One of the fun things about winter time is snuggling up in your warm house, perhaps with a cup of coffee and a good book or movie, on a cold and snowy day. However, if you're not careful, the heating equipment you're using to keep your house warm could be more dangerous than you realize. The statistics on home heating–related fires are sobering—in 2011, heating equipment was involved in over 53,000 fires and caused around 400 deaths. Half of those home heating fires occurred in December, January, and February. Take a look at some tips that will help you stay safe and warm in your home this winter.
Clear Space Around Heating Elements
Ensure that you put a few feet of clear space around radiators, heating vents, space heaters, and any other heating element. Furniture, drapes, books, clothes, and any other combustible items should be kept at a distance from any part of your heating units.
In addition, it's a good idea to declare the area immediately surrounding those elements a child-free zone as well. Teach your children to keep their distance from heating vents and radiators, just the same way you would teach them to keep their difference from the oven. If they're not old enough to operate the oven without adult supervision, then they aren't old enough to operate a heater or get too close to a vent or a radiator.
Service Your Heating Equipment Regularly
Poorly maintained equipment is often responsible for conditions that can lead to fires. If you want to prevent equipment breakdowns and malfunctions, your best bet is to have your heating equipment serviced by a heating professional regularly.
Different types of equipment require different maintenance strategies. For example, wood stoves or fireplaces need the flue or chimney cleaned regularly – otherwise the creosote, a byproduct of your fires, can build up inside the flue or chimney and catch fire. An electric central heater may need new filters or the vents may need to be cleaned. Gas or propane heaters should be checked for any leaks.
The heating installer who installed your equipment is the best person to ask about how often you should have your specific equipment serviced and what kind of services you'll need. If you aren't sure, a good rule of thumb is to schedule a heating equipment service call once a year. The best time to schedule a heating service call is often in the fall, before you turn your heater on for the winter.
Practice Space Heater Safety
No matter what kind of heater you use, space heaters are often a way to fill in the gaps—you can use them to warm up particularly drafty spots or heat a room that your primary heater can't reach for whatever reason. But although space heaters can be highly useful, they're also a common culprit in heating equipment–related house fires. It's worth paying special attention to the safety rules that have to be followed when using these devices.
Steer clear of kerosene space heaters—many states have banned these because of safety concerns. Most modern electric space heaters have the capability to shut off automatically if they're tipped over. A space heater that doesn't have this capability is likely old and should not be used. Plug your space heater directly into the wall unit, not to an extension cord. Don't use a space heater that's missing knobs, has a frayed power cord, or has any other visible defects. When you use a space heater, turn it off before you leave the room that it's in—they should never be left unattended. Also, keep the space heater away from walkways, doorways, and wet areas like the bathroom.
By making sure that you're practicing safety while heating your home, and by properly servicing and maintaining your heating equipment, you can enjoy your cozy warm house in the winter without the threat of a house fire. Contact a heating repair company for more information and advice.