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Heating and Air Conditioning Safety

According to the United States Fire Administration, more than one in five house fires are started by free-standing heating structures. Items such as wood or kerosene burning stoves, plug-in heating units, ceramic space heaters and plug-in heating blankets are exponential fire risks if not used with caution and care.


Your furnace should be checked regularly by a professional. If it utilizes natural gas, the flame should burn bright, be steady blue in color and should never come outside of the furnace. If you hear or smell a gas leak from your furnace lines or stove, evacuate the house and use a phone outside the house to call 911.


Fireplace chimneys regularly build up creosote, or soot (a buildup of natural carbon), that can ignite. Chimneys need to be cleaned regularly, either with special cleaning “logs” or by a professional. Never burn green wood or paper, because they are difficult to control, give off lots of smoke and release large amounts of creosote. Always use a fireplace screen. Make sure you have one that is dense enough to catch flying sparks and heavy enough to catch rolling logs, and always large enough to cover the entire fireplace opening.

Wood Stoves:

Make sure to inspect your stovepipe and chamber on a regular basis and before using it, if it only gets used periodically. Be sure to check with the town and local fire authority to be sure of the laws and precautions on owning a wood stove. And never use an oven or stove to help heat your home.

Space Heaters:

Only use heaters with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) safety listing. Make sure to read all materials that came with your heater and follow all precautions. The heater should always be placed on the floor, a minimum of 2 foot radius from all obstructions including walls and always out of high traffic areas. Never put anything on top of your space heater. Never leave the heater unattended or with unsupervised children. Electric heaters should never be left unsupervised and always away from where young children can touch it or knock it over. Kerosene heaters should always be turned off when you go to bed or leave the house. And use only K-1 grade kerosene in your kerosene heater – never gasoline or camp stove fuel, which gives off life-threatening, harmful fumes.

Carbon Monoxide:

Along with fire, another potential danger of home heating is carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have any appliances or equipment that burn fuel such as propane or natural gas, fuel oil, kerosene, wood, coal, pellets, etc., you should install a carbon monoxide detector.

Smoke Detectors:

Smoke detectors save lives. Install a smoke alarm outside each sleeping area and on each additional level of your home, if one isn’t installed already. Almost all home builders are required to install a minimum number before selling a home, by law. Use the test button to check each smoke alarm once a month. Keep new batteries on hand and replace batteries immediately. Replace all batteries at least once a year.

Fire Extinguishers:

Consider having one or more working fire extinguishers in your home. Look at the fire extinguisher to ensure it is properly charged. Use the gauge or test button to check proper pressure. If the unit is low on pressure, damaged, or corroded, have it professionally serviced. Only adults should handle and use extinguishers.

Electrical Outlets:

Don’t overload your outlets. Use surge protectors if multiple outlets are needed and do not insert more than two plugs into one outlet. Never force a three-pronged plug into a two-pronged outlet or extension cord.