Heating Your Home Safely: Heating 101

How to heat your home safelyAs outdoor temperatures drop, we tend to migrate indoors, and turn up the heat. But before you put another log on the fire, consider winter fire safety. More house fires occur during the winter than at any other time during the year, and most of these fires are caused by the improper use of heating devices.

Heating your home safely #1

Space heaters

My office sits next to the garage and tends to be colder than the rest of the house. During the cold Canadian winters, I often wear a sweater or even a light jacket to work in here. When it gets really nippy, I pull out the space heater.

I don’t use my space heater often, though. They use up a lot of electricity, and frankly, they make me nervous. Space heaters are a leading cause of heating-related fires, so if you use one, do so with care. As Edward Coke said, “Precaution is better than cure.”

• Never leave space heaters unattended, or leave children alone with space heaters. Turn space heaters off before you go to sleep.

• Position space heaters so they sit three feet away from any surface or material. Avoid placing paper, clothing or other combustible materials near a space heater, and never use them to dry clothing.

• Use electric blankets carefully, as well. Don’t rumble them, which can damage the electrical cords running through the blankets, and wash them according to manufacturer directions.

Heating your home safely #2

Furnaces

Furnaces are rarely the cause of house fires, but they can leak dangerous carbon monoxide. Keep your furnace running efficiently and safely through proper maintenance.

• Have your furnace serviced annually, preferably in the summer before the heating season begins. You’ll have an easier time scheduling service, and may get a lower rate as well.

• Replace or clean your filters monthly, or as directed. Keeping a clean filter will reduce wear and tear on your furnace, save money and ensuring that the air you breathe is cleaner.

Heating your home safely #3

Fireplaces

I love my wood-burning fireplace, but it is by far, the most dangerous source of heat in my home. I once forgot to open the damper before I started the fire. Smoke poured out of the fireplace into my family room as the fire choked and sputtered. Lesson learned… always open the damper. Here are a few other lessons I’ve learned from having a wood-burning fireplace.

• Hire a certified chimney sweep to clean your fireplace every two to three years. Wood burning fires create creosote, a flammable, greasy film. This film coats the chimney and can increase the risk of fire.

• Avoid overloading the fire place with wood, which can cause chimney fires. Keep a screen or glass window in front of the fireplace to keep embers from escaping onto the floor or furniture.

• Buy firewood from a reputable seller, and use hardwood when possible. Hardwood burns more slowly and produces more heat than soft woods. Make sure the wood has been seasoned, or dried and stored, for at least six months to one year, before using. Green wood has a lot of moisture in it, which translates into smoke and creosote.

• Do not burn charcoal, cardboard or wrapping paper in fireplaces. Charcoal can produce carbon monoxide, and other materials may contain harmful dyes or solvents. These materials also produce a lot of smoke and promote creosote.

• Install a chimney cap over the chimney to keep out leaves, rain and debris. Trim back branches from around the chimney. Embers escaping from the chimney have been known make tree branches catch fire.

Take heed and by following these steps, you will keep yourself and your family warm and safe all winter round.

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