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When the weather begins to grow cold, individuals turn to supplemental forms of heat for a variety of reasons. The rising cost of home ownership as well as escalating fuel prices often set people on a search for the least expensive and most efficient ways to keep comfortable during the cold weather season. Space heaters, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are among the more common and popular supplemental heating sources.
The same heating sources that can be cost-effective and safe when used correctly can become hazardous when safety guidelines are not followed. The National Fire Prevention Association states that in 2010 heating equipment was involved in an estimated 57,100 reported home structure fires in the United States alone, resulting in 490 deaths, 1,540 injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. These fires accounted for 16 percent of all reported home fires.
In an effort to prevent property damage or loss of life, homeowners should follow the safety guidelines that come with a supplemental heating device. Also, simple steps can prevent fire and injury.
* Test smoke alarms monthly to ensure they are in proper working order. Should a malfunction of a heating appliance occur or a fire start, a smoke alarm could be your first indicator of a problem.
* Keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from any heating equipment, including a furnace, a wood stove, portable space heaters, or a fireplace.
* Consider the use of a gate or another obstruction to keep children and pets several feet away from a space heater or another appliance that can easily be knocked over.
* Never use fuel-burning appliances without proper room venting to the outdoors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Fuel includes everything from wood to gas to oil.
* Only use the fuel recommended by the product manufacturer.
* When making a fire in a stove or fireplace, never use flammable liquids to start or accelerate the fire.
* A wood-, pellet- or coal-burning stove should be burned very hot at least twice a day for about 30 minutes to reduce the creosote buildup in the chimney or flue.
* Chimneys should be professionally cleaned at the beginning of each use season to ensure there is nothing lodged within that can catch fire.
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