Winter Heating Safety Tips: How to Warm Up Without Burning Down the House

Along with regular maintenance of fireplaces and furnaces, make sure to check your smoke alarms.

Be safe by ensuring you have chimneys, fireplaces and furnaces regularly maintained. File|Patch
Be safe by ensuring you have chimneys, fireplaces and furnaces regularly maintained. File|Patch

With temperatures plummeting, it's a good time to review these home-heating safety tips on space heaters, fireplaces and furnaces offered by the Maryland State Fire Marshal's office and the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department.

Electric Space Heaters

• Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories.

• Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.

• Heaters are not dryers or tables; don't dry clothes or store objects on top of your heater. 

• Space heaters need space; keep combustible materials at least three feet away from each heater.

• Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use. 

Turn off at night or whenever you sleep. Never use an extension cord with space heaters - plug directly into wall socket.

Using a kerosene heater? Never refuel indoors. Remove the kerosene heater outdoors, turn off and wait for it to cool down before refueling and only use the correct type of fuel.

General Heating Tips     

•    Furnaces, fireplaces and chimneys should be cleaned and checked each year by an appropriate professional prior to using. Clear away any clutter from these heating devices, at least 3 feet away.

•    Only use seasoned wood in fireplaces, never use ignitable liquids to start a fire and do not overload your appliance.

•    The 3-foot rule also applies to furnaces and fireplaces. No combustible items within 3 feet of these heating appliances.

•    Dispose of fireplace ash into a metal container and store outdoors away from structures on a concrete surface. Fireplace ash can ignite a fire days after it has been discarded.

•    Have your furnace inspected and serviced annually.

Along with these heating tips, check to make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are working by pushing the test button on the front cover. If you do not hear an audible warning, replace your alarm with a new 10-year, tamper proof, with hush feature alarm. Having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire.

A working CO detector will protect you and your family from deadly "silent killer" fumes that may be building up in your home. Remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family. 

Fireplace Safety

  • Ensure chimneys are cleaned annually or more frequently if used as the primary heating equipment.
  • Use properly sized fireplace screens or enclosures. Never use a flammable liquid to start a fire.
  • When disposing of cooled ashes, do not use paper or plastic containers to remove them, instead use a metal container. Ashes will insulate hot embers long after the fire is considered out.
  • Make sure fuel burning stoves are installed according to local fire codes and manufacturer’s instructions.


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