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Are appliances ready for winter?

A water heater in a utility room is buried behind clutter. All areas where a furnace and water heater are located should be kept clean and uncluttered.

Price City Fire Chief

September is upon us and the temperatures are already beginning to drop. If you haven't had your home heating appliances serviced yet, now is a good time to beat the rush.

Our area has a history of experiencing some very cold winter temperatures. In order to combat these cold temperatures, Carbon County residents utilize a variety of appliances to heat their homes. Most of these appliances continue to heat our homes year after year; however they do require some routine maintenance.

The most common heating appliance is the natural gas furnace. These appliances work very efficiently, however they do require some routine maintenance. The natural gas industry recommends you have your furnace cleaned and inspected at least once a year by a licensed professional, preferably before they are put into service in the fall. They also recommend you regularly replace the furnace filters. A clogged filter not only makes your furnace work harder to heat your home, it makes your furnace less energy efficient. With the ever increasing cost of natural gas, keeping your furnace operating properly can save you hundreds of dollars every year.

One last tip is to keep your furnace room uncluttered. Every year fire departments respond to fires caused by people storing combustibles too close to their natural gas furnace. We recommend storing combustibles at least three feet (1 meter) away from your furnace or electrical panels and never storing gasoline near your furnace.

Whether it's the high cost of heating fuel or just the desire for a pleasant atmosphere, may residents have chosen to install a wood burning stove or fireplace in their home. Wood burning appliances can be safely used if you follow a few basic safety precautions.

When you choose to purchase a wood burning stove or fireplace the most important thing you can do is seek the help of an expert. Wood burning appliances can pose serious fire risks if they are not properly installed. Every year we respond to fires where someone has improperly installed a wood stove or fireplace. In every jurisdiction in Castle Country a building permit and inspection by the building official is required when installing wood burning appliances. Many people have misconceptions about our building officials. They provide an essential service and work hard to ensure your safety. They are also a valuable resource for the do it yourselfer. They are knowledgeable about the proper installation of all heating devices and when a permit is issued, will ensure the appliance is installed correctly. Since fireplaces and wood burning stoves can present such a serious fire risk, here are some recommendations to address a few of the hazards we regularly see.

•Make sure there is enough clearance between the stove and combustible materials, including floors, walls, and ceilings.

•Have your stove or fireplace and its chimney cleaned and inspected by a licensed professional at least once a year.

•Burn only dry, well-seasoned wood and if you choose to burn coal, make sure the appliance is designed for the higher temperatures coal generates.

Portable space heaters, most of which are electric, provide another source for home heating. There are numerous types of space heaters and most are designed to provide heat to a small area, thus eliminating the need to turn up the heat to the entire home. Space heaters can also pose a serious fire risk if improperly used. Hundreds of house fires are caused every year by the improper use and placement of portable space heaters. Most of these fires are caused by the appliance being placed too close to combustibles, being tipped over when operating, or being left unattended. When purchasing a portable heater look for an independent testing laboratory certification, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). This certification means that the device has been tested and is safe to use as long as the manufacturers instructions are followed. One other consideration when choosing electrical space heaters is proper house wiring. Electrical space heaters generally use more electricity than other household appliances. If you choose to use an extension cord for your electric space heater, ensure they are of the proper size, type and are rated for the higher amperage which space heaters use. You should also look for a testing laboratories certification on the extension cord.

After you have ensured your appliances are properly installed and serviced turn your attention to some simple alarm devices which could save your life. All homes should have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. A fire normally doubles in size every 30-60 seconds and precious minutes can be saved by having fire detection system. Every home should also have a fire extinguisher. Most fires begin very small and can be easily be extinguished before they grow larger and spread throughout your home. For assistance in selecting appropriate smoke and carbon monoxide alarms as well as fire extinguishers please call your local fire department or qualified fire prevention professional.

Every year we respond to fires and carbon monoxide incidents involving heating appliances. The sad fact is many of these incidents could be easily avoided at little or no expense to the homeowner. With the high cost of heating fuel and the potential for fire, a little preventative maintenance will result in a substantial savings, not to mention the comfort of knowing your family will be safer.

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