Properly heating homes reduces chance for fire, saves on energy costs
OSCEOLA COUNTY — Cold winter temperatures may mean cranking up the heat, but there are ways to stay safe and save money while trying to stay warm.
Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January and February.
Anything that can burn should be kept at least three feet away from heating equipment, such as the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or a portable space heater. Never use an oven to heat a home.
Heating equipment, including the chimney, should be maintained regularly, said Steve Schroeder, Big Rapids Department of Public Safety deputy director.
"Chimney clearing is recommended annually," he said. "They should be cleaned by professionals to reduce buildup."
The National Fire Protection Association also suggests fireplaces have a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container, which should be kept a safe distance away from the home and structures.
Portable heaters should be turned off when leaving the room or going to bed.
When it comes to using a space heater, only those intended for indoor use should be used when heating homes, Schroeder said.
"Never use a kerosene heater inside an enclosed area," he said. "Those can kick off a lot of carbon monoxide and it's not safe, even if you crack windows."
Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas, which can cause severe injury and also death.
"Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations when using a heater," Schroeder said.
Along with a smoke detector, homes should have carbon monoxide detectors, Schroeder said.
"Make sure you test the detectors regularly and replace the batteries as needed," he said.
To save money when heating a home, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests covering drafty windows. Heavy-duty, clear plastic sheets on a frame or taping clear plastic film to the inside of window frames can help during the cold winter months. The plastic should be sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
Another option is to install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.
Adjusting the temperature when sleeping or away from home is another way to save on energy costs. Lowering the thermostat 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours will save around 10 percent a year on heating and cooling bills.
Homeowners also can find and seal air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumbing penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
For more cost-saving suggestions, visit energy.gov/energysaver/fall-and-winter-energy-saving-tips.