House fires occur more in the winter months than any other time of the year. Improperly used space heaters, poorly maintained furnaces, and other home heating systems can be dangerous, causing everything from fires to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to minimize the risk of fires related to heating equipment in your home. Maintaining and using your heating equipment wisely can save your property and prevent tragedy.
General Heating Safety Rules
To make this winter season a smooth sail, keep an eye on these home heating safety rules:
1. Use Monitors to Keep Your Home’s Air Safe
No matter what kind of home heat you’re using, you can increase your family’s safety by maintaining the right mix of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house.
Safe Home Heating Action Items for Air and Fire Safety:
- Take one simple step to keep your home safe: Place carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors outside every bedroom, on each level of your home and in your garage. “They’re cheap, they’re easy to install and they can certainly do a lot to make your home safer for your family,” Lipford says.
- Set a reminder to perform basic maintenance: Put an alert on your phone or a note on your calendar to remind you to check the batteries and test your detectors at least a few times per year. The units can’t warn you of danger unless they’re in proper working order.
2. Avoid Flammable Objects
The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises that heating equipment be placed at least three feet away from flammable items.
Items such as curtains, pillows, books, papers, carpet, furniture pieces, bedding, paint, electronics, aerosol sprays, and fire matches should not be in a close range of your heating equipment.
3. Fireplace Safety
Fireplaces are most often used around the holidays, but some households use fireplaces all winter long to keep their living spaces at a comfortable temperature. However, you use your fireplace, these basic safety tips can prevent burns, accidental fires and fatalities.
- Install a child-safe gate around your fireplace if you have young children. Leave the gate closed at all times.
- Have your chimney inspected at least once annually, even if you very rarely use your fireplace. If you use your fireplace frequently, ask your chimney sweep how often you should have your fireplace cleaned.
- Never leave fires burning unattended.
- Never leave a fire burning while you sleep.
- Close the screen on your fireplace while the fire is burning.
- Burn only dry, seasoned wood.
- Give ashes time to cool before collecting them in a bucket.
- Keep ashes away from the house and douse them with water after collecting them.
4. Ensure Proper Ventilation for Heating Safety
Ventilation is highly important when using wood-burning fireplaces, water heaters, or fuel-based heaters. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can go completely unnoticed yet cause serious illness or, in severe cases, death due to poisoning.
You should have a source of fresh air; open a door or a window at least one inch when using fuel heaters. In the case of fireplaces, make sure that the vents and flue are working fine. A water heater needs breathing room for the pilot assembly to burn properly. If the airflow is cut off, it can result in a fire. Ventilation helps to keep flammable fumes away from the water heater.
5. Make Sure Your Furnace Is in Good Working Order
To keep carbon monoxide (CO) gas from leaking into your home, make sure your furnace is exhausting properly. Schedule a furnace cleaning and inspection with a knowledgeable technician who can make sure your system is running as safely and efficiently as it should. The pro should follow a furnace inspection checklist to make sure your furnace is in good working order. Items on the list include looking for leaks and blockages, examining electrical connections and checking the system’s air filter.
6. Be Careful With Portable Heaters
Portable space heaters can be a big help in boosting the warmth in rooms, while cutting heating costs associated with central heating systems. But sometimes the price is paid with a lack of heater and electrical safety. More than 25,000 fires that occur each year are blamed on portable heaters, which can also introduce indoor pollutants.
Make sure all the portable heaters in your home have been tested and certified by an independent laboratory like UL (Underwriters Laboratory), ETL (Intertek) or CSA (Canadian Standards Association). Also, be sure your heaters have an automatic shut-off option that will kick in if the heater is knocked over or hits a higher-than-normal temperature.
7. Never Use the Oven to Heat Your Home
If you have a gas oven, you’re putting yourself at risk for Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning if you try to use the oven for heat. Carbon monoxide is invisible, odorless, and tasteless, so you won’t be able to tell if it’s seeping into your home. Moderate levels of the gas can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fainting – it can feel like you are coming down with the flu. High levels are fatal. When you use your appliances correctly, you don’t need to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning, but using a gas oven as a heater is not the right way to use the appliance.
Be aware that using a gas oven to heat your home is very dangerous and we do NOT recommend doing it. If you choose to do it anyway, understand that your oven does not have any safety features regarding depleted oxygen levels or carbon monoxide production. A gas oven can produce 800 part per million carbon monoxide for 12 hours and still be rated as safe, but air concentration levels as low as 5PPM can be dangerous. A properly tuned oven should put out no more than 50 when door is closed. But when door is opened it can potentially make dangerous levels.
An electric oven is powered by electricity, not gas, and is safer to leave running than an older gas stove because it doesn’t emit carbon monoxide. Electric ovens frequently stay on for many hours at a time without adverse effects. High oven temperatures can heat a room, even with the door closed, though it won’t be effective in a very large space. Opening the oven door will allow the heat to move more freely into the room. Electric ovens are not intended for space heating so, understand that it is possible for the appliance to overheat due to prolonged usage and a resulting malfunction may cause a fire. This will also cause the decrease in the lifespan of the appliance/ oven.
8. Never Use a Heating Appliance with a Damaged Cord
With wear and tear from use, the cords of your heating unit can become frayed and can end up being exposed. A damaged cord can make you vulnerable to electric shock and can also lead to a house fire.
Avoid turning on the unit with a frayed cord under any circumstances. Do not touch the damaged cord or try to wrap the electrical cord in PVC tape; it’s not a permanent solution. Instead, contact the professionals and let them fix it for you.
9. Do Not Leave Your Heater on Overnight
Both older and newer space heaters can pose hazards during nighttime use if not operated responsibly. Older heaters might lack essential safety features, such as tip-over protection or automatic shutoff mechanisms, which are particularly important when leaving them on overnight. They may also have frayed cords or worn-out components that increase the risk of malfunction.
On the other hand, even newer space heaters with advanced safety features can be dangerous if used improperly or placed near flammable materials during nighttime use. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific heater model to minimize risks, especially when leaving the heater on overnight.
10. Do Not Bring an Outdoor Heater Inside Your Home
Outdoor patio heaters are called such because they are designed for the particular purpose of being used outside. The patio heater, whether powered by gas or electricity, should not be used inside the house because the patio heater is designed to meet the needs of an outdoor setting.
A patio heater is typically powered by propane gas or electricity. Propane gas is highly flammable and the tank is highly pressurized. The nature of propane makes it prone to flames and unintended injuries.
Most heaters have to be certified to ensure that they pose less risk to the user, which is why patio heaters must have an anti-tilt safety mechanism as well as an automatic shut-off button that instantly cuts the gas supply.
A propane gas heater produces carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, and nitrogen dioxide. These gases, if inhaled in extreme amounts, can be fatal.
The standards for these emissions are not as strict with outdoor heaters, and they release more of these gases than indoor heaters. If the outdoor heater is used indoors, these gases will circulate inside of the house and may cause suffocation and death.
Give Us a Call
Even after you have winterized your system, you still need to check on your unit throughout the winter. Try to inspect your air conditioner every couple of weeks – and any time you experience bad weather.
Each time you check on it, you should brush off any snow, ice or water that may have collected on top of the cover. Also, be sure to remove any debris and keep all animals away from the area.
If you find that your cover has moved at all, make sure to adjust it appropriately so that it continues to protect your air conditioner.
If your system needs repair or inspection, call Aire-Tech on 951-926-1002. You can also visit our Contact page and complete the contact form.