Safety Message on Alternate Home Heating Sources

January 6, 2011 Updated Jan 6, 2011 at 2:03 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Safety Message on Alternate Home Heating Sources

January 6, 2011 Updated Jan 6, 2011 at 2:03 PM EDT

NEW YORK – WKBW-TV-
The high cost of home heating fuels and utilities has caused many Americans to search for alternative home heating sources such as wood burning stoves, space heaters, and fireplaces to heat their homes, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. More than one-quarter of fires result from improper maintenance, and specifically, the failure to clean this type of equipment. So, the Firemen’s Association of the State of NY (FASNY) is reminding residents to take precautions during these cold winter months. Heating is one of the leading causes of residential fires.

“Similar to last winter, we see some homeowners turning to potentially dangerous methods to heat their houses due to the economic downturn,” said FASNY President David Jacobowitz. “While the use of space heaters and fireplaces is acceptable, safety guidelines must be followed. For example, never use an extension cord to power up a portable space heater, and make sure the flue is open before using your fireplace.”

It’s also important to note that when using heating equipment fueled by fossil fuel, it must be vented properly because there is the potential for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, CO deaths have been on the rise since 1999.

FASNY offers these safety tips when using the following:
Portable space heaters:
Never leave a portable space heater in a room unattended, and always follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and maintenance.
Use space heaters for a limited time each day.
Never connect a space heater to an outlet with an extension cord.
Unplug the unit when not in use. Let it cool down prior to storing the unit.
Keep a window ajar or the door open in a room where an unvented heater is in use.
Never use heaters to dry clothing or other combustibles.

Fireplaces:
Make sure the flue is open before using a fireplace for the first time this season.
Remove any and all obstructions from your chimney. Obstructions will cause carbon monoxide to back up into your home.
Never leave a fireplace unattended.
Chimneys and vents should be inspected and cleaned annually.
Take care when stoking a fire. Do not burn newspapers or trash in a fireplace - doing so may ignite a chimney fire or send flaming embers into your home, causing fire.

Gas or Electric Furnaces:
Check for a build-up of dust and dirt on heating elements for gas or electric furnaces. When turned on for the first time this season, there may be a burning smell and/or a light haze of smoke may occur. Neither the smell nor the smoke are harmful and will completely burn away after a few uses.
However, if smoke emanating from the furnace turns black and the furnace starts to rumble, leave the building immediately, and call your local fire department.
All heating units should be tuned up by a professional certified technician. Regular inspections and cleanings of your heating system help to ensure maximum efficiency during the winter months.

Coal and Wood Burning Stoves:
Use coal only if specifically approved by the stove manufacturer. Gasoline or other flammable liquids should never be used to start a wood fire.

Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors:
Test your home smoke alarms at least once per month. Do this by pressing the “test” button on the unit.
If your detectors are battery operated, check the batteries often to make sure the units are operational.
If you do not have one already installed, install a carbon monoxide detector to detect production of potentially lethal carbon monoxide by gas fireplaces, gas stoves, barbecues, gas furnaces.
Use Daylight Saving Time as a bi-annual reminder to change your smoke detector and CO detector batteries twice a year.

For additional tips, visit the National Fire Protection Association’s website at www.nfpa.org.