Keep Your House Warm and Your Family Safe
In the colder months, the goal is simple: Stay warm and cozy (basically, the Danish concept of ‘hygge’). When out and about, that means throwing on a few extra layers and grabbing a hat and gloves; at home, the options for warmth are more abundant, but there are more safety concerns, as well.
If you plan to simply live beneath a pile of blankets on the sofa, you’re pretty safe. However, many people also like to use portable space heaters, fireplaces or wood burning stoves in addition to whole-home heating options such as forced air or radiant heat. Though each of these can provide the added warmth needed during the coldest winter days, there are several things to keep in mind before wrapping up in a blanket with a book or your favorite movie.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)1 and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection2 offer some excellent safety tips to keep in mind for all sources of in-home heat. In general, the following basic tips always apply:
• Keep all flammable items at least 3 feet away from all heating equipment, including the furnace
• Do not use your oven as a source of heat
• Ensure that stationary heating is professionally installed and to code
• Have all furnaces and/or chimneys inspected annually
As fire places and wood-burning stoves bring open flames into the home, there are a few additional safety precautions:
• Make sure the flue and/or damper are open before lighting
• Always keep a metal screen or glass doors in front of the fire to prevent sparks from exiting
• Never leave a fire unattended
• Ensure all ash is fully cooled before removing
• Never use charcoal
• Keep children at a safe distance (try maintaining a 3’ “child free” zone)
Finally, if you’re turning to portable space heaters this season:
• Always turn off the unit before leaving the room, going to bed or taking a nap
• Only use the fuel (if applicable) specified by the manufacturer
• Look for a unit with a tip-over safety switch
• Only use units designed for indoor use
• Plug directly into a wall outlet rather than an extension cord
Whatever heating options you choose, it’s also a good idea to look for UL Certified products to help ensure they’ve been tested for safe use. Finally, don’t forget to test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and replace the batteries (which should be done once a year). Happy heating!