As we enter the winter season, many families realize that their heater is a safety issue for their infant/toddler children. Depending upon their design, heaters may get very hot to the touch and may have very sharp edges that can easily cut probing little fingers. The need to and options for "baby-proofing" heaters depends upon their design and location.
Gas wall heaters range from one to five feet tall. Both temperature and sharp edges can be an issue. These can be "baby-proofed" by providing a barrier that will not create a fire hazard. Although an off-the-shelf solution does not exist for these, a Configure Gate from KidCo is very effective. Parents have also used fireplace screens, secured to the wall on either side of the heater, to keep little hands away.
Electric baseboard heaters are a little trickier because of their length. Radiant Wraps, LLC makes a retrofit cover system that reduces the opening size and surface temperature while improving the aesthetics. Remove the temperature control knobs by pulling outward when not in use as toddlers love to turn dials.
Floor heaters can be the trickiest of all as they are typically centrally located in a high traffic area of the home. If near a wall, the barrier approach used for wall heaters may work. If not, a custom box cover may be necessary. A cover can be fabricated to fit over the grate and secured to the floor. Ideally, a noncombustible material would be used for the box, but wood or plastic can be used of adequate spacing and ventilation is provided. A somewhat industrial looking, but cost effective solution is achieved by taking a large irrigation control valve box (available at a landscaping supply house) and drilling dozens of one inch diameter holes in the top and sides. It can then be secured to the floor with two small screws or adhesive backed Velcro.
Finally, most homes in our area have central heating from a gas furnace distributed through ducts and vents in each room. Extreme temperatures at the vents are unusual, however, make sure that floor vents cannot be readily removed. The sheet metal ducts can have sharp edges and can conceivably be entrapment hazards. Loose vents can be screwed to the floor to prevent toddler access.
For folks using fireplaces or wood stoves as a heat source, stay tuned, as I will address the associated hazards and solutions in a future column.
Again, if you are making a custom barrier solution, be sure to maintain adequate spacing and ventilation to ensure you do not create a fire hazard. While you are at, change the furnace filter and make sure your Carbon Monoxide monitor has fresh batteries.