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Fire and Heat in Your Home: Dos and Don'ts

Feb 23, 2020 07:50AM ● By Editor
By Ally Hirschlag of The Weather Channel - Posted: February 23, 2020

Staying warm and toasty in your home when it's cold outside is one of the best parts of wintertime. Whether you're sitting by a blazing fire or warming your feet on a forced air vent in the floor, there's nothing like feeling that heat, especially when you've just come in from the outside. And just as they shouldn't be taken for granted, fire and heat also need to be used judiciously. If you don't respect your heat sources, you could end up with exorbitantly high heat bills, or worse, a potentially dangerous situation. 

But it doesn't take much knowhow to be wise about fire and heat in your home. It starts and ends with proper maintenance. With that in mind, here are some important dos and don'ts when it comes to keeping fire and heat in your home safe and working well. 

Keep your heating system up-to-date

(Getty Images/Cavan Images)

Whether you have central heat powered by a furnace, radiators or ductless heaters, when it starts getting cold, you should have them checked by a professional to make sure they're in good working condition. If you've noticed, for example, that you're furnace-powered heat has been running more often than normal, you may need to replace your furnace filter. A good rule of thumb is to replace this every three months. However, if your furnace has been stalling or not coming on at all, it may be a sign that you need a new furnace. Replacing a furnace is expensive, but better to do it before it's the dead of winter and it suddenly goes caput. 

A leaky radiator

If you're testing your heat and notice one of your radiators is leaking, there are several things you can try before calling a repair person. One possible problem that has a quick fix is that the radiator valve is stuck between being fully open and closed. Turn it clockwise until you can't turn it anymore and see if the leak stops. If it does, great, if not, check out this video on several other small radiator problems with relatively easy solutions. If none of those work, it's probably time to call in a professional. 

Space heaters 

(Getty Images/Benjamin Torode)

Gas and electric space heaters don't have ductwork like traditional central air systems, so typically they're best at warming a single room or small space. They can be incredibly useful if you're staying in a basic cabin or unfinished home, but there are a number of potential safety hazards that come with them. Heating equipment is the second leading cause of house fires in the United States, so it's important to take precautionary measures when using them.

Never leave a space heater unattended. This goes for electrical or gas-fired. Make sure they're unplugged/off and have cooled down completely before leaving them. 

Don't use them to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothes or thaw pipes. 

Make sure you have smoke alarms installed and they're in good, working condition.

Keep small children and pets away from them. If you need to, construct a fireproof barrier around the heater. 

Place the space heater at least three feet away from anything flammable. This includes drapes and rugs.

Space heaters should always be on a level floor space. Never put them on tables, chairs, cabinets or other furniture pieces.

Before using, make sure the space heater isn't cracked and its electrical chord isn't frayed. 

Fireplaces

(Getty Images/Images Source)

Wood burning and gas fireplaces are wonderful room warmers, but both need to be maintained and used with care. Here are several tips for how you can enjoy either with the lowest amount of risk.

Wood-burning fireplace

First and foremost, before you light your first fire of the season, have the chimney and flue inspected by a professional. They'll be looking to make sure it's clear and checking for any creosote buildup (tar-like substance that can cause chimney fires). They can also check the top of the chimney to make sure it wasn't damaged by weather in the past year. 

Make sure the flue is open before lighting a fire.

Don't leave flammable objects like books or blankets near the fireplace when it's lit. 

Children and pets should never be left unattended around a lit fire. 

Leave the glass fire screen closed when the fireplace is in use.

Use a fireplace gate.

Never use gasoline to start a fire, just recommended kindling

Don't use green branches and leaves to start a fire as they can cause more smoke than actual fire.

Clean the firebox once a week during the months you're using the fireplace. 

Make sure the fire is completely out, including the embers, before leaving the house or going to sleep. 

Gas fireplace

(Getty Images/Ivan Hunter)

Your chimney and flue should also be inspected by a professional if you have a gas fireplace, because some natural gas fumes and CO2 go up it. Gas fireplaces rely on proper venting the same as a wood-burning fireplace does, but that's not as commonly understood.

Make sure there's a screen or secondary glass barrier on your fireplace. When you're gas fireplace is on, that single glass barrier can get extremely hot and cause severe burns when touched. If your fireplace doesn't have a screen barrier or only one pane of glass, it's a good idea to update it to protect the people and animals in your home. 

Keeping flammable objects away, making sure the flue is open when the fireplace is in use, and making sure the fireplace is never left unattended when it's on are all also relevant for gas fireplaces. 

The fireplace should be off when you leave the house or go to sleep. It's okay if the pilot light remains on. 

Candles

(Getty Images/Adam Sargent / EyeEm)

While not a real heat source, candles are often lit in people's homes for ambiance. They're also responsible for six percent of home fire injuries in the United States every year. One third of those fires started in bedrooms because people fell asleep while a candle was still lit. It's easy to think candles are harmless because they're so unassuming, but that's how they end up being dangerous.

It's important to keep candles at least one foot away from anything flammable, such as curtains, rugs, dry leaves and flowers. 

Light candles carefully, being wary of long hair and loose clothing. 

Always blow candles out before leaving a room or going to bed. 

Never light candles in a home where oxygen is being used for medical purposes. 

Don't use candles during a power outage. Flashlights are much safer and last longer.


To read the original article and see related stories, follow this link to The Weather Channel website.  https://weather.com/safety/winter/news/2020-01-22-fire-heat-your-home-dos-donts

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