Looking Out for Your Home: Heating Safety

In 2011, according to the National Fire Protection Association, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 53,600 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 400 deaths, 1,520 injuries, and $893 million in direct property damage. These fires accounted for 14% of all reported home fires. And these numbers rise with exceptional the brutal and further-reaching winters seen in more recent years. Here are some tips to keep in mind when heating your home to avoid home fires.

Fireplace DangersHeating Safety, TJ Woods Insurance Agency, Worcester, MA

Nothing is better on a cold winter night than a roaring fire, however that fire needs to be treated with respect. Make sure you have a metal screen in front of the fireplace, both to catch stray embers that can pop out of the fire, but also to act as a barrier to children, pets, and combustible materials from getting too close to the fire.

Chimney Dangers

A chimney has one major point of weakness: the formation of creosote. This residue contains particles of unburnt wood, wood gas, moisture, hydrocarbons, and carbon from smoke. While a small amount of creosote exists in all chimneys, it can build up over the years to critical levels, then igniting in a chimney fire. These chimney fires can happen without you even noticing: if you hear loud crackling and popping from above the fire, intense heat, or dense smoke coming up from the chimney, you might be having a chimney fire. Not only can a chimney fire start fires on the roof, it can also damage the chimney, which can cause future fires and smoke damage.

Wood Stove Dangers

A wood stove can suffer the same problems as a fireplace chimney, but also a much more dangerous problem: carbon dioxide poisoning. While a fireplace is something that is active and watched, wood stoves are a main source of heating and left unattended, including overnight. A properly installed stove should never give off the smell of wood smoke when closed: if it does, stop using the stove. A carbon dioxide detector is a vital pairing with a wood stove, as an improperly drawing stove can cause dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide—even without the smell of smoke.

Furnace Dangers

Furnaces, including heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) units, are complex machines and need to be serviced regularly. Without maintenance, these machines can operate poorly (costing you money), shut down completely, or worse: work while leaking fuel. Oil and natural gas leaks release harmful chemicals into the air, which are not only flammable, but also toxic. These fumes can also collect in the attic of homes, creating deadly and unbreathable pockets.

Space Heater Dangers

Out of all the home heating fire dangers, space heaters get the most attention. Stories are common of people leaving them on overnight next to flammable objects, only to awaken to a roaring fire. These electric heaters come in many shapes and sizes, some more dangerous than others. Keep units away from surfaces and objects that could catch fire, and do not leave them on overnight. Never touch the vent or heating surface of an active or recently turned off space heater.

There are few things worse than a house fire. Even small fires lead to home damage from fire and smoke, and larger fires can completely destroy a house and all your belongings, not to mention to loss of life associated with both. Besides active maintenance and prevention, it’s important to insure your home against fire damages, so if they do occur, you have the funds to get your home repaired. Please reach out to us at TJ Woods Insurance Agency to talk to us about Homeowner Insurance coverage.