Would you believe that 73 percent of deaths related to home heating fires are the fault of space heater (ab)use? The news release by the National Fire Protection Association paints a grim picture of the dangers that space heaters may hold, but did you know that there are plenty of other death traps in a home’s heating systems? Furnaces that spew carbon monoxide, fireplaces that ooze smoke into the home and electrical fires caused by heating systems are just some of the pitfalls that await the resident searching for a warm and cozy home. Improving your home’s heating safety is surprisingly simple – if you take a few moments to evaluate the potential risk factors. How can you keep your family safe this winter?
Check the heater for gas leaks and carbon monoxide. After my home’s carbon monoxide detectors lit up like a Christmas tree last week, I called the utility company to come out and check the furnace. The culprit was a leak in the gas line to the furnace, which was caused — in part — by a cracking of the furnace lining. The tech asked an interesting question; she wanted to know when I had the furnace checked last. To my shame, I must confess that I had never had this service performed; judging by her comments, I am in good company. It appears that routine furnace checks are a rare call that homeowners make prior to using their furnaces for the first time in fall or winter. Learn from my mistake and pay for a technician to come out each year to check for problems. (If you have not already done so, be sure to also install some carbon monoxide detectors in your home as well!)
Call a chimney sweep before roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Nothing says ‘holidays’ like the fire in the chimney. Just like the home’s furnace needs the annual once over, the chimney also needs a professional to clean out the creosote buildup, get rid of animal damage and leaf debris and also ensure that the fire box and chimney portions are in good repair. If you live in areas where high winds or earthquakes are par for the course, this is an absolute must.
Use a generator with care. Mountain homes in particular are generally outfitted with portable generators. Due to the fact that snowstorms can make electricity an unstable commodity, these generators run electrical appliances with the use of alternate fuels. The downside of these machines is the generation of carbon monoxide as a natural byproduct of the fuel burning process. Be certain to store, install and use the generator downwind from the home and away from windows and doors. Remember that prolonged use can generate enough carbon monoxide to poison anyone inside the home. Frequently overlooked entryways for the deadly gas are vents that lead to the home’s exterior.
Using a space heater calls for R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Granted, space heaters are only implicated in about 26 percent of home fires, but considering that they cause 73 percent of heating related deaths, it is clear that these appliances should not be trifled with. When using space heaters, be sure to plug them straight into a wall outlet and do not use an extension cord. Maintain a three-foot safety zone around the heater where no flammable materials should enter. Always turn off any heating appliances when you leave the room. Not only does this save money but it also significantly cuts down on the fire danger that an unsupervised appliance presents.
Of course, a crucial method of improving your home’s heating safety involves the installation and maintenance of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
National Fire Protection Association: “NFPA report shows 73% of home heating fire deaths attributed to space heaters”
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