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Front Page » October 8, 2002 » Local News » Inspect heating systems when winterizing private residences
Published 4,710 days ago

Inspect heating systems when winterizing private residences

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Staff reporter

Winter visits Soldier Summit last weekend even though it's just the start of fall. A few inches of snow fell on the summit last Thursday and Friday, causing the highway department to bring out their snowplows a little earlier than normal. Although it snowed heavy Thursday night, by Saturday fall had returned and all signs of winter had melted.

The Castle Valley area has experienced significantly cooler temperatures the last several weeks and the weather conditions have made residents consider beginning winterization methods.

Although some people may choose to wait until later in the fall to winterize homes and automobiles, many residents have already taken steps to avoid problems with cold weather.

With the decreasing temperatures, the majority of Carbon County residents have already stoked up the fire or turned the thermostat up on the furnace. But an inspection of the heating systems should be made to ensure that a structure fire does not break out accidently.

Fireplace and wood burning stove owners should use caution while enjoying the warmth of a fire. In fact, wood burning stoves should have a 36 inch clearance from combustible surfaces and proper floor support and protection. Additionally, they should be Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listed.

One of the most important safety factors is the use of wood stove or fireplace with a clean chimney and stove pipe. It is recommended that these be cleaned and inspected at the beginning of each heating season. Also, if the stove is used frequently, it may also require additional cleaning.

In order to prevent debris from clogging a chimney, a screen may be installed over the opening. Even with the screen in place however, an inspection should be made to ensure that the chimney is free of material which may be a potential fire hazard.

Fireplace chimneys also produce creosote or soot. This is a normal by-product of burning wood. In order to reduce the buildup of soot in the chimney, only dry, seasoned wood should be burned. Also, avoid slow burning, smoky fires.

If synthetic logs are used, be sure to follow the instructions on the package. Never break a synthetic log apart in order to hasten the fire or use more than one log at a time. Such logs often burn unevenly, releasing higher levels of carbon monoxide into the home.

Wood stove users should also dispose of ashes in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. This container should then be set on a noncombustible surface. Never dispose of ashes in a trash container.

A metal or glass screen should be kept in front of the fireplace opening. This will help prevent embers or sparks from reaching combustible materials while also preventing possible burns to occupants of the home.

Some important tips while burning wood includes the following:

•Never use flammable liquids to light or accelerate a fire.

•Never store flammable liquids in an area where a stove is being used.

•Never burn trash, large amounts of paper or small twigs. Large amounts of paper can ignite the soot in the chimney.

•Never leave the doors open or the screen off which encloses the fireplace opening except to fuel the fire.

•Never dry clothing closer than three feet to the stove and keep all furniture away.

•Never leave small children unattended while burning wood.

•Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal can give off lethal levels of carbon monoxide.

•Never go to sleep before the fire is extinguished.

•Never close the damper with hot ashes in the fireplace. A closed damper will allow the fire to heat up which will in turn, force toxic carbon monoxide into the home.

Furnace users should also perform regular inspections of their heating system. The best time to do so is before the furnace if fired up for the first time during the cold season. A simple inspection of the unit can prevent serious problems from occurring in the future.

Simply check the furnace for any noticeable problems or malfunctions. The filter should be clean and it is recommended that these be changed each month while the furnace is in use.

While performing an inspection of the furnace and its components, homeowners should be sure notice and perform the following safety checks.

•Make sure that all furnace and emergency shutoff controls are in proper working order.

•Inspect the ceiling and walls near the furnace and along the chimney line. If the walls are discolored or hot, additional clearance or pipe insulation may be required.

•Inspect flue and pipe seams. Make sure that they are well supported and free of holes or cracks. Soot along or around the seams may be an indicator of a leak.

•Have propane or oil tanks filled.

•Vacuum dust from vents or other types of heating elements.

•Have heating ducts cleaned on an as-needed basis. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems.

•Check the thermostat to be sure it is working properly and the pilot light is functioning. Consider installing a setback thermostat to help cut heating bills. This type of thermostat will allow the homeowner to regulate temperatures at all hours of the day. Temperatures can be lowered during the night or when the homeowner is away and raised when needed.

Homeowners often rely on portable heaters. The use of the heaters requires a greater commitment to safety requirements. Before using kerosene heaters, clean and adjust the wick according to the manufacturers specifications. Operating and safety instructions should be followed closely.

Precautions that will ensure no serious injuries occur while using portable heaters include:

•Never use kerosene or fuel-burning appliances without proper ventilation. Burning coal, kerosene or propane can produce deadly fumes in unventilated spaces.

•Never fill a heater with fuel while it is operating or hot. When refueling an oil or kerosene unit, avoid overfilling. Do not use cold fuel, which may expand as it heats. Finally, refueling should only be done outside of the home.

•Keep young children away from space heaters. Pajamas, nightgowns or other loose fitting clothing can easily ignite.

Because people use heating devices regularly when temperatures drop, it is important to remember that fire hazards increase with heating usage.

Fire experts suggest that residents inspect smoke detectors and replace batteries while performing general winterization.

In addition, residents should prepare the remainder of homes for winter. This includes inspecting and draining water lines and insulating the home.

It is recommended that outdoor waterlines be drained and turned off before colder weather arrives to prevent the pipes from freezing and cracking. Garden hoses should also be drained and stored during the cold season.

Make sure to insulate pipes that need to remain in working order during the cold season. If a pipe is known for freezing, heat tape can be applied.

All household members should know where the turn off valve to the water system is located. More importantly, they should know how to operate the valve in case a water leak occurs.

Insulation is also an important winterization factor. Check for leaks around doors and windows. To ensure that no cold air enters a dwelling, residents should:

•Add or replace worn weather stripping around doors and windows. Caulk gaps where necessary.

•Replace worn door stops at the bottom of doors.

•Consider installing storm doors and windows.

•Older windows may need to be replaced with efficient models.

Because the winter months often bring wet weather, it is important to inspect the exterior of the home also. Some helpful hints to prevent damage to a home during the winter include the following:

•Replace loose shingles.

•Trim tree branches that overhang the home. They may become heavy with snow and collapse onto the home.

•Make sure the flashing around the chimney or vent pipes is watertight.

•Clean drain gutters and point downspouts away from the house. When gutters are clogged, rainwater backs up. If the temperature drops below freezing, the standing water freezes causing the gutters to expand and crack.

Finally, while preparing a home for cold weather, it is also suggested that an emergency supply kit is either made or updated. In case of severe weather, this kit will be available to the homeowner and their family. The kit should include the following items.

•Candles and matches or a small butane lighter.

•Flashlight and batteries.

•Battery operated radio or weather radio and batteries.

•Containers of bottled water. Non perishable food to last a few days. And make sure that a hand operated can opener is included.

•Paper plates and plastic eating utensils. Paper towels.

•Extra firewood. Fuel for a generator if applicable. Kerosene and kerosene heater.

•Snow shovel and snow melting chemicals.

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