Can you think of anything cozier on a cold winter’s night than warm, crackling flames in your fireplace? But as we imagine all the good things we can do around the fireplace, we’ve also heard about the dangers of playing with fire. Take safety seriously, and you can enjoy your fireplace without worries. Here are some tips to help keep you warm and safe.

If you have a wood-burning stove:

  • Use only dry, well-seasoned wood, as wet wood creates smoke and pollutants. Properly seasoned wood is darker, weighs less, sounds hollow when hit against another piece of wood.
  • Buy locally cut firewood to lower the risk of introducing invasive forest pests to your home.
  • If you choose to use manufactured logs, choose those made fully from compressed sawdust Take note that many wax and sawdust logs are made solely for open hearth fireplaces, check all operating instructions before using them.
  • Consider getting moisture meters that will allow you to test the moisture level in wood. They can be bought at hardware stores or on the Internet. Properly dried wood should have a reading of 20% or less.
  • Use only dry kindling, all-natural or organic fire starters. Never start a fire with gasoline, kerosene or charcoal starter.
  • Do not mix garbage, plastic, rubber or coated/treated lumber into the burning stack as these emit toxic fumes.
  • Store wood outdoors, above ground with the top covered to prevent dampness.
  • Regularly remove ashes and store the container outdoors.
  • Bring in professionals to check chimneys annually.

The EPA recommends that for more efficient heating with less smoke, look for gas, pellet, or certified wood fireplace inserts at your local retailers. You can also add gas log lighter kits to your existing fireplace. These devices make it easier to light a wood fire and provide more efficient start up.

If you have an electric fireplace or heater:

  • Take care to avoid bare hands touching any surface of the fireplace, including the screen and trims to prevent burns.
  • Keep the vents clear of any blockages to allow air to flow freely.
  • Unplug the electric heater when not in use.
  • Return the heater to authorized service personnel for any malfunction. Don’t attempt to repair it yourself.
  • Install the heaters in locations which will not expose the unit to water. Avoid bathrooms and laundry rooms.
  • The cable or cord of the unit must be moved to areas safe from high traffic areas to avoid tripping over the cords. And do not use an extension or power strip to connect to the power source; plug the heater directly to the wall outlet.
  • Do not burn any material inside the heater.

In both cases:

  • Keep flammable items such as curtains, furniture, and paper away from the fireplace.
  • Never leave a fireplace burning when you leave the house or go to bed at night.
  • Install both the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and test them monthly.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy for emergency situations.

Click here for more information on how to keep your home safe and warm.