With the onset of cooler weather, it is time for homeowners to think about winterizing their homes in order to insure that their residence is safe and warm.
Martinez Fire Department Battalion Chief Danny Kuhlmann performs a courtesy fire safety
inspection at a Martinez
home. Some home fires are caused by heating
systems that haven't been maintained.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"People should get their heating units inspected about twice a year, at the beginning of both spring and fall," said Battalion Chief Danny Kuhlmann, of the Martinez Fire Department. "Some of the fires that break out at the beginning of a cold season are because home owners didn't take the time to have their heating systems checked."
With a little preventive maintenance, a great many problems are avoidable. "It's very important that people have their heating systems checked by licensed heating contractor professionals," said Joseph Gill, of Augusta Air Associates. "A professional would be up to date on any product upgrades or recalls. This will improve equipment operation and safety."
Faulty wiring, worn out parts or clogged or improper ventilation are just a few things that can cause a fire hazard in the home if not taken care of.
"If something isn't running correctly, people could be using up money unnecessarily," said Charlie Connell, of Connell's Appliance Heating and Air.
Those with gas heaters should take extra precautions because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
"Something like cracked heat-cells will leak carbon monoxide into a home if not caught," Connell said.
Being an odorless and colorless gas, carbon monoxide can build up to hazardous levels without the homeowner's knowledge. The very young and the elderly are especially susceptible to the effects of carbon monoxide, which can range from headaches to lack of appetite to death. Being lighter than air, carbon monoxide will rise and collect in the upper areas of a residence becoming a greater danger to those in homes with upstairs bedrooms.
"People have died in their sleep from carbon-monoxide poisoning," Gill said.
To help avoid these hazards, Kuhlmann and other heating specialists suggest that homeowners do the following:
Have heating units checked regularly by a professional.
Install smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors in the home, and make sure they are battery operated, with fresh batteries, and placed at least 6 feet above the floor.
Make sure space heaters, electric and kerosene, are at least 3 feet from objects and that they have adequate ventilation when applicable.
Have any chimneys check by licensed chimney sweeps to avoid blockage or lack of ventilation.
To lower heating bills and help prevent unnecessary repair bills homeowners should also consider the following:
Wrapping exposed piping to prevent freezing and bursting.
Check for air-leaks around windows and doorframes. For windows, a check can be done in the mornings by feeling for cool air 2 inches away from the window seal. A flashlight can be shone around doorframes to look for leaks.
"If you can see the light from the other side when the door is close then you can bet air is leaking through the same crack," Gill said.
Set thermostats to 68 degrees and leave it there. For those with set-back or programmable thermostats lowering the temperature a few degrees at night when people are under covers and then having it set to turn on a half-hour before people get up can save money without sacrificing comfort.
Drain outside water hoses so that they do not burst when it is cold enough for water to freeze.
"With the proper precautions people can stay safe and warm during the cold season and possibly even have a little more money to spend during the holidays," Gill said.
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