December 21st marks the Winter Solstice or the first official day of winter. Brrrrrr! Who's thankful for extra heat from fireplaces, wood stoves, and electric heaters? We know Virginia winters can be mild, but we can also have our share of frigid temperatures. We also know that most of all home fires that occur in December, January, and February are due to the increased use of heating equipment.
Fire dangers from space heaters and fireplaces
Stationary or portable space heaters pose a significant fire hazard and cause 86% of home heating fire deaths. Preventable chimney fires can have a costly impact; loss of valuable property, displacement, and possible injury, not to mention expensive home damage and restoration. Protect your home with adequate homeowners insurance and keep your family safe this winter with our supplemental heating safety tips!
Basic supplemental home heating safety tips
There are several important tips for safe home heating:
- Place carbon monoxide and smoke detectors on every level of your home.
- Replace batteries annually and check the expiration date. Smoke detectors, even the hardwired ones, expire after ten years. They may still work but are less sensitive to smoke detection!
- Never use appliances like ovens to heat your home.
- Use fluid-fueled heaters, like kerosene heaters, outdoors only.
Electric heater safety tips
The vast majority of home heating fire deaths (88%) involved stationary or portable space heaters.
Here are routine practices that can protect your family and home:
- Keep at least 3 feet of space between heaters and furniture, curtains, and anything that can burn.
- Always keep a close eye on heaters and never use them when you sleep.
- Plug electric heaters directly into the wall outlet rather than use extension cords or power strips.
- Buy UL-rated space heaters with safety features like automatic shut-off in case of tip-over.
- Check for heating recalls.
- Make sure cords are not frayed or cracked.
- Avoid using the same circuit or outlet for an electric heater as another heater or other high-wattage electronics or appliances like a TV, DVR, laptop, printer, lamp, or microwave.
- Never place power cords under rugs or through high-traffic areas.
- Never put wet clothes or any fabric on or close to an electric heater to dry.
- Unplug your heater when you're not using it, especially when you go to bed or leave home.
Fireplaces and wood stove safety tips
There are an estimated 25,000 chimney fires annually in the US, accounting for nearly 125 million dollars in property loss.
To prevent chimney and wood stove fires:
- Have an annual inspection and cleaning to remove creosote build-up.
- Do regular fireplace and wood stove maintenance with regular use.
- Use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks from flying out of your fireplace and to protect children and pets from coming in contact with fire.
- Disposed of ashes in a metal container, never paper or plastic.
- Avoid substitute fuels or burning mediums like newspaper or charcoal.
- Accelerants like lighter fluids to start or fuel fires are dangerous!
- Always put out fires completely before you leave home or go to bed.
It's not complicated! All this extra heat can dry your family's skin and sinuses. For tips to stay comfortable, read our article on what you can do to keep your home air quality healthy during the coldest winter weather.