“Keeping your distance” has kind of been the mantra for the year 2020. Back in the summer we noted on a Facebook post that another type of “distancing” guideline applied for outdoor grilling.
That is what we will call the “Rule of Three Feet.”
Well it’s colder now, and if you haven’t already, you’ll be looking for ways to keep your home warm and cozy soon. That’s why this season happens to be the most dangerous when it comes to home fires. So, before we go anywhere, we’ll reiterate and expand on that theme we presented during the summer:
When it comes to heating your home for the winter, always keep children and pets as well as any loose, flammable materials at least three feet away from all sources of heat, especially those where flames are present.
Beyond that, there are a few rules of thumb which apply universally to all sources of indoor heat. Do these things, and you’ll promote safety, save on heating bills, and maximize that efficiency of heating your home:
- Follow local codes first and foremost. Check with your local fire department.
- Read all manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels before use of any device to heat your home.
- Never leave the heat source unattended.
- Never leave it switched on or burning when you go to bed for the night.
Having said that, we want to point out a few guidelines to follow, specific to different types of heating devices.
Portable Space Heaters
- Get a heater with an automatic shut-off so if it tips over, it turns off.
- Space heaters should never be used to dry anything, or to heat anything other than the air in the room.
- Be aware of the surface beneath the heater and its proximity to the heater itself. Never place the heater directly on the carpet, upholstered furniture or on an unsteady table.
- Do not plug it into an extension cord whenever possible. Plugging the heater directly into the outlet reduces risk of over-heating, short-circuiting, etc.
- Always unplug it after use.
- Have your chimney cleaned or at least checked annually by a professional.
- Regularly check your chimney for bird or animal nests which could block the smoke, or even ignite.
- Use wood that’s been dried for a year to minimize smoke.
- Do not leave lighters, matches or other igniting materials in easily accessible places if you have children in the house.
- When cleaning out the ashes from your fireplace, place them in a metal container and take them outside. Preferably in the snow.
- Observe the minimum required clearance between the front, back, bottom, top and sides of your stove and anything combustible. Or install a heat shield on all nearby combustible surfaces.
- Keep the ventilation system which leads to your chimney well maintained. Ninety percent of stove fires originate in the ventilation system.
- Like with the fireplace, place ashes in a metal container and take them outside.
- Do not start the fire in a wood stove with flammable liquids.
- While all kitchens should contain a fire extinguisher, it is an unspeakably good idea when using a gas stove.
- Have a carbon monoxide detector, as gas stoves emit carbon monoxide more than other cooking/heating methods. Remember you can’t smell or see carbon monoxide so without a carbon monoxide detector the only way you’d be aware of it is if you begin noticing the symptoms (dizziness, headaches, nausea, etc.) Please catch it before that happens.
- You can smell gas though, and if you do while using your gas stove, turn it off immediately and do not use it again until you’ve confirmed the leak is fixed.
- Always fill the tank outdoors.
- Do not over-fill the tank.
- Do not use fuel that is not approved for the type of stove that you have. (Again, see manufacturer’s instructions)
- The wick should never be more than ¼ of an inch long, to minimize the flame.
- Place and stabilize the candles where you want them before lighting them.
- Place them far away from Christmas decorations, tinsel, ribbon, wrapping paper, etc.
- Place candles on metal holders to catch dripping wax.
- NEVER use a candle to light your way when checking on or fueling gas appliances.
- Never use your oven to heat the house. While tempting to save on heating bills, leaving your oven on with its door open for long periods of time leaves you susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- AND you risk falling asleep with it on, furthering your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, but also starting a fire.
- It is a highly inefficient method of heating your living space because it does not circulate the heated air.
- With the increased frequency of use of your oven for cooking in the winter, however, a warm kitchen tends to be a biproduct. And of course there are many other benefits to increasing the frequency of home-cooked meals, nutritionally and financially speaking. You might say this is the key to staying healthy, wealthy, warm, and wise over the winter.
The cold is here, whether we like it or not. We can’t fight that, but we can safely provide ourselves and our families with a warm place to hunker down in. Take care. Enjoy the changing of the season, and have a wonderful holiday, too.