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Home Heating Safety

12 Rules for Home Heating Safety

1. In 2002, 68 percent of home heating fires involved fireplaces, space heaters and chimneys, according to the latest figures available from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

2. Of the 220 fatalities associated with home heating fires – 85 percent were associated with alternative heating sources. The 85 percent breaks down to include 46 percent for portable space heaters, 28 percent for woodstoves and other fixed space heaters, and 11 percent for fireplaces and chimneys.

3. Residential energy use is expected to increase by 9 percent by 2010 largely due to population growth and technology improvement (Alliance to Save Energy).

4. Use space heaters only as a supplementary source of heat. These devices are not intended to replace the home’s heating system. Keep all space heaters at least 3 feet away from household combustibles. Install smoke alarms to warn of a fire, but also have carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in the home to warn about faulty furnace, fireplace and oven flues or any other venting problems.

5. Select heating equipment that bears the UL Mark. The UL Mark on a product means that UL engineers have tested representative samples of the product for foreseeable safety hazards.

6. Install and maintain heating equipment correctly, and be sure it complies with local fire and building codes. Have local building or certified maintenance and repair technicians check and clean your heating system once a year.

7. Have your chimney inspected by a professional heating technician prior to the start of every heating season and have it cleaned if necessary. Creosote, a chemical substance that forms when wood burns, builds up in chimneys and can cause a chimney fire if not removed.

8. Always protect your family and home by using a sturdy fireplace screen in front of a fire.

9. Remember to burn only wood -- never burn paper or pine boughs, which can float out the chimney and ignite your roof or a neighboring home. Do not use flammable liquids in a fireplace.

10. If you are purchasing a factory built fireplace, select one that is UL Listed and have it properly installed according to local codes.

11. Do not start fires in your fireplace if the area around the fireplace and mantle are decorated with stockings or other combustible decorations.

Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) is an independent product safety certification organization that has been testing products and writing Standards for Safety for over a century. UL evaluates more than 19,000 types of products, components, materials and systems annually with 21 billion UL Marks appearing on 72,000 manufacturers' products each year. UL's worldwide family ofcompanies and network of service providers includes 62 laboratory,testing and certification facilities serving customers in 99 countries.

Heating Systems

All heating systems should be serviced and inspected before the heating season begins. This inspection needs to include the entire system, from intake to exhaust. With the increase of heating fuel costs this year there will be a return of supplemental heating systems that we haven’t seen in a number of years. Fireplaces, wood burners and even kerosene heaters will be used to try and offset the high cost of heating a house. Urge occupants to follow all manufacturers’ instructions and to keep all combustible materials at least three feet from these devices. Even if the heating systems are serviced and well maintained, there is still a risk of a mechanical failure or accident that can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Installing carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping rooms is essential in all houses that use a fossil fuel for heating purposes, even for only a short term use.


The winter months also seem to bring an increase in candle fires. According to the NFPA, candles cause an estimated 15,600 fires in residential structures and 150 deaths each year. More than half of all candle fires start because the candle is too close to combustible material, especially in the bedroom. In fact, half of all residential fire deaths occur between Midnight and 6 AM. How many times have we found candles burning unattended in bedrooms – or too close to those things that burn?

December is the peak month for candle fires and Christmas Day is the peak day! The other top days for candle fires just happen to be in the colder months – and include Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Halloween. The majority of candle fires result from human error and negligence. Whatever the reason is for the use of candles, the best advice is to prohibit the use altogether. If that isn’t possible, utilize landlords to educate the tenants about the proper use. These include using a sturdy metal or glass holder and NEVER leave burning candles unattended.

And don’t forget to test your smoke alarms!