November 2013 Monthly Memo: Winter/Home Heating Safety
Is the chill of winter creeping in and around your house? The best defense is making sure your home’s heating system is maintained properly
Follow these tips for extra efficiency and warmth
- Have a professional inspect your heating system once per year, before winter hits.
- Replace air filters often, per the manufacturer’s recommendation (the professional who inspects your heating system can tell you what’s best).
- Seal up air leaks and add insulation around the house.
- Clean registers and make sure they’re not blocked by furniture, carpets or drapes.
- Bleed trapped air from hot water radiators.
Other safety suggestions
- Never use a kerosene heater indoors.
- Never use electric or gas stoves to heat the home. They are not intended for that purpose and can cause fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If using a wood fireplace, have it inspected annually by a professional chimney sweep.
- When using a gas fireplace, keep the glowing embers and logs clean; inspect and clean the air circulation passages and fan; and avoid obstructing the vents.
Furnace Maintenance Checklist
- Turn off the electricity or gas to the furnace and replace the filter. If you haven’t regularly cleaned or replaced the filter, do it now and check it throughout the heating season. A clean filter will operate more efficiently. If you have a central air conditioning system that operates with the furnace blower, count on replacing the filter more often. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Remove dust from the furnace. Get all the crevices cleaned of dust. Vacuum the base and grills. And be sure to clear obstacles to the vents so air can freely flow.
- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat is ideal for people who are away from home at set times throughout the week. A properly programmed thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs, according to ENERGY STAR.
- Check for carbon monoxide leaks. Carbon monoxide can be detected with an inexpensive test badge or battery operated alarm.
- Call the pros. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends scheduling a professional inspection each year for your furnace and all fuel-burning home heating systems, including boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues and vents.
- Look for products tested by Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Properly tested and rated stoves will have an attached safety label and an installation.
- Buy models with automatic shut-off features and heat element guards.
- Maintain a 36-inch clearance between the heater and combustible materials, such as bedding, furniture, wall coverings or other flammable items.
- Do not leave a heater unattended.
- Check every electrical cord for fraying and cracking. If one looks worn, replace it before using.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors in several parts of the house.
- Never run the heater’s cord (or any cord) under rugs or carpeting.
- Winter residential building fires result in an estimated average of 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1,708,000,000 in property loss each year.
- Fires in one- and two-family dwellings account for 67 percent of all winter residential building fires.
- Cooking is the leading cause of all winter residential building fires.
- Winter residential building fires occur mainly in the early evening hours, peaking from 5 to 8 p.m.
- Although at its highest in December, residential building fire incidence is collectively highest in the 3 winter months of January, February, and March.
Source: Winter Residential Building Fires (PDF, 1.0 Mb)