Heat your home safely

This winter, heat your home safely

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of those fires are reported during December, January, and February. Additionally, 81 percent of home-heating deaths involve space heaters.

Home heating fire statistics

Here are some simple steps you can take to prevent most heating-related fires, and some easy ways you can stay warm this winter beyond using space heaters or your fireplace.

Heating safety in the winter

NFPA recommends these heating safety tips for you and those living in your home:

  • Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from heating equipment — furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves, or space heaters. Having a heat source too close to combustibles, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, or bedding, is the second leading source for these kinds of fires.
  • Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors at least once a month. (Learn more about checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.)
  • Let experts install central heating equipment according to local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.

Fireplaces and chimneys

  • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected by professionals every year. Dirty heating appliances are the top cause of home appliances failing and igniting.
  • Make sure the fireplace has a screen to keep flying sparks and rolling logs inside. (Read more about fireplace safety.)

Space heaters

  • Only plug one heat-producing appliance into an electrical outlet at a time.
  • Don’t leave small children alone around open fires and space heaters. Enforce a 3-foot “kid-free zone” rule.
  • Place space heaters on a level, hard, nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes.
  • When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over. It may cost more, but it’s worth the investment.
  • Remember to turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Always use the appropriate fuel specified by the manufacturer for fuel-burning space heaters.

Safe ways to stay warm and cut costs

The U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has tips for keeping your home warm while saving money.

  • Close doors to any areas in your house that you don’t use regularly, and make sure your doors and windows are closed tightly.
  • Install a programmable thermostat so you can customize temperatures for your routine. Program it for lower temperatures while you’re away or when you’re asleep and for higher temperatures when you’re home and awake. You can set a schedule once per season and then forget about it. (Read more about programmable thermostats.)
  • Move furniture away from vents so that your heat flow isn’t disrupted. Sealing ducts around their joints can also help keep warm air from seeping out, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Open your drapes during the day to maximize the sun’s warmth and close them just before sunset.
  • Change your furnace filter. Not only can a clean filter allow your HVAC unit to maintain your home’s temperature, but by changing it regularly, you can save anywhere from 5 to 15 percent on your utility costs, according to energystar.gov.
  • Keep your fireplace flue closed when you don’t have a fire going. Consider replacing your fireplace with a more efficient wood stove, which is a more viable way to heat your home.

And one more thing

The holidays come with some special considerations for fire hazards. Are you prepared for a safe holiday season?

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