With the heating season well under way in southwest Ohio, if you haven’t already done it, now’s a good time to review home fire safety, especially as it pertains to home heating. A high percentage of residential fires every year are caused by, or related to, home heating.
According to a National Fire Protection Association report issued in October 2019, between 2013 and 2017 fire departments in this country responded to an average of 354,400 home structure fires each year. These fires resulted in an annual average of 2,620 civilian deaths; 11,220 fire injuries to civilians; and $6.9 billion in property damage. Some 14 percent of those fires – nearly 50,000 per year – were related to home heating.
Common heating systems most likely to be the culprit in residential fires are combustion furnaces, wood stoves and boilers. That’s why it’s crucially important to schedule annual professional maintenance on your home’s heating system. A trusted HVAC technician will carefully and comprehensively inspect your furnace, boiler, heat pump or baseboard system, making sure that each part is working properly. Special attention will be paid to electrical systems, gas lines, ignition components, burners and exhaust systems. If your heating system is old or defective, they may suggest upgrading to a safer system.
Other Tips for Fire Safety and Home Heating
Many homeowners use space heaters to provide supplemental heating in rooms or areas that the central heating system doesn’t adequately heat. Often this happens in finished basements of one-thermostat homes. When the thermostat on the main floor turns off the heating, the basement may still be cold. However, finished basements sometimes aren’t frequented as often as other parts of the house, so a space heater left on in that area may inadvertently run for a lengthy period without anyone checking on it.
Monitor the operation of space heaters wherever they’re used in the home, and don’t leave them on when a room or floor has been vacated. Don’t leave them in places where children or pets might accidentally knock them over or walk into the cord, and don’t set them near flammable objects. While many space heater brands have automatic shut-offs if they’re knocked over, you shouldn’t depend on that protection. Throw away space heaters with damaged cords or other defects.
If you use a fireplace or wood stove in your home, don’t forget to have it inspected annually, ideally before the heating season. Many older homes have fireplace liners that are cracked or have mortar that’s chipped off between sections. If this happens with your fireplace, hazardous fumes or flames might escape, endangering your home and family. Always make sure you throw away warm fireplace ashes away from your home or any other flammable structure or object.
These are some of the main tips to maximize fire safety related to heating systems in the home, but don’t forget that fires can happen as a result of other functions within the home as well. In fact, according to the aforementioned NFPA report, most home fires in the United States between 2013 and 2017 – some 49 percent – were related to cooking. Heating, with its 14 percent, placed a distance second.