AC and Heating Tip from AC Express
Heater Fire Safety
In a lot of ways, heaters and air conditioners are very similar. They accomplish the same function of altering the temperature in our homes so that we feel more comfortable. They often both use electricity. We keep them out of sight and don’t really think about them unless start working. In the case of heat pumps, the air conditioner and the heater are even the exact same machine.
One thing that makes most heaters very different from air conditioners though is that when you’re heating things up, there’s always going to be a fire hazard. The chance of a fire being started isn’t usually high, but because it can be so destructive and terrible in the worst case scenario, it is a risk worth knowing about. This tip is going to be all about the various fire hazards that one should know about when it comes to several different kinds of home heating systems and how to protect your home and prevent such a thing from happening, With high temperatures comes the risk of fire and as such one should not underestimate the devices in your home that create great amounts of heat.
General Safety Tips
First, before we dive into specific types of heaters and what protections can be made for each, we’ll look at some general ideas and tips that will make one’s home less likely to succumb to a fire. Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. This only makes sense because the colder months are going to see us using our heaters much more. In places like here in Austin, heating units generally don’t even turn on until November. So while things like cooking devices might have the chance of causing a fire all year long, your heater is only really going to be an issue that needs to be watched during the cold months.
The first tip is to watch for what is within the proximity of any heater. You don’t want anything flammable within a few feet of any heat producing devices. As for flammable material, this includes anything paper, cloth, blankets, clothes, cardboard or anything else that could possibly catch on fire. These kinds of things need to be kept out of the range of a few feet around your heater, whether that is a furnace or boiler, and your fireplace or any space heaters you may use.
Also keep in mind the space around open flames and your kids. There should be a kid-free zone around the fireplace and any space heater. Central heating units are generally tucked away in their own spaces anyway so this isn’t so much a concern if you don’t have space heaters or a fireplace.
Don’t use any cooking equipment as house warming equipment. In other words, the oven is for cooking, not heating. As tempting as it may be to cut down on your heater usage by getting creative in this way, there are safety concerns related to the unchecked usage of your oven or stove, so you should never have either of these things on if you’re not cooking.
Installation and repair should always be done by a professional. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a stationary space heater or a natural gas furnace. There’s no guarantee of safety if you attempt any sort of repair or installation of these kind of heat producing devices by yourself. It is always much safer to place your bet on a trained professional when it comes to such equipment.
Smoke alarms can mean the difference between life and death in the case of an accidental fire. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors only work when they're properly installed and checked regularly. Make sure the batteries in your detectors are fresh and that the devices themselves are still working. If your smoke alarm is over 10 years old or it does not sound when tested, change it immediately. It's also a good idea to make sure you have an alarm installed in every room on every level of the home, including the basement. They should be kept in working condition by checking them twice a month. This task is easy to do but also easy to forget, so consider setting some kind of reminder.
Portable Space Heaters
Portable space heaters are great for taking the load off your central heating system or keeping you warm when your house isn’t set up for central heating. There are many great uses for portable space heaters but they aren’t solutions for staying warm while you sleep. They should always be turned off whenever you’re not using the room or whenever you go to sleep.
Portable space heaters are commonly used to provide supplemental heat during the colder months. Unfortunately, space heaters can increase the risks of fire and electric ones also have an electric shock risk if not used properly. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that there were 21,800 home fires involving stationary or portable space heaters in 2007. These fires resulted in 490 civilian deaths, 1,180 injuries and $330 million in direct property damage.
So this is no laughing matter. Unsafe use of portable space heaters can lead to serious harm. The first thing one should do to minimize these risks is to ensure that there is a three feet area around the space heater whenever it is on that is free of flammable materials. This includes things like paper, books, and clothes. As far as where in the room they should be placed, other than following the three foot rule, you should also keep them out of walkway or areas with foot traffic. This is to minimize the risk of a space heater being accidently knocked over.
There are special concerns when using an electric space heater. For one, you should always plug an electric portable space heater directly into the wall outlet and not into a power strip. And keep any other devices from being plugged into the same outlet as the space heater. These tips will lessen the risk of an electrical accident.
And, of course, one of the most important rules to follow when talking about portable space heaters regardless of their fuel is to never leave one on and unattended. They should only be on when they are being used and are within eyesight.
Furnaces are the most common devices used to heat homes in North America and for good reason. They work remarkably well and are effective means of keeping a whole house at a consistent and warm temperature even in the dead of winter. But with all that power comes some danger if one doesn’t take precautions. Furnaces run hot and anything that generates that much heat has the potential to start a fire.
A large portion of accidents involving gas furnaces are simply caused by faulty or malfunctioning parts. While it usually varies on an individual basis, there have been cases where furnace hazards were caused by errors attributed to the manufacturer. Older furnaces that do not comply with current standard safety codes may also pose a higher risk due to their earlier technology. Another cause is insufficient combustion air around the furnace. In general, failing to follow the instructions provided by the furnace manufacturer can also cause accidents. What this all means is that the best thing you can do to prevent a fire caused by your furnace is to have it checked on and tuned up regularly. By keeping your furnace in tip top shape, you reduce the chance of something going wrong and causing an accident.
As for what you can do right now to make sure your furnace is as safe as possible, check the space that the furnace is in. It should be clear of flammable materials. That means that ideally there is at least three feet of space all around the furnace that doesn’t have paper, furniture, or clothes in it. The room the furnace is in needs to be well ventilated too, unless it is an electric furnace. When too much natural gas is leaked into the air, it quickly builds up. Since it is a very volatile substance, it can easily explode and cause a fire in the home. Gas furnaces need ventilation in order to prevent the buildup of flammable gas.
Fire Prevention and Heating Repair in Austin
To summarize, there are dangers involved in the use of any heat generating devices. Most house fires happen during the winter months and that is no coincidence. The more often you’re using heaters to warm your home the more likely it is that an accident can occur. Fortunately there are simple habits and tips that can keep you as safe as possible and prevent a fire from breaking out. One of the most important things to remember is to keep heaters in spaces that are free from flammable materials. Another is to make sure fireplaces and space heaters are never left unattended and are out of reach of children.
Overall, you can do things to keep your house safer when it comes to fire hazards. The smoke alarm is an important device in your home. It should be kept well charged and tested regularly. Central home heating systems like furnaces, boilers, and heat pumps should be tuned up and checked on a regular basis. Once or twice a year these devices should be thoroughly looked at by a professional Austin heater repair technician so that one can be assured that there is no malfunction or faulty part that could easily be the cause of a fire. Follow these simple rules and guidelines and you can use heaters without worry.
And if you ever find yourself in a position where your heater isn’t working like it should, or just plain breaks down completely, consider AC Express for your heater repair in Austin. AC Express does heating in Austin and we operate all across the area from Buda and Kyle to Round Rock and Georgetown. If you ever need Austin heating repair, call today!
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