According to the National Fire Protection Association, one of the leading causes of home fires and home fire deaths is heating equipment. And of those fires, half are reported in December, January and February. The best way to prevent furnace fires after months of being unused, especially with older units, is through regular maintenance checks.
Awareness of proper operation and safety measures is key to keeping your Hueytown household safe, and our experts at Brown Heating, Cooling & Plumbing have compiled some heater safety tips to help you know what to look for.
Some furnace rooms serve more than one household purpose (storage, laundry, etc.). If this is the case in your home, keep the room as organized as possible – any item near your heating unit can become a hazard. A good rule of thumb is to maintain a clear perimeter of at least two or three feet around your furnace (for non-flammable items). Clearing this area is essential for efficient operation and safety.
Remove Flammable Items
Distancing flammable items from your furnace may seem like a no-brainer, but for homes with multi-purpose furnace rooms, this is especially important. Avoid hanging clothing from heating equipment and keep cleaning solutions in airtight containers to prevent accidental ignition. Any items that may catch fire from heat should be cleared from the area.
- Paint or paint thinners
- Lint and dust
- Paper, sawdust and wood scraps
- Clothing and old rags
- Cat litter (ammonia fumes can corrode your unit’s heat exchanger)
Dust poses a major fire hazard around your furnace if allowed to accumulate. Avoid this by using your vacuum to remove dust, lint and other debris build-up around and inside your furnace once a month during the winter.
Different types of heaters require different areas to be cleaned, so first refer to your unit’s instruction manual for cleaning details, or call our experts at Brown Heating, Cooling & Plumbing to learn about your specific model before proceeding. For wall units, the burner compartments may need to be cleaned. For natural gas units, the flame should burn blue – if it is not, call us for cleaning and adjustment.
Maintain Proper Ventilation
Unobstructed access to fresh air is essential to your heater’s operation. Without access to fresh air, your furnace may instead consume oxygen from your home. This creates unsafe, low oxygen levels insufficient for your family’s consumption. Airflow blockages can also cause uneven heating in your home, forcing your unit to work harder and raise your monthly utility bill.
You can assess your unit’s airflow visually by clearing any obstructions that may be blocking the exterior air intake or exhaust (nearby boxes, large items, large amounts of leaves, branches, or chunks from that rare Alabama snowfall). You can also open up floor registers and air vents to keep heat evenly spaced throughout your house.
Similar to your air conditioning unit’s return air filters, furnace filters also need to be replaced regularly. If left damaged or unchanged, dirty filters can cause your heater to perform poorly or break down. Your unit will have to work harder to push air through the dirty filter, raising your utility bill, and may reduce your home’s air quality – so you will be paying more to breathe dusty air! Over time this can cause your unit to shut down completely.
Keep your furnace operating properly and avoid complications by changing your filters every one to three months. If you smoke, have pets or use your heater often you may need to change the filters more frequently. If you have questions about what thickness or type of filter to buy, don’t hesitate to call us! We can help you figure out what’s best for your specific model.
Heater Safety in Your Home
If you have young children or pets, make sure they stay away from the furnace. The grill can become very hot and the unit is dangerous, so they should be aware and avoid the area. Establishing rules or putting up a barrier will help keep them from playing and leaving toys near it, preventing injury and fire hazards.
Test Carbon Monoxide Detectors and Smoke Alarms
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, deadly gas. A dirty or malfunctioning furnace can release CO into your home, leading to a furnace fire or fatal CO poisoning. Fully functioning CO detectors and smoke alarms in each level of your home and near your heater can warn you if something is wrong with your furnace and guarantee the safety of your loved ones.
Replace your CO detector and smoke alarm batteries at least once a year (at the beginning of winter, for example) and use the “test” button on each one to ensure their operation. When working properly, they will warn you of CO presence or a furnace fire and protect your family from heater glitches.
Staying up-to-date on yearly maintenance inspections is a cost-effective way to guarantee your heater is in ship shape. They prevent breakdowns and keep your unit running efficiently, so you aren’t paying essential repair costs on top of high utility bills for an overworked unit. Professional technicians will identify any operational issues, clean the unit and certify its safety for use each fall and winter.
Schedule your annual maintenance in the fall and prepare for when that hard freeze hits! Learn more about Brown Heating, Cooling & Plumbing’s comprehensive tune-up services in Hueytown, AL and be proactive with your heating system.
These simple steps will keep your home warm and safe, especially during the holidays. If you have any questions or are experiencing any issues with your heating unit, don’t hesitate to contact us! Brown Heating, Cooling & Plumbing certified technicians will help you get the most from your unit and make sure you aren’t left out in the cold when something goes wrong.