Stay safe with sup­ple­men­tal heat­ing

The Progress-Index - At Home - - Front Page -

When the weather be­gins to grow cold, in­di­vid­u­als turn to sup­ple­men­tal forms of heat for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. The ris­ing cost of home own­er­ship as well as es­ca­lat­ing fuel prices of­ten set peo­ple on a search for the least ex­pen­sive and most ef­fi­cient ways to keep com­fort­able dur­ing the cold weather sea­son. Space heaters, wood-burn­ing stoves and fire­places are among the more com­mon and pop­u­lar sup­ple­men­tal heat­ing sources.

The same heat­ing sources that can be cost­ef­fec­tive and safe when used cor­rectly can be­come haz­ardous when safety guide­lines are not fol­lowed. The Na­tional Fire Preven­tion As­so­ci­a­tion states that in 2010 heat­ing equip­ment was in­volved in an es­ti­mated 57,100 re­ported home struc­ture fires in the United States alone, re­sult­ing in 490 deaths, 1,540 in­juries and $1.1 bil­lion in di­rect prop­erty dam­age. These fires ac­counted for 16 per­cent of all re­ported home fires.

In an ef­fort to pre­vent prop­erty dam­age or loss of life, home­own­ers should fol­low the safety guide­lines that come with a sup­ple­men­tal heat­ing de­vice. Also, sim­ple steps can pre­vent fire and in­jury.

• Test smoke alarms monthly to en­sure they are in proper work­ing or­der. Should a mal­func­tion of a heat­ing ap­pli­ance oc­cur or a fire start, a smoke alarm could be your first in­di­ca­tor of a prob­lem.

• Keep any­thing that can burn at least 3 feet away from any heat­ing equip­ment, in­clud­ing a fur­nace, a wood stove, por­ta­ble space heaters, or a fire­place.

• Con­sider the use of a gate or an­other ob­struc­tion to keep chil­dren and pets sev­eral feet away from a space heater or an­other ap­pli­ance that can eas­ily be knocked over.

• Never use fuel-burn­ing ap­pli­ances with­out proper room vent­ing to the out­doors to pre­vent car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing. Fuel in­cludes ev­ery­thing from wood to gas to oil.

• Only use the fuel rec­om­mended by the prod­uct man­u­fac­turer.

* When mak­ing a fire in a stove or fire­place, never use flammable liq­uids to start or ac­cel­er­ate the fire.

• A wood-, pel­let- or coal-burn­ing stove should be burned very hot at least twice a day for about 30 min­utes to re­duce the cre­osote buildup in the chim­ney or flue.

• Chim­neys should be pro­fes­sion­ally cleaned at the be­gin­ning of each use sea­son to en­sure there is noth­ing lodged within that can catch fire.

• Do not use an oven to heat the home while it is in the “on” po­si­tion. You can leave the oven door open af­ter cook­ing is fin­ished so that resid­ual heat can en­ter the kitchen, pro­vided pets and chil­dren are kept away.

• Elec­tric space heaters should be kept away from walls, cur­tains and fur­ni­ture. Many now fea­ture tip-over safety fea­tures that will turn the unit off should it be tipped over. How­ever, it is al­ways ad­viseable to use a space heater on a level, sturdy sur­face that is away from foot traf­fic in the room.

• All sup­ple­men­tal heat­ing sources should be turned off or ex­tin­guished be­fore leav­ing the house or go­ing to bed.

• Car­bon monox­ide de­tec­tors should be in­stalled in ev­ery level of the home. In­stall the de­tec­tors close to all bed­rooms. Car­bon monox­ide is a col­or­less, odor­less gas that can­not be de­tected eas­ily. It quickly robs the body of oxy­gen and can be fatal when present in high amounts.

• Any sta­tionery space heat­ing equip­ment or HVAC sys­tem should be in­stalled by pro­fes­sion­als and in­spected so that it ad­heres with lo­cal build­ing codes. This is to en­sure your safety as a home­owner.

• Use safety screens in front of fire­places to pre­vent sparks from es­cap­ing.

• Make sure the damper is open ev­ery time you light a fire.

• Do not move a heater while it is hot or fill it with fuel at this time, ex­cept when adding wood to a stove.

• Cin­ders and ashes should be cleaned rou­tinely from stoves and fire­places and stored away from the home in a heat-safe con­tainer un­til cool.

• Never po­si­tion an elec­tric heater next to a wa­ter source.

• Ex­ten­sion cords should not be used un­less ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. The cords should be heavy duty and meet the draw of the heat­ing unit. Also, they should be run so they don’t present a trip­ping haz­ard, but also so the cords them­selves do not cre­ate a com­bus­tion haz­ard.

• Chil­dren should not be al­lowed to touch or play near any heat­ing ap­pli­ances. Do not leave chil­dren or pets unat­tended in a room with a fire or space heater go­ing.

Be­fore in­vest­ing in a heat­ing unit, home­own­ers should con­sider adding more in­su­la­tion to homes or caulk­ing drafty win­dows and doors as a method to warm­ing a home.

Whether out of ne­ces­sity or just to pro­vide an added mea­sure of warmth to a home, many peo­ple use sup­ple­men­tal heat­ing ap­pli­ances fre­quently dur­ing the win­ter. Em­pha­siz­ing safety when us­ing such de­vices can pre­vent many of the fire haz­ards as­so­ci­ated with these de­vices.


Wood-burn­ing stoves are just one method of sup­ple­men­tal heat­ing that should be used in a safe man­ner.

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