Wall heaters may be mobile or fixed, natural gas or electric-powered. Newer heaters are designed with no exposed elements or sharp edges and pose a safety risk only for children less than 2 years of age or individuals whose reflex reaction to heat has been compromised. Because the heaters are wall-mounted, tip-over accidents are not a concern. For babies and toddlers, there are several measures that may be taken to ensure the safe use of wall-mounted heaters.
One type of electrically powered, wall-mounted heater is constructed from two cement fibre boards with a heating element laminated between. The surface of the panel is flat and its corners slightly rounded for safety. An power cord provides easy installation to an existing wall outlet but may pose a safety hazard to curious toddlers. The surface of the panel reaches a temperature of 90 degrees Celsius and can cause serious burns to the unwary.
Gas wall heaters range from one to five feet tall and can be hazardous because of their open vent design, sharp edges and excess heat. Power cords are not an issue as wall-mounted gas units are permanently mounted and attached to a gas pipeline installed behind the wallboard or plaster surface of the wall. Babies and toddlers must be protected from contact with gas wall heaters to avoid burns, cuts and the capture of small fingers in exposed vents.
A wraparound baby gate, placed at least 18 inches away from the heater, can provide a barrier for a small child without creating a fire hazard. The child should not be able to reach through the gate and make contact with the heater. Another option is the use of a fireplace screen, secured to the wall on either side of the heater. The screen should feature a tight mesh design and exceed the reach of curious toddlers.
Parents will want to consider safety measures that can be easily removed later when children have outgrown the need for barriers and have learnt a healthy respect for the hazards posed by wall heaters. A product designed for baseboard heaters can be adapted for wall heaters, providing an aesthetically pleasing covering that can be removed when no longer required. This radiant wrap reduces the opening size and surface temperature of both baseboard and wall-mounted heaters.
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