Keep your home and family warm in winter is a vital concern for all of us. But, home heating can be problematic if you don’t take some simple precautions before we get into the frigid months. Now’s the time to make sure that whatever you use to keep your house warm is safe and operating properly. Combined with the fire safety tips we’ve talked about previously, you should be able to rest assured you’ve take all necessary precautions for a safe winter.

A furnace inspection is the start and is a vital step. If you have any doubts, have an expert handle the inspection and any necessary repairs. Make sure you change your furnace filters several times a year.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in this pamphlet [pdf], suggests the following:

  • Be sure all furnace control and emergency shutoffs are in proper working condition. Old furnaces don’t have many of these safety features, which increases the need to have them professionally inspected.
  • Inspect walls and ceilings near the furnace and the chimney line for heat or discoloration.
  • Make sure the flue pipe and seams are well supported and free of holes or cracks. If you see soot near the seams, you may have a leak.
  • Make sure your chimney is solid, without any loose bricks or cracks.
  • And keep anything that might burn well away from the furnace or other heating devices.
  • Don’t attempt repairs unless you are qualified to do them.

If you’re using electric space heaters, make sure to keep them away from water sources. And only use extension cords designed to work with the power requirements of the heater itself.

Kerosene heaters need to be inspected just like a gas or electric furnace. Make sure rooms with kerosene heaters are well ventilated. Refill them outside and only when they’re cool. Don’t use cold kerosene, which expands as it warms up. And inspect the exhaust for carbon buildup.

If you have a fireplace, you need to have your chimney inspected once a year, and cleaned if necessary. Make sure the fire is out before you go to sleep. And never close the damper with hot ashes in the fireplace.

The key, as with any major home system, is to maintain it in top operating condition. Not only is this potentially life-saving, it can save you a lot of money making repairs when it comes time to sell the house.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photo courtesy kightp/