During the winter months, it’s a good idea to have an alternative heat source in the event of a power outage. No one wants to spend their days or nights wrapped in blankets to stave off the frigid temperatures. In these circumstances, supplemental heat can prove invaluable. However, the downside of these heat sources is that they can be a fire hazard. So, you also check the following fire prevention tips to keep your home and family safe.
When the furnace or HVAC isn’t working, many homeowners rely on backup heat products such as wood stoves or kerosene heaters to provide warmth for their families. If you are considering using alternative or supplemental heating, learn these fire prevention tips to ensure your family’s safety.
Fire Prevention Tips for Using Alternative Heat Sources
Even though alternative heat sources can be beneficial, improper use can pose a fire hazard. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that supplemental heating or cooking equipment is the second leading cause of home fires during the winter months.
- Based on national averages, 81% of home heating fire deaths involved space heaters.
- About one-half of fire deaths were caused by heating equipment that was too close to flammable objects such as furniture or bedding.
- Approximately 48% of home heating fires occur from December through February.
According to the Red Cross, you should test your smoke alarms at least once a month. They also recommend having a fire escape plan that your family practices twice a year.
To further protect your home and family, take time to review these fire safety tips before using an alternative or supplemental heat source.
Wood stoves are a popular heating source because they provide radiant heat that warms an area quickly and efficiently. Compared to a fireplace, wood stoves provide three times more heat using less firewood. A wood stove works during power outages and is self-contained. Depending on the model of the stove, the top surface can also be used for cooking.
Before purchasing or using a wood stove, follow these tips for preventing home fires:
- Look for the Underwriters Laboratories label.
- Make sure the stove is made of steel or cast iron.
- Check for cracks or other defects.
- Be sure the woodstove meets NFPA installation standards.
- Stovepipes must not pass through interior walls, floors, or ceilings.
- Wood stove chimneys must be factory-built, UL-approved masonry or metal.
- Chimneys should have a flue that is separate from other heating appliances.
Wood stoves should be placed on a fire-resistant base with enough clearance between them and any combustible materials. A qualified person should inspect the chimney before the wood stove is used. You should burn only well-seasoned wood and be sure to open a window slightly to provide ventilation. Ash from the stove should be disposed of outside in a metal container. Also, never start a fire in the unit using flammable fluids such as gasoline or kerosene.
Like wood stoves, kerosene heaters can provide warmth for your family during power outages. However, these products require the use of flammable fluids that present a fire hazard if not used correctly.
Follow these fire prevention tips before buying or operating a kerosene heater:
- Only use a kerosene heater that has the UL seal of approval.
- Get a unit with a battery-operated lighting device to eliminate the need for matches.
- The heater should have a safety shutoff device in case the unit is tipped over.
- Use only 1-K grade kerosene in the unit.
- Clean the wick regularly (at least once a week).
- Don’t move the heater while it is burning or hot.
- Keep the unit at least 3 feet from flammable items.
- Turn off the heater when unattended.
- Don’t refuel the heater indoors or when the unit is still hot.
- Never smoke while refueling the heater.
Kerosene heaters come in two types: radiant and convective. A radiant heater is rectangular in shape and designed for small areas. Convective heaters are circular and are more suitable for large areas.
If you use or plan to use a space heater to help warm your home, keep in mind that not all of them are safe.
Before purchasing or using a space heater, make sure you know these fire prevention tips:
- Only use space heaters that have the UL label.
- Make sure the unit has an automatic shut-off feature and heating element guards.
- Heaters with a thermostat control are more efficient.
- Use the sizing table to select the proper size for the area you want to heat.
- Don’t place the unit on furniture such as tables or desks.
- Only use space heaters in bathrooms that are specifically certified for moist areas.
- Avoid using extension cords unless absolutely necessary.
- Keep flammable items 3 feet away from the heater.
- Turn off the unit when unattended.
- Never place the cord under a rug or carpet.
- Don’t store flammable products in the same room where the heater is used.
- Make sure the insulation and wires are not frayed or broken.
When using any alternative or supplemental heat sources, keep children and pets away from the unit to prevent severe burns. Also, read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions and inspect the unit carefully before using it.
Understand Your Homeowner’s Insurance Fire Coverage
Before the coldest winter months arrive, take the time to check your homeowner’s insurance policy. Some policies may not cover all types of fire damage. Additionally, you want to ensure you have adequate liability limits in case of a fire in your home.
We hope these fire prevention tips will help you avoid disaster while keeping your family warm and cozy this winter.
If you have questions about fire insurance coverage, contact Sandifer Insurance Agency by phone, email, or online. We will be happy to assess your current policy or assist you in obtaining the best homeowner’s policy for your needs.
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