The winter months are unique in that they bring challenges both inside and outside the home. One of the most unique hazards of the winter is the increased risk of a house fire. No matter what happens, you should be incredibly conscious of the things you are using to heat or decorate your home. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Homes with a Furnace
If you live in a home heated by a furnace system, take some time each fall to check it and make sure it is in proper working order before you actually need to use it. Your job is to check the controls and emergency shutoff functions to make sure they are not broken. Check the walls and ceilings near the furnace and double check your chimney. Areas that are warm or discolored are indications that you do not have enough space between your pipes and your insulation.
Double check your chimney for loose or missing bricks. Make sure your flue pipes and the surrounding pipe seams are not cracked or broken. If you notice soot near the seams, you may have a leak.
No matter what you find, do not attempt to make repairs on your own, unless this type of work happens to be your profession. Hire a professional to come out and do the job correctly to prevent additional fire hazards.
Using Fireplaces and Wood Stoves
If you have a fireplace, the same tips apply to making sure the chimney is in working order. You should have a professional come out to clean your chimney of debris and to check the parts at least once each year.
Both stoves and fireplaces can be a great source of heat, if used properly and cared for carefully. Make sure your wood stove is UL listed and make sure it is installed at least 3 feet from any combustible surface. Make sure the stove has the right amount of support beneath it from your floor as well. In both cases, do not use flammable fire starters or liquid to make your fire larger or more intense. You run the risk of starting a more serious house fire.
Using a Kerosene Heater
While not as common, kerosene heaters are used by many people. Make suer you always use a kerosene heater in a ventilated area. Never put anything other than kerosene into the heater and make sure you never add fuel while the heater is running. Keep your children and pets as far away from the heater as possible.
General Fire Safety
No matter what type of heating system you use, take some time to check your smoke detectors. You should have one for every level of your home. Make sure they are in working order and that the batteries are properly installed. Create a home evacuation plan so that everyone understands how to get out of the house should doing so ever become necessary.
Keeping warm is important, but fire safety is no joke. Take precautionary steps to ensure everything is in working order each year and you’ll greatly reduce your risk of properly or personal damage.
Thaddeus Vergeer and his wife use a furnace heating system but also have a fireplace for pleasure use. They spend a great deal of time winterizing their home every season, including checking the windows and weatherstripping, updating the smoke detectors, and cleaning the fireplace and furnace systems.