As the temperatures drop and fall transitions into winter, there is nothing better than curling up next to a fire or hearing the familiar click of your furnace turning on. For many, it’s important to create a cozy and comforting environment in their home to escape the cold. Heating your home is also practical, and ensures that your pipes don’t freeze, which can cause extensive damage. Whatever your reason for heating your home, it’s critical that you do so safely.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, December, January, and February are the leading months for home heating fires in the United States. The main culprit? Common household mistakes. From having a charged fire extinguisher handy to checking your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly, small additions to your home maintenance routine, and being responsible and aware can make a big difference and potentially save your home from disaster.
General Home Heating Safety Tips
Regardless of what you use to heat your home, here are some universal safety tips for home heating.
- Have all heating equipment installed by a professional. They will make sure that all equipment is installed according to local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
- Purchase a fire extinguisher and keep it charged. A fire extinguisher can stop small fires before they become big. However, do not attempt to take on a large, growing fire with a fire extinguisher. Leave your home and call 9-1-1.
- Keep anything flammable at least 3 feet away from heating equipment. It is also recommended to establish a rule with your children that they should always be at least 3 feet away from open fires (like in your fireplace) and space heaters.
- Never use your stove or oven (gas or electric) to heat your kitchen or any other space in your home. Your stove can emit carbon monoxide, which can be fatal in high doses.
- Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly, to ensure that they are working properly.
Is your home heated by a furnace? Follow these tips to avoid a fire caused by your home heating system.
- Annual check-up. Your furnace should be inspected annually by an HVAC professional. The best time to do an inspection is right before the weather gets cold and after your heating system has been sitting dormant over the summer.
- Replace the filter. During the months that you are using your furnace, you should replace the filter monthly. Replacing the filter prevents dust and lint build-up, which can be flammable.
- Keep it clean. Remove all flammable material from the area around the furnace. As mentioned above, 3 feet is a safe zone. If you use your furnace room for extra storage or as a laundry room, keep it organized and safe.
Space Heater Safety
Space heaters can be effective solutions for heating a small space without using a furnace. However, space heaters can be very dangerous if not handled properly. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, space heaters are involved in 80% of fire-related deaths. If you use a space heater to heat your home, follow these safety tips:
- Seal of approval. When you are shopping for a space heater, you should purchase one approved by nationally know safety testing laboratories like Underwriters Laboratories or Factory Mutual.
- Emergency cut-off. Purchase a space heater with an emergency cut-off. An emergency cut-off will immediately shut off your space heater if it tips over or is knocked down.
- All about that base. Look for a space heater with a broad, solid base, and place your space heater on a flat level surface that is non-flammable.
A fireplace is a classic and comforting way of heating your home. Unfortunately, it can go from cozy to deadly, if you don’t take the proper precautions. If you use a fireplace to heat your home, either regularly or for special occasions, make sure to follow these tips before lighting a blaze this winter.
- Clean your chimney. Before lighting a fire in your fireplace, check your chimney for cleanliness and clean it of soot and creosote. If you aren’t sure how to clean your chimney, hire a chimney sweep or use a creosote sweeping log.
- Check your chimney for damages. Before and after you start a fire, check your chimney for structural damages like crumbling bricks, loose mortar, creosote build up, and cracks. Any air leaks in your chimney can cause a fire outside of the fireplace.
- Metal over plastic. When discarding used wood and ash from your fireplace, never put the discards in a plastic container. Always transfer completely cooled wood and ashes to a metal container, and keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
- Use kindling to start a fire. Always use kindling to start a fire. Never use lighter fluid, kerosene, gasoline, charcoal lighter fluid or other flammable liquids to ignite a fire in your home.
- Do not burn trash. Your indoor fireplace is not the place to burn trash or other discards from your home. Do not burn any trash in your fireplace, including Christmas tree branches, treated wood, or wrapping paper.