NORTHBROOK, Ill., Jan., 13, 2010 -- Numb's the word on the street. The Farmers' Almanac tells us that brutally cold temperatures are only going to dip lower in the next few months. As households grapple with high heating costs, families need to be especially careful to make sure they don't get burned when creating home heating hot spots to save a few dollars.
According to Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the leading independent safety testing organization, alternative heating sources like space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves can present hazards if not used correctly. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that heating equipment is involved in an estimated 64,100 home fires each year.
"Even though the economy still has families in a budget-conscious state of mind, they shouldn't disregard safety when using alternative heating sources, or let a few dollars keep them from paying attention to necessary maintenance on a furnace or chimney," says John Drengenberg, director of Consumer Safety for UL. "If used correctly, space heaters, electric blankets, fireplaces and wood stoves make great alternatives that can help keep you warm."
UL wants your family to prevent potential home heating mishaps by following its safety tips for home heating hot spots:
Hot Zone: Space Heaters
If using space heaters, UL suggests consumers do so with extreme caution: 73 percent of all fires and 43 percent of all injuries related to home heating result from improper use of these products.1
- All heaters need space. Keep items that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least three feet away from heating equipment.
- Always turn space heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed, and never place them in an area where a child is sleeping.
- Look for the UL Mark when purchasing a space heater, which means it has been tested for safety and includes protective features to lessen the risk of burn or fire hazards.
Hot Zone: Fireplaces
Think it's safe and easy to gently warm the home by starting a small fire in the fireplace? Think again. Unfortunately, failure to clean a chimney or flue is the leading cause of all home heating equipment fires combined.1
- Maintain the chimney and flue by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a trained professional.
- Use a sturdy fireplace screen to prevent sparks from flying into the home.
- Be alert to the danger signs that signal a carbon monoxide (CO) problem such as the absence of a draft in your chimney, soot falling into the fireplace, or small amounts of water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent or flue.
Hot Zone: Wood Stoves
It is important to exercise care while using wood-burning stoves. Recent reports show they account for nearly 4,900 injuries reported to hospital emergency rooms each season.1
- Keep wood stove doors closed unless loading or stoking the fire.
- Install wood stove chimney connectors following manufacturer's instructions or have a professional handle the job, as many injuries are the result of improper installation.
Hot Zone: Staying Safe and Warm...
In addition to the above home heating equipment tips, follow these additional tips to keep your family out of the "hot zones":
- Only use heating equipment that has been tested for safety. Products that bear the UL Mark have been tested to UL's stringent safety standards and found to be free of foreseeable hazards.
- Never use cooking stoves, grills or ovens to heat the home. They could potentially be a fire hazard or cause CO poisoning.
Finally, Drengenberg has one final, practical way to stay warm and be safe. "Help keep warm air moving through your home by putting your ceiling fan on reverse. Fans are set for summer weather so when reversed, will push warm air downward. It's ready for winter when you look up and the blades are turning clockwise."
Learn more about how to keep your family safe from potential hazards caused by alternative home heating methods by visiting www.ul.com/consumers.
1 National Fire Protection Association