Heat Your Home This Winter Without Burning it Down

Winter's coming and it's getting cold. Time to dust off the ol' heating unit and get your home all nice and toasty. But before you strike a match or turn a dial, make sure you're doing so safely.

Before we get into individual heat sources, let's replace the batteries in those fire alarms. A good rule is to change them out whenever you set the clocks forward or back. So, if you slacked off and didn't change them this past weekend, do it now.

Some of these checklist items seem like common knowledge or "duh," but when it's negative 45-degrees outside, you might forget that you moved your favorite chair in front of the heater. Let's check all this now before we're calling 911 because a curtain got too close to a space heater.

Fireplace:

- Whens the last time you had your chimney inspected and cleaned? If you can't remember, it's probably a good time to call the ol' chimney sweep. This should be done annually.

- Make sure to clear any debris that may have deposited themselves on your roof and especially near your chimney. This is also a good time to get your frisbees off the roof.

- Prune any branches that may be near your chimney. Prune means trim some branches back. If you have a hug log of a branch over your house, hire a professional. It's all fun and games until your drop a 20-foot branch through your roof because you rented a chainsaw at the hardware store.

- Remember to open the flu before starting your first fire. Nothing says a bad time like a house filled with smoke.

- Clean out the hearth. Who knows what's ended up in there during the summer. Give it a good cleaning before you're freezing you ass off.

- Move any furniture that's creeped closer to the fireplace while the sun was a blazin' high.

- If you're not actively working on the fire, close the metal mesh screen.

Boiler/Furnace:

- Like your fireplace, your boiler/furnace should be inspected annually. Get it done now before it gets too cold.

- Check your fluids. Make sure your device has the appropriate amount of water to function.

- Check the unit for leaking water or puddles under the unit. If you see water, this could be a sign of a pressure system failure. Call a plumber with boiler experience.

- Move any items that have accumulated around your boiler/furnace since it was last operated. Like the box for your HDTV. Seriously, take that thing to the curb.

- Check, and if necessary, replace filters. This includes the oil filter if your furnace/boiler has one.

- Make sure all the gauges are working properly.

Radiator:

- Move all your papers off the radiator. I know all summer you've been putting your mail on that thing. Move them.

- While you're at it, move all your furniture away from the metal heat machine.

- If children or klutzes are present, consider investing in a radiator cover. This will cut down on burns.

- Make sure the insulation around the pipe that connects to your radiator is in good shape. If it's unraveling or just falling apart, replace it.

Wall Heaters:

- Move furniture away from the heater (starting to detect a pattern?).

- Also get rid of that pile of magazines that are sitting in front of the heater.

- Now's a good time to clean/replace any filters.

- If your wall heater is gas powered, check the pilot light. If it has gone out and you're unsure how to relight it, your local utility company will light it for you. Sometimes for free.

- If your heater doesn't have a filter, before you turn it on for the first time, take the vacuum to the vents. It'll remove all the dust that's accumulated and make the first time you start the heater not smell like your baking a dirt cake.

Central Heating:

- Central heating is the safest way to heat your home so check your filters. They're probably filled with dust and possibly, mouse poop.

Space Heater:

- Thoroughly clean your space heater before use.

- Check for frayed wires. Don't try to McGyver frayed wires back together. Unless you're an electrician, just buy a new space heater.

- Do not use an extension cord. Unplug your fancy gadget from the wall and plug in the heater. Hypothermia isn't as cool as the Deadliest Catch makes it out to be.

- Keep it away from furniture and your paper maché collection. Give space heaters at least three-feet of clearance.

- Do not put the space heater on thick or deep carpet. The carpet could burn and/or the space heater could overheat.

- If you leave the room, turn it off.

Staying warm during the fall and winter is critical in some parts of the world. But no matter how cold it gets, you should refrain from using BBQs, or any other device that's made to work outside, inside your home. Besides the potential for a fire, the threat carbon monoxide poisoning is very real. find another way to keep yourself warm.


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