Special Advice for Kerosene Heaters, Fireplaces, and Wood Stoves
If you are considering buying a portable kerosene heater, be sure to check with your local building department first to find out if it is legal in your community. Never use gasoline or any other substitute fuel in a portable kerosene heater, the wrong fuel could burn hotter than the equipment's design limits and cause a serious fire.
If your home has a working fireplace or wood stove, prior to the start of every heating season your chimney should be inspected by a professional for proper installation, cracks, blockages, leaks, or creosote build up. Creosote, a chemical substance that forms when wood burns, builds up in chimneys and can cause a chimney fire if not removed through cleaning. With this in mind, have the chimney cleaned if necessary and always be sure to open the flue for adequate ventilation when using the fireplace. Furthermore, protect your home and your family by using a sturdy fireplace screen when burning fires, and remember to burn only wood. Never burn paper or pine boughs, because those embers can float out the chimney and ignite your roof or a neighboring home.
Note: Always install and maintain all heating devices according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Vents and Chimneys
All fueled heaters must be vented to prevent dangerous carbon monoxide build-up in your home. Creosote and carbon deposits, caused by inefficient combustion in fireplaces and wood stoves, can coat chimney flues and pose a fire hazard. Have your chimney inspected by a professional before each heating season and have it cleaned, if necessary. Unusually high concentrations of chimney deposits could mean your fireplace or wood stove is not burning efficiently and should be inspected for safety. If you use a wood stove, have the flues and chimney connections inspected and cleaned regularly. Consider installing a spark arrester on top of any chimney that vents a solid-fuel stove or fireplace.
Give Space Heaters Space
Keep all combustable materials away from portable and space heaters. Place all space heaters at least three feet (one meter) away from furniture, walls, curtains, or anything else that burns. Turn off space heaters when you leave home or go to bed.
Liquid Fuel Safety
If your space heater burns a liquid fuel (e.g., kerosene) let the heater cool down before refueling it. Adding fuel to a hot heater can cause the fumes to ignite. Refuel your heaters outdoors where spills won't present a fire hazard and in a well-ventilated area away from structures. Use only the fuel recommended by your heater's manufacturer. Never use substitutes or a lower grade fuel. Never put gasoline in any space heater.
Gas Fueled Heaters
Check vents periodically to make sure they are not blocked. Never install unvented gas heaters in bedrooms or bathrooms. Carbon monoxide can build up to dangerous levels in any small, enclosed space.
Wood or Coal Stoves
Place an approved stove board under wood or coal stoves to protect the floor from heat and stray embers.
Inspect electric heater cords for cracks or other damage and have an electrician replace frayed, cracked, or damaged cords. If the cord overheats while the unit is in use, have the heater inspected and serviced.
*More information from NFPA
Safety Tips for Winter
As the winter months come upon us and the temperature begins to plummet, there is nothing like coming in from the cold, wrapping yourself in your favorite blanket and watching the snow fall outside your window while sipping a cup of hot cocoa. Maybe you'll turn on a space heater for extra heat, or use your fireplace or wood stove to warm the room.
What most people don't realize is that heating equipment is the biggest fire culprit from December through January, and the third leading cause of fire deaths in American homes. The heating equipment itself is not our chief concern; rather human error is involved in nearly all home heating fires in the U.S. — fires that are preventable.
Correct installation, maintenance, fueling and operation of portable and space heaters, as well as safely arranging household items around them, greatly reduces your risk of experiencing a home heating fire. Common mistakes that too often turn deadly include failing to clean chimneys; placing portable or other space heaters too close to furniture, bedding, or clothing; and improper fueling and venting of fueled heating devices.
Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires. The estimated 68,400 home heating fires in 1995 (the latest year for which data is available) killed 429 people, and caused just more than 1,800 civilian injuries and more than a half billion dollars in property damage.
Safety Tips for Household Equipment and Structures
Fire Safety Tips
Preventing Heating Equipment Fires
When purchasing new heating equipment, be sure to select products that have been tested and approved by an independent testing laboratory. Install and maintain heating equipment correctly, and be sure it complies with local fire and building codes.
Checklist for Safe Heating
Following is a checklist for homeowners to reduce their risk of fire in the home. Did you:
- Have your fireplace or wood stove chimney and chimney connectors inspected at the start of the heating season and cleaned, if necessary?
- Move anything that can burn (i.e., furniture, bedding, clothing, pets, people) at least three feet (one meter) from your heater, fireplace ,or wood stove?
- Turn off your portable or space heater before leaving the room?
- Keep your children and pets safely away from your portable or space heater?
- Read the manufacturer's instructions before operating your heater?
- Check your electric space heater for fraying or splitting wires, or overheating, and have all problems repaired by a professional before operating the heater?
- Safely vent fueled heaters, such as portable kerosene and gas-fueled space heaters, to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?
- Turn off your portable kerosene heater and allow it to cool down before refueling, and wipe all spills promptly during refueling?
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to refuel your kerosene heater?
- Select new heating equipment that bears the mark of an independent testing laboratory?
- Ensure your heating equipment complies with local fire and building codes (i.e., is your wood stove sitting on an approved stove board to protect the floor from heat and coals)?