As the weather gets colder, people across the country are starting to turn on their heating systems for the first time for the year. Improper use of such equipment can be incredibly dangerous and can lead to death.
To prevent home heating equipment fires and other hazarded issues, heating safety should be at the top of your holiday to-do list this winter season. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January and February.
Follow some simple home heating equipment safety tips to prevent most home heating related problems from occurring.
1. Gas and Fuel Oil Furnaces & Boilers:
Although furnaces & boilers are designed to operate safely in your home, a number of things can go wrong over the course of its operating years that can pose a safety threat to you and your family.
It’s important to know every gas furnace produces some carbon monoxide that is released outside your home vent. Clean, efficiently burning gas and oil furnaces product very small amounts of carbon monoxide, while a dirty inefficient burning one can produce deadly amounts.
- Just like your car, your heating systems need annual maintenance. Have your furnace or boiler inspected, cleaned and tuned to ensure proper efficiency by a certified technician prior to the heating season.
- Clean or replace your furnace filter regularly. A clean filter will help your furnace burn more efficiently, and keep dust from being circulated through our home.
- Keep the burner area of your furnace clean.
- Be sure the fireplace is installed with all the required specified minimum distances or clearances for the stove and all combustible materials. Insufficient clearance could cause heat produced by the stove to catch fire to nearby combustibles.
- Have equipment and chimneys cleaned out and inspected by a qualified professional every year.
- Always use the right kind of fuel as specified by the manufacturer for fuel burning fireplaces.
- Have a three feet “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
- The glass barrier of a gas fireplace door can heat up to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit in approximately 6 minutes. And can take an average of 45 minutes for the gas fireplace glass to cool to a safe temperature after a fire has been extinguished.
3. Space Heaters
Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for 40% of home heating fires, and 84% of home heating fire deaths.
- Space heaters should always be plugged directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for space heaters!
- Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connection before each use. If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater.
- Space heaters are designed to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothes or thaw pipes.
- Proper placement is critical! Heaters must be kept three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.
- Turn off space heaters before leaving the home or going to bed.
4. Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that can cause flu like symptoms, disorientation, confusion and even death.
During the cold months, there is an increased risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Fuel burning equipment can produce dangerous levels of the gas and should be vented outside to avoid build up in your home.
In a 2012, NFPA reported US fire departments responded to an annual average of 72,000 carbon monoxide incidents, including incidents where nothing was found or fire were present.
- CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For best results, interconnect all alarms throughout the home – when one sounds, they all sound.
- Follow manufacturers instructions for placement and required mounting height.
- Test CO alarm every 30 days; replace them according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- If CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by a open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from the fresh air location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.
Remember these important home heating equipment safety tips:
- ALWAYS test your smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarms every 30 days!
- Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or space heater.
- Never use the oven for home heating.
- Have your heating equipment properly installed following manufacturer’s instructions, maintained and tested every year!
Home heating equipment safety needs to be practiced throughout the entire year not just during the colder winter months. Proper installation, maintenance and cleanings from a professional is essential to ensure the safety of your family and pets.
Have a qualified technician perform the proper yearly maintenance on your home heating equipment.
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