Safety should be your first consideration when heating your home. Faulty home heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in Minnesota. Nearly all of the deaths, injuries, and property loss could have been prevented with proper understanding and safe use of heating equipment.
The best investment in your family’s safety is an annual check of your mechanical systems. Every year furnaces, water heaters, and other devices fail because of improper maintenance, cleaning, or adjustment. This costs money in unnecessary repairs or replacement and likely increases energy costs. In addition, equipment operating improperly can lead to dangerous conditions, including carbon monoxide leaks and back drafting of chimneys.
Fireplaces and wood stoves have obvious risks associated with flames and high temperatures. These risks require adequate clearance from all combustible surfaces, furnishings, pets, and people. Additionally, dirty or faulty chimneys can cause chimney fires and can lead to dangerous gases in the home if the fireplace or stove back drafts. Proper installation and inspection may be required to secure homeowner insurance or a mortgage. Often heat is pulled from the house through flues or chimneys when not in operation, contributing to unnecessary heat loss. Infrequently used stoves and fireplaces can become significant sources of heat loss in a home.
With energy costs rising, many people are looking at alternative heating sources. Using space heaters safely includes understanding that any space heater that burns with an open flame (wood stove, natural gas, propane, kerosene, etc.) should be vented to the outside of the building. This prevents the buildup of deadly carbon monoxide (CO) and other gases in the building. Many of these heaters are illegal to install and use in Minnesota, (even though it may be legal to purchase them). Even electric space heaters can be hazardous if objects or furnishings come in contact with the heater.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are an essential part of home safety and are required by code to be installed and operational in every home. Although they detect different byproducts of combustion, both devices used together can warn of a fire or a dangerous malfunction with a furnace, water heater, fireplace, or stove. Batteries should be changed every year and tested every month. Learn more about carbon monoxide and indoor air quality from the Minnesota Department of Health.