Staying Warm And Safe This Winter
Leaves and temperatures are falling. It’s a good time to curl up for a long winter’s nap, but experts are warning homeowners to make sure their home heating system is in working order before going into hibernation.
While cooking is the leading cause of house fires, the second leading cause is related to heating. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire departments across the nation responded to an estimated average of 52,050 fires involving heating equipment each year from 2012 to 2016, accounting for 15-percent of all reported home fires during this time. The fires resulted in annual losses of 490 civilian deaths, 1,400 civilian injuries, and $1 billion in direct property damage, according to the NFPA.
Scott Hammons, chief of the Harrodsburg Fire Department, said they get a lot of calls from homeowners who smell smoke, which is often caused by people not changing the filters on their home heating systems.
If you didn’t change the battery on your smoke detector on daylight savings time, Hammons recommends doing so. For those who use kerosene to heat their homes, he recommends making sure that the heaters are properly ventilated.
“Please follow all the instructions,” Hammons said. “If you have any problems, don’t be afraid to call the fire department.”
Jonathan Elliott, proprietor of J. Elliott Heating and Air, has been working on HVAC systems since 2008. He said improperly maintained systems are a huge factor in failures, which always seem to happen when the homeowner needs them the most.
“The heat doesn’t go out when it’s 65, it goes out when it’s 35,” Elliott said.
He recommends that homeowners have certified technicians look over their systems at least once a year.
“There are a lot of small things we can check,” he said. “We can see them wearing out before they break.”
Echoing what others have said, Elliott said not changing filters regularly is the leading cause of breakdowns. He recommends that homeowners make sure filters are changed regularly.
“It’s the key to keep a furnace running,” he said, comparing it to routine maintenance on a car. “If you don’t maintain it, it will break down.”
Here are some safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association:
• Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet (one meter) away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
• Have a three-foot (one meter) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
• Never use your oven to heat your home.
• Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.
• Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
• Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
• Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
• Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
• Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
For more information, visit nfpa.org.