Safe at Home: Heating Tips
As temperatures drop and we spend more time indoors, it’s important to be aware of the dangers presented by your home heating equipment. According to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Some simple steps can prevent most heating-related fires from happening.
Furnaces are relatively safe and common, which is why it is easy for homeowners to forget to maintain them.
Here’s a brief checklist for maintaining your furnace or heating device:
- Inspection and cleaning service is recommended yearly for most furnaces, and can help catch deadly carbon monoxide leaks.
- Check the filter biannually, more often if you live in a colder climate.
- Keep anything flammable away from the vent pipe — at least 6 inches of space is a good gauge.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 6,000 people need hospital emergency room care each year for burn injuries associated with contacting hot surfaces of space heaters. Here’s what you can do:
- Never leave a space heater on when you are not in the room.
- Make sure your heater has been tested by UL (Underwriters Laboratories), an independent safety certification organization. Products that are UL tested will have a safety sticker visible on the
- Check for a “kill” switch that automatically turns off the heater if it tips or falls.
- Keep space heaters 3 feet away from anything flammable, including wallpaper, clothing, bedding, curtains — even pets.
Fireplaces are particularly dangerous for small children and the elderly. Here are a few basic safety reminders:
- Get smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This seems pretty basic, but it’s easy to let it slip through the cracks. Remember to replace the batteries annually.
- Where is your fire extinguisher? If you can’t answer that off the top of your head, you might be in trouble. Make sure there’s one relatively close to your fireplace.
- Keep flammable materials 3 feet away from the fireplace. A spark from a burning log can set fabric in pillows, curtains, or rugs on fire very quickly. The glass doors on gas fireplaces can get extremely hot.
- Keep your kids and pets away from the fireplace. The best way to do this is using a physical barrier, such as a gate, to keep children at a distance.
- Douse the fire before you go to bed or leave the house. For gas/electric fireplaces, make sure they’ve have been turned off.
- Install a switch lock on your gas or electric fireplace.
— Tom D’Amore is an attorney with D’Amore Law Group, PC in Lake Oswego, Oregon.