By PSC Chari Charlotte Lane
It seems like every winter we hear heartbreaking news about a family that has lost everything in a house fire. Nearly half of all house fires are caused by space heaters and over 80% of home heating fire deaths involve stationary or portable heaters, so I’d like to talk about how to heat your home safely this winter.
If you don’t have central heating or are dealing with a power outage, take every precaution to keep your home and everyone in it safe. Rule number one: no matter how tempting it is, never use your oven or stove as a heat source. It is not safe under any circumstance.
Keep gas-powered generators outdoors and clear of all doors and windows. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer that can seep inside your home through the smallest opening. No matter your heat source, smoke and CO2 detectors are essential. They have saved many lives.
If you use a space heater that uses kerosene or propane, make sure you have proper ventilation and keep the fuel outside. Keep all space heaters at least three feet away from flammable materials. Keep a safe distance between the heater and your furniture and curtains. Never put a space heater on carpeting. Set it on a flat, level surface away from high traffic areas. Electric space heaters should be plugged directly into the wall socket. If you must use an extension cord, use a heavy-duty outdoor cord. And never link multiple extension cords together or leave space heaters unattended. Turn them off before bed and use an electric blanket overnight.
Wood-burning fireplaces need to be inspected at least every two years. Know what kinds of wood are safe to burn. Evergreens and some kinds of scrap wood cause creosote buildup that can set your chimney on fire. Don’t burn freshly cut wood, instead season your firewood so it burns cleaner and safer.
And finally, if you need help paying your heating bill, call your utility. Low-income families may qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance or the 20% Discount Program. Utilities also offer budget billing plans to make heating more manageable and deferred payment plans if you fall behind on your bills. If you need help negotiating with your utility, the Public Service Commission’s Consumer Affairs Technicians can help. Call us at 1-800-642-8544.
Let’s all stay safe and warm this winter.