Winter is the time of year when we take to our homes, crank up the heating, and hope the snow will melt away soon. But winter is also one of the most dangerous seasons for house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning because of increased use of furnaces, fire places, space heaters, and wood stoves.
Before the season begins homeowners should always inspect their heating units to make sure they are leak free and functioning correctly. This can include chimney inspection and cleaning for those who use fireplaces or wood burning stoves during the cold months. In addition to early preparations there are also many safety tips to consider this winter when you are heating your home. Here are a few key things to consider this winter courtesy of FEMA.
- Leave furnace repairs to qualified specialists. Do not attempt repairs yourself unless you are qualified.
- Inspect the walls and ceiling near the furnace and along the chimney line. If the wall is hot or discolored, additional pipe insulation or clearance may be required. Check the flue pipe and pipe seams. Are they well supported, free of holes, and cracks? Soot along or around seams may be an indicator of a leak.
- Don’t use excessive amounts of paper to build roaring fires in fireplaces. It is possible to ignite creosote in the chimney by overbuilding the fire.
- Before you go to sleep, be sure your fireplace fire is out. NEVER close your damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper will help the fire to heat up again and will force toxic carbon monoxide into the house.
- If you use an electric heater, be sure not to overload the circuit. Only use extension cords which have the necessary rating to carry the amp load. TIP: Choose an extension cord the same size or larger than the appliance electrical cord.
- Never Burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal amounts of carbon monoxide.
- If synthetic logs are used, follow the directions on the package. NEVER break a synthetic log apart to quicken the fire or use more than one log at a time. They often burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide.
For more information see FEMA’s PDF of pointers or contact your local fire department.