a miswire situation that has hot and neutral flipped, leaving the elements at line potential when the switch is off.

rfnut
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Yup. I remember well being bit by a toaster (turned off) as a kid, as well as an electric frying pan. Weather this was due to a malfunction in the appliance or poor design, I do not know. It taught me to play it safe , at least with things with an exposed element
On the other subject of a heater on a timer, I can see where that could be its own problem if something were to come into contact with the heater unexpectedly. In my opinion any type heater that when covered by a blanket could cause combustion (even with overheat or other safety) should be manually turned on. Imagine getting up early in a rush for a plane or something and you throw a man made fiber shirt on the bed, which falls on an electric space heater. It turns on just after you leave and the shirt melts onto the element and catches fire before the safety kills it. Not a good thing.
Not the same thing, but close was the recent story in here of the person who left the clothes basket on the grill of an in-floor furnace. Plastic melted onto the furnace and started the fire.


norton

join:2005-08-03
Howard City, MI
reply to fartness
+++ excellant topic and very good read through entire thread. this is exactly why i come to dslreports.