How to Heat Your Home Safely this Winter
In Canada, heating your home is serious business. Canadian winters don’t mess around, and when it comes to safety – neither should you. Having a well-maintained up-to-date heating system in your home can keep your loved ones safe from the risks that come with extreme cold.
We’ve compiled some safety and loss prevention tips for some of the common, but higher-risk heating options for Canadian homes.
Space Heaters Safety
Space heaters are the leading cause of home fires during the winter months, but disaster can be prevented with a few precautions.
Purchasing Your Space Heater
Only purchase newer models that have overheat protection, a tip-over switch and a guard around the heating element. Look for an option that is listed with a nationally-recognized testing laboratory. Buying older or cheaper options could put your safety at risk.
Placing Your Space Heater
Keep your heater at least three feet away from combustible or flammable items such as drapes and furniture and place it on a flat, level surface away from cluttered or high-traffic areas of the home or sources of water.
Using Your Space Heater
It is important to remember that space heaters are only temporary or supplemental heating, not a permanent solution. Don’t leave them on while you are gone or sleeping. Heaters should also never be used to dry fabric or thaw pipes; both increase your risk of fire and shocks.
Powering Your Space Heater
Use only the fuel recommended by the manufacture as the wrong fuel could burn hotter than the equipment was designed for. When refueling, turn off the heater and let it cool down completely before adding fuel. Wipe away any spills promptly. Before you buy a kerosene heater, check with your local fire department to ensure that it is legal.
For electric heaters, don’t use extension cords to plug in your space heater and keep the heater’s cord in the open. It’s also important to check regularly for frayed wires or damaged insulation. For more information about Space Heater safety check out the full Loss Prevention Tip.
Domestic Fuel Oil Tank Safety
This type of heating, which is popular in rural areas can put you at risk for oil spills and leaks that can damage the environment, negatively affect your health and damage your property. Here are some preventative measures you can take to protect your home and loved ones.
- Be aware of the smell of oil. Fuel oil contains a small amount of benzene, a known carcinogen, so contact your heating contractor immediately of you smell fuel oil.
- Ensure your oil tank and heating system is installed by a professional heating contractor to ensure efficiency and safety and have your oil tank, fuel lines and furnace inspected by a certified oil burner technician at least once a year.
- Check to ensure that your oil tank is approved by Underwriter’s Laboratories of Canada (ULC) and includes a vent alarm or whistle to prevent overfilling. Never use a used fuel tank or transfer oil from one and consider replacing your tank every 15 years.
- Place your oil tanks at least 100 feet from the nearest well and protect tanks located beside driveways with concrete posts to prevent vehicle impact. Install a roof or shield above the tank to protect it from falling snow and ice.
- Oil tanks should rest on a solid, non‐combustible, level surface. Tanks should not be touching a wall, resting on wood or raised on stacked blocks.
Finally, it is important to inspect your tank regularly to catch problems early. For a self-inspection checklist, check out the full Loss Prevention Tip.
Wood Stove and Fireplace Safety
Wood stoves and fireplaces can be a source of warmth light and beauty in your home. Here are some tips to prevent that cozy warm flame from turning into a dangerous fire.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Have your wood stove or fireplace inspected annually by a certified specialist and replace or repair any cracked or missing chimney bricks, mortar or corroded flashing. Ash buildup can increase your risk of uncontrolled fires, so remove ash regularly and store it in a covered metal container out of reach of flames. You should also remove any other debris and materials that are flammable from around the hearth. Finally, never restrict the air supply to your stove or fireplace as it can result in a buildup of creosote – increasing your risk of fire further.
Using the Right Fuel and Burning Responsibly
Limit your fuel to dry, well-seasoned wood to avoid creosote buildup and never use flammable liquids to start a fire. The goal is small fires that burn completely and produce less smoke. Never leave your fire unattended and have a fire-extinguisher ready and smoke detector on every floor.
Protecting Your Loved Ones
Place barriers around your stoves and fireplaces, particularly if there is anyone under the age of five in the household and make sure children are supervised around any flames. It’s also important to make sure everyone on the house learns fire safety. For more child-specific safety information, check out this Loss Prevention Tip.
Don’t Sacrifice Safety for Warmth
However you’ve chosen to heat your home, we hope some of these tips help you rest easy knowing you’ve taken precautions to help prevent a loss this winter. For more Loss Prevention Tips, check out our Loss Prevention Tips Archive.