It’s easy to forget about the dangers of heating when you rely on your heater to stay comfortable in the fall and winter. In our modern world with our modern appliances we want nothing more than to reap the benefits of the technology in our homes that we pay good money for without having to think about them. The problem this poses is a problem that human kind has been wrestling with since we first discovered fire; as helpful as producing heat is, fire is dangerous when left unchecked.
There are a lot of things going on with your Austin heating system when it’s doing its job. Depending on whether you’ve got a furnace, a boiler, a heat pump, a fire place, a space heater, etcetera, there are gases, fires, extreme heat, and other factors involved that can be dangerous and with a small accident can pose a threat to the safety of you, the other members of your household, and the house itself. This tip is dedicated to providing you with a number of tips that will help you keep your home safe from potential accidents that can occur due to the things you use to heat your home.
First, before we dive into the actual safety tips, let’s take a quick look at why they’re necessary. First of all, the biggest statistic of importance here is that half of all deaths caused by fire in the home in the US are caused by heating equipment. That’s a number that we can’t ignore. It’s not a likely cause of death for anyone but for those rare times when a terrible accident happens, heating equipment is often the cause.
And furthermore, half of the house fires that are started by home heating equipment happen in December, January, and February. This makes sense, as these are the months that heaters are going to be used most often in. But that means that now is the perfect time to gather knowledge about how to protect oneself from such fire hazards as the season for them is coming up soon.
To add to these statistics with some hard numbers, from 2010 to 2012, an average of 45,200 home heating fires occurred in the United States each year. These fires caused an annual average of approximately 155 deaths, 625 injuries and $351 million in property loss. The only thing that starts fires in homes more often is cooking. Some of these fires would have been fairly easy to prevent too. It’s said that twenty-nine percent of the non-confined home heating fires, fires that spread past the object of origin, happened because the heat source (like a space heater or fire place) was too close to things that can burn. As far as specific times one is more likely to be victim to a house fire, heating fires peak in the early evening hours between 5 and 9 p.m. with the highest peak between 6 and 8 p.m. This four-hour period accounted for 30 percent of all home heating fires. As one would expect, there is a direct correlation between how cold it is outside and how often heating related fires occur with heating fires peaking in January (21 percent) and declining to the lowest point from June to August.
General Heating Safety Tips
Before we dive into specifics about how to safely use whatever home heating equipment and systems you have, be it a fireplace, a space heater, a furnace, or a combination of several, let’s look at some basic safety tips that anyone can use to help make their home more fire accident resistant.
The first rule is very simple, the three feet rule. This rule states that anything flammable should be kept at least three feet out of reach of all heating equipment. This means that there should be an area around your furnace, boiler, or heat pump, fireplace, and space heater that is free of anything made of a cloth, linen, paper, or anything else that can easy catch on fire with enough heat. And, for those with small children, this three feet zone should also be a kids free zone. That means for heating equipment that’s out in the open like fireplaces and space heaters, there should be something to protect small children from getting too close and burning themselves.
Some general heating safety tips seem a lot like common sense but are worth being reminded of nevertheless especially if you want to be thorough. For example, never leave candles burning unattended. In fact, never leave any fire burning unattended. This means it is very important to turn off fireplaces, stoves, space heaters, and ovens every time you leave the house and every time you go to bed. Speaking of ovens, it is also never a good idea to use an oven to help heat your home even during especially cold days.
One of the greatest protections you have when it comes to fire safety is your smoke alarms. That’s why they’re required by law, because of all the lives they save. They can detect fires before they become uncontrollable and destructive much sooner than an average person can. Because of this, they need to be tested regularly. Ideally, you should be testing your fire alarms once a month, and this is doubly important during the fall and winter when home heating fires are more likely to occur.
Heaters that are plugged into wall sockets like space heaters and portable radiators should be limited to one power outlet per heater. In addition, one of the dangers that some heaters pose is not just fire but also gas, carbon monoxide especially. That’s why it is a good idea to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home and test it regularly. Carbon monoxide is undetectable to the human nose, nor is it visible, so you have to rely on a carbon monoxide detector in order to know when there’s a leak and to be able to safely avoid its danger.
