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Keeping Warm: Home Heating Safety


When the winter temperatures drop, homeowners try to keep a balance between keeping their homes comfortably warm while not paying sky-high heating bills. Whether you heat your home with a heat pump, a forced air furnace, a hot water boiler, gas, propane, or oil, sometimes you crave a little extra warmth. If your home isn't energy efficient, it's even harder for your heating system to maintain the temperature set on thermostat.

Supplemental heat can be a smart way to improve the comfort level in your home, especially if your primary heat source isn't as efficient as you'd like. One of the most common ways is by using a wood burning fireplace. But as comforting as it is to sit in front of a warm fire, the problem is fireplaces aren't efficient at heating your entire home.

One way to improve the efficiency of a wood burning fireplace is to install glass doors. Once a fire is out, the heated air in the chimney can pull air from the room, causing your furnace to work harder. You can also install a reflective iron plate, called a fireback, at the back of your fireplace. This will help reflect the heat generated by the burning logs back into the room.

If you find your fireplace just isn't cutting it, look at installing a woodstove insert. Woodstoves contain the fire and are very efficient at heating not only the room where it's located but surrounding rooms in your home as well. Because it's contained, a woodstove fire will burn much longer than a fire in an open fireplace. 

Instead of a wood burning stove, you can install a pellet stove. Pellets are usually made of wood, but can also be made from corn kernels or nut shells. Pellet stoves tend to be more convenient to operate compared to a woodstove. You fill up the hopper with pellets, which are dropped into the combustion chamber to burn and maintain the temperature. Another benefit compared to woodstoves is the exterior of a pellet stove generally remains relatively cool, reducing the risk of accidental burns.

Portable heaters are another way to supplement the main heat source in your home. The most common type is the portable electric space heater. They can also be powered by propane, natural gas, or kerosene. Portable heaters are efficient when used to bring up the temperature in one room, and convenient when an individual is sensitive to cold such as the elderly. 

When using any kind of portable heater, safety precautions must be taken. More than 25,000 fires and over 300 deaths are associated with the use of space heaters every year in the U.S., as well as 6,000 people requiring emergency room care due to coming in contact with the hot surface of a portable heater.

Make sure your portable heater is a newer model that contains important safety features. When choosing a space heater, select one that is the correct size for the room where it will be used. The packaging should list the approximate square footage it will heat. When placing a space heater, put it in an area that is away from the traffic flow of the room, and avoid putting it too close to curtains, furniture, and other flammable materials. Plug it directly into a wall outlet rather than using an extension cord.

So when winter temperatures become too cold for comfort, opt for a supplemental heating source for your home. Whether you burn wood or pellets, or utilize a space heater, keep safety precautions in mind to keep your family warm and cozy until spring finally arrives.