winter heating

Winter Heating Safety Tips

  • Written By: Rebecca Bridges
  • Edited By: Shannon Bedrich

  • With winter heating comes the need for winter heating safety. December, January and February are the leading months for home heating fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

    Here are the areas of your home where you should focus, to keep your family safe.

    Top 6 Winter Heating Safety Risks

    Here are the top 6 items to watch out for, to keep your family safe this winter.

    Space Heater Fires

    Space heaters account for 4 out of 5 heating fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association. They are the number one winter heating safety risk in your home.

    If you want to make sure you don’t have a fire in your home due to a space heater, jump down below.

    Heating Your Home by Oven

    Using a gas oven or stove top to heat your home is the second highest winter heating risk in your home. You always read about it as a “don’t”. But here’s why you should never use an oven or stove top to heat your home.

    First, it’s extremely inefficient. It may heat the surrounding area, but the heat won’t travel throughout your home.

    Second, if your oven is gas and the flame isn’t burning efficiently, you’re risking carbon monoxide poisoning.

    And third, for both electric and gas ovens, you’ll have a physical risk of a child or pet accidentally burning themselves.

    Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

    We all know that you should keep your home tightly sealed to keep in the heat. You can do a DIY home energy audit to find and seal air leaks.

    But with your home tightly sealed against drafts, you can run the risk of carbon monoxide build-up.

    Make sure to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, in addition to fire and smoke detectors. You can find out more about carbon monoxide safety in our article on that topic.

    Chimney Fires

    When you burn wood, your chimney can become filled with creosote, a tar-like substance that’s a natural side-effect of burning wood.

    A chimney sweep (yes, like in Mary Poppins) can check the structure of your flue and chimney. Your chimney should be inspected and cleaned annually.

    Fireplace Sparks & Ashes

    And our If you are using a wood fireplace, make sure you place a screen in front of the fire to keep any sparks from hitting flammable materials in your house. When cleaning out ashes or coals, place them in a metal container with a lid, as least 10 feet from your home.

    Have a natural gas fireplace? Make sure you perform basic annual maintenance on your gas fireplace.

    Candle Fires

    While not a heating source, candles, fireplaces and cold weather all go together. Sipping hot cocoa and watching the snow come down. Some candles to set the ambiance. Nice.

    But the National Candle Association (yes! that’s a thing!) gives these steps for candle safety.

    • Don’t leave a candle burning unattended. Make sure the candle is completely out and the wick tip is no longer glowing.
    • Never burn a candle near something that could catch fire
    • Don’t burn candles less than 3 inches apart. This will ensure they don’t melt each other, or create their own draft which would cause them to melt irregularly.
    • Avoid drafts or vents, which can cause the flame to burn irregularly.
    • Keep away from pets and kids! Melted wax can scald, and a turned over candle can ignite a fire.
    image shows a home with wood floors and an electric space heater.

    Space Heater Safety Tips

    The risk of space heater fires is real. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters are involved in more than a thousand home fires every year. And National Fire Protection Association reports that space heaters cause over 40 percent of home heating-related fires (which includes items like water heaters and fireplaces) and 85 percent of associated deaths.

    So if you are going to use one, here’s how to use a space heater safely:

    First, make sure your space heater includes safety features, such as a burn guard around the heating element, a shut-off if it gets too hot, and a automatic shut-off if it tips over.

    Second, consider where you will use it. You should never use an extension cord or power strip with a space heater. And, you should keep it on the floor, around 3 feet from the wall. So, look at the length of the electrical cord before you buy your new space heater.

    Third, use the 3 foot rule. Your space heater should not only be 3 feet from the wall, it should be 3 feet from anything flammable — pillows, curtains, bedding, furniture. And we’re not a huge fan of placing it on carpet, which could melt if the space heater tips over.

    Fourth, buy a space heater that is the correct size for the for the room you want to heat. You’ll need 10 watts of heating power for every square foot of floor area in the room. So if you want to heat a 10 x 10 room, or 100 square feet, you’ll need a 1,000 watt space heater.

    Fifth, turn it off when you leave the room. The space heater can only warm a small amount of space. And there’s no sense in heating an empty room.

    In general, your best bet for staying warm this winter is to use your heat system that is built into your house.

    Concerned about high natural gas heating bills? We’ve got ideas for that too! Check out our article on how to lower your heating bill this winter.

    About Rebecca Bridges

    Rebecca Bridges has worked in deregulated energy markets since 2001. As chief marketing officer for NaturalGasPlans, she focuses on energy efficiency tips and helping consumers pick the best natural gas plan for their home. Outside of work, Rebecca uses her marketing experience to support dog rescue and can often be found hiking or biking local trails.

    We just need your ZIP code

    To show you the right plan, please enter your ZIP code below