It’s that time of year again when the days get shorter, the temperature drops, and the calls for accidental heating fires rise. Each year, hundreds of homes are damaged or destroyed, and lives are lost, due to simple problems that can be easily prevented.
Two of the most popular ways to provide supplemental heat to homes, and other living areas, are space heaters and fireplaces.
Space Heater Safety
A space heater is an easy and economical way to heat a targeted area. Make sure the unit is UL approved and plugged in to an appropriately rated outlet or surge protector. You don’t need something stuffed into a small bedroom that is large enough to heat your garage, so selecting the proper size for each room is important.Keep the area around the heater clear of any clutter, including drapes or furniture. Children and pets could accidently tip the unit, so you will want to purchase a heater that automatically turns off when it is upended. For and extra layer of protection, place the unit on a firm, non-flammable surface out of their reach.
To prevent trips and falls, avoid using an extension cord. It is also a bad idea to run any cord under a rug or carpet. Repeatedly stepping on the cord can damage the protective covering and expose the wires. This is a common way for an electrical fire to begin. As with any form of supplemental heating, never leave a space heater running unattended.
A fireplace should be examined at the start of each season by a professional chimney sweep or cleaning service. The chimney should be free of creosote buildup, loose or damaged bricks that can lead to an unintentional fire, as well as any debris that found its way in during the summer months. Have the damper checked to ensure it is in working order and won’t stick when you try to use it. Nobody likes their home smelling of smoke for a week due to faulty equipment.
If you’re going to be using the fireplace often, you could benefit from getting it cleaned halfway through the season as well. A few dollars spent on a second cleaning is far better than hundreds of thousands spent on a new house.
Another way to protect your home is to use one of the many screens, spark guards or fireplace doors to arrest any errant sparks. Be sure you are burning proper fireplace logs or appropriate wood for you unit. Just because something is wood, it shouldn’t automatically be burned in the fireplace.
Before going to bed or leaving the room unattended, properly extinguish the fire. By the next day, you can use your fireplace shovel and a metal container to collect the cooled ashes. Store them outside, away from any combustible material.
Ongoing Fire Safety
Have at least one working fire extinguisher for each floor of your home and ensure everyone in the home can use it. If you have bars on the windows, they should have a quick release that can be operated by anyone in the family. If the fire cannot be contained using the extinguisher, everyone should evacuate, using a pre-rehearsed plan, and call 911 from outside.
Enjoy the winter months while being safe and warm.
Charlie Teschner started MESA Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as Boulder heating repair.