When the weather outside is frightful, keeping your house cozy is delightful. Just do it safely.
There’s nothing like coming in from the cold to a nice warm house. And, like many homeowners, you may be turning to alternative heating sources as a way to save money. Space heaters, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves can be good cost-cutting options—but they can also create a fire hazard if they’re not used properly. Here are some tips to keep you both safe and warm.
Fireplaces and Wood Stoves
- Make sure your fireplace or stove is installed and maintained properly. Hire a professional and stay current with inspections and chimney cleanings.
- Never use flammable liquids to start or maintain a fire, and don’t use excessive amounts of paper to start a fire.
- Use a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening to keep embers or sparks from jumping out. Also keep flammable items away from your fireplace, including the mantel.
- Don’t burn coal indoors, and if you’re using synthetic logs, follow the directions exactly. Coal and improperly used synthetic logs can release deadly carbon monoxide.
Kerosene Heaters and Electric Heaters
- Make sure your heater is in good working condition before using it, and make sure there’s an emergency shut-off in case it tips over. Use only a heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets, and keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, furniture and drapes.
- For kerosene heaters, only use the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer, and never refill the heater while it’s operating or hot. Also avoid overfilling an oil or kerosene unit—and don’t use cold fuel, because it may expand as it heats up. Refuel your heater outdoors, not in the house. Be sure the room where you’re using the heater has sufficient ventilation. Burning fuel can create harmful or even deadly fumes.
- Plug an electric-powered space heater into an outlet with enough capacity, and resist using an extension cord. If you must, be sure the cord is marked “14-gauge.”
- Keep kids and pets away from space heaters.
- Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Turn off the space heater if you leave the area.
More Hot Tips
- Have your furnace inspected once a year, including all controls and emergency shut-offs. Use a qualified professional for inspections and repairs.
- Never use an oven or range as a supplemental heating source.
- Don’t place electric space heaters in bathrooms or any room where there’s water.
- Check your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Be sure your family has an evacuation plan in case of fire—and practice it.