When the weather turns cold, we close up the house tight and crank up the heat. There’s nothing wrong with this, but there are some added dangers we incur as we try to stay warm.
Heating systems can be sources of carbon monoxide poisoning, and house fires. These deadly threats often sneak up on us due to improper maintenance or faulty equipment that go undetected during the warm-weather months of the year.
Here are some tips for staying safe this winter, from the experts at Energy Outreach Colorado:
- Install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector near bedrooms to warn of dangerous build-ups because CO can’t be detected by smell, taste or sight. Build ups can occur when fuels such as natural gas, kerosene, wood or gasoline don’t have enough oxygen to burn efficiently.
- Make sure heating vents are not blocked and the furnace is cleaned and maintained to ensure efficient heat flow throughout your house. Change furnace filters once every two months and do not store flammable liquids in the same room.
- With a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney inspected and cleaned annually and use a sturdy fireplace screen. Do not burn trash because it can burn too quickly.
- Check that power and extension cords are certified by an independent testing laboratory and aren’t frayed, cracked or cut, which could create a fire danger. Follow the rating for indoor or outdoor use.
- With candles, use sturdy, safe candleholders that can collect dripping wax. Keep them away from children and anything that can ignite, such as clothing, books, paper, curtains and flammable liquids. Blow them out when you leave the room or go to sleep.
- Make sure your portable electric space heater is certified by a nationally recognized laboratory (US, CSA or ETL) and has an automatic shut-off feature that activates if tipped over. Place is on a hard, level and nonflammable surface and at least 3 feet from anything that can burn.
- Keep firefighting materials on-hand, including dry powder fire extinguishers, a tarp or heavy blanket, sand, salt, baking soda and water.
- Don’t thaw frozen pipes with a blow torch or other open flame. Use warm water or a UL rated hand-held blow dryer.
You should also have your heating system and fireplace/chimney checked out by a pro before each winter, (or now if you haven’t already). There can be hidden dangers lurking.