With Rising Costs and Lower Temperatures, Promoting Safe Heating Practices Is of Utmost Importance

A recent press release from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association reported that US households will likely experience a 17.1 percent increase in home heating costs this coming winter. Heating is the second overall leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries, and the third leading cause of home fire deaths in the US*. As people balance their budgets against heating their homes, fire and life safety educators have an opportunity and critical need to reinforce safe heating practices geared to the safe use of heating equipment. 

For instance, promoting the maintenance of heating equipment and chimneys by having them cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified professional is important not only for fire and carbon monoxide prevention, but also for economic and mechanical efficiency.  And as people turn to portable space heaters to save on gas and oil expenses, fire and life safety educators need to stress the safe selection and use of these devices, which are involved in 44 percent of home heating equipment fires and the vast majority of injuries and deaths from home heating equipment fires*. (*Source: NFPA Applied Research)

Chapter 10 of the NFPA Educational Messages Desk Reference for fire and life safety educators focuses on safe heating, including fireplaces and wood/pellet stoves, space heaters, central heating systems, and related heating equipment. 

Some key tips for safe heating this winter:

  • Have a 3 foot (1 m) “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. That goes for pets too!
  • Keep anything that can burn 3 feet (1 m) from heating equipment, including space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves.
  • Plug only one heat producing appliance (like a space heater) into a wall outlet at a time.
  • Never use an extension cord with a space heater or other heat producing appliance.
  • Use heating equipment that is listed by a qualified testing laboratory.
  • Never use your oven or stove for heating. Ovens and stoves are not designed to heat your home.
  • Make sure fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • Install and maintain smoke and CO alarms inside your home to provide early warning of smoke and carbon monoxide.

Visit the NFPA heating safety page for facts, tips, and videos and visit our tip sheets in multiple languages page to download the Heating Safety Tip Sheet, available in Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Hmong, and Somali.

Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in fire and life safety education.

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Andrea Vastis
Senior Director, Public Education, public health promotion & education professional passionate about eliminating disparities in access, education and resources.

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