Home Heating Safety

Did you know: more than 30% of Americans use fireplaces, wood stoves and other fuel-fired appliances as primary heat sources in their homes? That percentage is even higher in Idaho, where the winters can be a little longer and quite a bit colder. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the fire risks when heating with wood and solid fuels.

Heating fires account about 40% of residential home fires in rural Idaho each year. Often these fires are due to creosote buildup in chimneys and stovepipes. All home heating systems require regular maintenance to function safely and efficiently. If your home is primarily heated by wood, pellets or other fuel-fired means, knowing some basic maintenance tips could help save your life.

Keep Fireplaces and Wood Stoves Clean

  • Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist.
  • Clear the area around the hearth of debris, decorations and flammable materials.
  • Always use a metal mesh screen with fireplaces. Leave glass doors open while burning a fire.
  • Install stovepipe thermometers to help monitor flue temperatures.
  • Keep air inlets on wood stoves open, and never restrict air supply to fireplaces.
  • Otherwise you may cause creosote buildup that could lead to a chimney fire.
  • Use fire-resistant materials on walls around wood stoves.

Safely Burn Fuels

  • Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Use only seasoned hardwood. Soft, moist wood accelerates creosote buildup.
  • DO NOT burn pressure treated lumber or railroad ties. They emit carcinogens and produce large amounts of residual buildup in your chimney and flume.
  • Build small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.
  • Never burn cardboard boxes, trash or debris in your fireplace or wood stove.
  • When building a fire, place logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
  • Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended.
  • Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Soak hot ashes in water and place them in a metal container outside your home.

Protect the Outside of Your Home

Other Heat Sources

So you know that an open flame can get out of hand quickly, but are you aware of the common dangers associated with electrical heat sources such as baseborad heaters, space heaters or even your home furnace?

The fact is: if it creates enough heat to keep your home warm, there is a chance of it becoming a fire hazard. According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third (33%) of home heating fires and four out of five (81%) of home heating fire deaths between 2007 and 2011. Placing household items (toys, blankets, boxes, etc) too close to the heat source is the number one mistake. For more information, you can download the NFPA’s basic saftey tip sheet for home heating, or contact your Farm Bureau Agent.