Winter is slowing creeping up on us, and it’s time to crank up the thermostat for more heat! But for some of you, the crackle of a warm, burning fireplace is the heat source of choice. According to the National Association of Home Builders, fireplaces rank among the top three features desired by new homebuyers. However, keep in mind that while wood or gas fireplaces may be a great source of warmth, they also can pose home fire hazards and increased potential for heat loss if not maintained properly.
Before using the fireplace for the first time since last winter, please check the following to help prevent potential fires:
- Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney sweep to make sure it’s safe for use this winter. Dust and debris may have collected inside it since last winter, which poses a fire hazard.
- Install and make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working in your home. Replace the batteries each month to be safe.
- Before turning on your gas fireplace, make sure to have your log set cleaned by a professional once a year to prevent any hazards from occurring.
- Consider installing an oxygen-depletion sensor in your gas fireplace. This device will act as an extra safety precaution, and will shut off the gas automatically if the temperature is too warm. This also detects if there is an overdose of carbon monoxide.
- Burn dried wood that has been cured for eight to 12 months. Woods such as hickory, white oak sugar maple, and white ash burn well if available. Avoid using construction scraps, painted wood, or other treated woods. Ensure wood and paper for the fireplace is placed far enough away from the flames to avoid sparks causing a fire disaster. When stacking wood outside, cover it on top and leave the sides open for airflow. Never overload the fireplace.
- Equip the fireplace with a metal screen to stop burning embers or shifting logs from falling out of fireplace and landing on nearby combustibles, which could ignite.
- Never burn garbage, rolled newspapers, charcoal or plastic in the fireplace or use gasoline or any liquid accelerant to help start a fire.
Although many homeowners find these steps inconvenient, they can potentially save lives. Wood and gas fireplaces can save you money on your heating bill, just remember to be safe before you flip the switch or strike the match!