Snow, sleet, ice, and frigid temperatures are facts of life for residents of the Capital District during the winter. Practicing home heating safety is necessary to ensure a healthy, happy winter. Read on for ways to heat your home as safely and efficiently as possible.
Home Heating Safety Tip #1: Exercise Caution With Alternative Heat Sources
Did you know that heating is the second-leading cause of home fires, deaths and injuries in the U.S.? According to the National Fire Protection Association, December, January, and February are peak months for heating fires – and alternative heat sources like space heaters are often to blame. If a drafty room tempts you to turn to a space heater or another alternative heat source for extra warmth this winter, be sure to follow these guidelines:
- Make sure things that can burn (matches, bedding, furniture, paper, clothing, carpets, and rugs), children, and pets are kept at least 3 feet away from heating equipment at all times.
- If using a portable space heater, place it on a hard, level, non-flammable surface – not on a rug or carpet – and plug directly into an outlet. Do not use an extension cord.
- Turn off space heaters every time you leave the room it is in, and when you go to sleep.
Home Heating Safety Tip #2: Mind the Furnace
Furnaces work overtime in the winter – especially during frigid cold spells and during snowstorms – to keep your home warm and comfortable all season. Familiarize yourself with how your furnace works, and common issues that may occur at this time of year.
Avoid furnace fire hazards and other safety concerns with the following recommendations:
- Inspect or change the filter monthly. Not only is regular upkeep essential for your furnace to operate safely, it improves the efficiency the appliance. Make sure to close the panel door when done inspecting or changing the filter to decrease the risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Regularly vacuum the furnace and its immediate surroundings to prevent lint buildup, a potential fire hazard. Call an HVAC specialist like A Johnson if you are unsure of how to properly clean the inside compartment of your furnace.
- Keep anything flammable or combustible away from the furnace to avoid starting a fire.
- Don’t close off more than 20% of the furnace registers in your home – and make sure all registers are unobstructed and clear of lint, pet hair, and dust – to prevent unnecessary heat build-up and to improve efficiency.
- If you smell gas, or suspect gas feed or valve issues, call a professional right away.
Home Heating Safety Tip #3: Don’t Go to Extremes with the Thermostat
It’s tempting to crank up the thermostat to warm up a cold room quickly, but resist the urge – it won’t heat your home faster and it will end up wasting money in the long run. The same goes for turning the heat down much lower at night – again, it’s best to manage the thermostat temperature in moderate increments and be patient as it works to heat your home (or keep the temperature level overnight).
Setting the temperature too high, too quickly could also have a damaging effect on your furnace if it’s forced to work beyond its capability. If you notice your thermostat hasn’t budged above a certain temperature, there could be an underlying HVAC issue to address. At that point, it’s time to call in a professional.
Home Heating Safety Tip #4: Prevent (and Deal With) Frozen Pipes
When temperatures plunge, the pipes in and outside of your home can freeze and potentially burst – every homeowner’s nightmare. According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, burst pipes can lead to more than 5,000 in water damage. There are, however, some steps you can take to prevent pipes from freezing in the first place:
- Don’t lower the heat too much when you’re not home – keep it set to a moderate temperature, especially during frigid spells, to protect pipes against freezing.
- If extremely cold temperatures are in the forecast, give the outside of your home a once over to spot any vulnerable or exposed piping. If you do spot any exposed or vulnerable pipes, head to the local hardware story for insulation to wrap them with.
- Let the faucet drip during cold snaps to give your pipes some relief.
If you notice that water has stopped flowing from the faucets, your pipes may have frozen. If that’s the case, call a plumber immediately. In the meantime, you can attempt to thaw out frozen pipes that haven’t burst with a space heater, heat lamp, hair dryer, or electric heat tape. Keep faucets open to allow water to run as the pipes thaw out.
Home Heating Safety Tip #5: Be Smart When It Comes to the Fireplace
Curling up by the fireplace is a rite of passage during the winter – but if it’s not used correctly, the fireplace can quickly become a major fire hazard. First, an annual inspection and chimney sweep is a must before turning to the fireplace to keep warm during the winter. Once that’s done, consider the following tips when using your fireplace:
- Burn only firewood in the fireplace. Only use dry, cured wood that’s meant to be burnt in a fireplace. Don’t burn things like crates, lumber or treated wood as they can compromise the air quality in your home.
- Build your fire slowly and add more wood as it heats. This will prevent it from burning too hot too quickly and keep the flames manageable.
- Use a screen or gate to keep children, pets, and others from getting too close to the flames.
- Make sure the damper or flue is open while building and burning the fire. Only close when all the embers have completely stopped burning.
- Before building a fire, remove the ashes from previous fires and make sure they are disposed of properly.
- Never, ever leave a fire burning in the fireplace unattended.
Home Heating Safety Tip #6: Test Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide poisoning is more likely in the winter. Why? Circulation is tight and various home heating equipment is used constantly. Therefore, test the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every winter. Plus, replace them regularly to ensure these monitors are in working order throughout the year.
If a winter storm causes the power to go out and many homeowners turn to a portable generator. So, take the proper precautions to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use the generator outside – at least 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows – to prevent carbon monoxide from building up inside your home and reaching deadly levels.
Help keep your home safe with these home heating safety ideas, such as:
- Exercising caution with alternative sources of heat.
- Minding your furnace.
- Using your thermostat correctly.
- Preventing frozen pipes.
- Using common sense when it comes to the fireplace.
- Ensuring your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors function properly.
But, if you are ever concerned that your home heating safety has been compromised, or you’re dealing with a home heating emergency, don’t hesitate to give A. Johnson a call. We work with homeowners in the Capital District area to fix any and all heating and issues in your home. From furnace inspections and repairs, to boiler maintenance to emergency service, contact us today to meet your home heating needs!