This is a section many of you will want to pay attention to because furnaces are by and large the most common heating system that homeowners in America use to heat their homes. For many of us in Austin who are used to relatively mild winters and don’t need extra help heating our homes in the form of fireplaces and space heaters, our furnaces still require our attention when it comes to decreasing our chances of a home fire and other dangers posed by heaters.
Before the fall turns into winter and our furnaces stay running for the most of the day, a preseason routine maintenance check is an essential part of your furnace care. There are numerous reasons why a yearly maintenance check for your furnace is a great idea, from potential increases in efficiency to catching problems early before they cause system-wide failures. But one reason we haven’t gone over before is that it is a great way to ensure your furnace is as safe as possible when it’s running. A preventative maintenance check by a qualified professional technician will ensure that all connections, wiring and electrical components are safe for operation.
Also make sure that your furnace usage follows the three feet rule. There should be around three feet of space in every direction around your furnace that is free from anything combustible. This includes cardboard boxes, certain chemicals, bug spray, towels, and anything else that can easily burn with too much heat. In addition to having your furnace itself inspected prior to the cold season, it is also just as important to be sure all furnace controls and emergency shutoffs are in proper working condition. This, in addition to the maintenance check, should be done by a professional. Also make sure the walls around your furnace are inspected for excess heat or discoloration. This could be a sign that further pipe insulation is needed. Any repair or inspection that your furnace requires should be left to those with the proper training and not attempted by oneself. The money saved by doing such important safety tasks is not worth the potential for error that can end up costing you dearly when things go wrong.
Space Heater and Fireplace Safety
Space heaters are a great way to add to one’s comfort and control directly the temperature of the room you’re in so that you don’t have to run your central heating system as hot. But space heaters can be dangerous as well. Space heaters require regular attention while in use, which is why they should never be left on and unattended. The maximum temperature of the unit should be regulated and all materials should be kept at least three feet away from the unit. Bear in mind that space heaters account for approximately one-third of home heating fires and 80 percent of home heating-related deaths every year. Never forget to turn off portable heaters when leaving the house or going to bed. By the time you return or awaken, a fire may have begun, incurring both damage and danger.
You need to make sure that your heater is in good condition before committing it to use. Inspect the exhaust ports for carbon build up and make sure that the emergency shut off switch works as expected so that it can be used reliably in the event that the heater is knocked over or something flammable falls near it. Make sure the room you’re using it in is well ventilated whenever you’re using a fuel burning space heater such as a kerosene heater otherwise you could be breathing in dangerous gases. As far as fireplaces go, if you follow a few simple precautions, the chances of the fire spreading or any other fireplace accidents will go down significantly. First of all, never burn charcoal in your fireplace. Charcoal gives off potentially lethal amounts of carbon monoxide and should therefore only be used outside. Keep a glass or metal screen in front of the fireplace opening, to prevent embers or sparks from jumping out, unwanted material from going in, and help prevent the possibility of burns to occupants. Also, have the chimney inspected annually and cleaned if necessary, especially if it has not been used for some time.
Heating Safety and Heating Repair in Austin
One of the most important things you can do regarding your heating system is to check it for safety measures. Home fires are tragedy that strikes when no one is expecting it, meaning that the best way to prevent them is to develop precautions and good habits that ensure that your usage of your home heating equipment is as safe as possible. Regardless of what you use for your heating in Austin during the fall and winter, you should take some time to make sure you’re using this equipment safely and responsibly.
A broken heater is a dangerous heater. Don’t wait when it comes time to repair your furnace or heat pump. AC Express is an Austin heater repair that operates all over the Austin area, from Hutto and Manor to Leander and Liberty Hill. If you need heater repair in Austin, you can count on us for excellent service at reasonable prices. Call today!