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Common Home Heating Hazards and How to Avoid Them

Updated: Jul 29, 2021

Monitoring the condition and performance of your heating system is imperative to protecting you and your family from a home fire. In this month’s blog, the home comfort specialists at Main Stream Mechanical discuss common causes of heating equipment failures and how to avoid them.

Heating Equipment and Home Fires

According to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) heating equipment is the leading cause of home fires in the United States, with 48% of all home heating fires occurring at the height of heating season, December through February. Poorly maintained heating equipment contributes to about seven fatal fires per day.

Proper Maintenance and Safe-use Practices for your Heating/Hot Water Systems

Fortunately, many home heating fires can be prevented when regular maintenance and safety procedures are followed. These include:

  1. Inspecting your heating system annually. Following manufacturer’s care and use guidelines will not only keep you and your family safe, it will also help extend your system’s lifespan, and maintain its efficiency. In some cases, an annual inspection is required to keep your warranty valid. If you notice unusual noises or smell gas, have your system checked immediately by a home heating professional.

  2. Leaving a three-foot clearance around your heating equipment. Keep the area around your furnace or boiler clear of flammable materials such as clothing, upholstered furniture, boxes, and newspapers.

  3. Checking and changing your air filter regularly. If you have a furnace, change your filter at least every 3-6 months or dirt, dust, and pet dander will buildup and slow your fan down. A slow fan makes your furnace work harder.

  4. Checking your water heater. As your water heater gets older, the thermostat heating element inside will start to deteriorate and the flame will become inconsistent. This could cause a flash fire, particularly if the water heater is in the garage where it is susceptible to wind or changes in air supply that could be caused by someone opening or closing a door. If your water heater is getting up there in years, have a heating professional check it over.

Safe Space Heater Use

Space heaters are a frequent contributor to heating equipment fires, and their effect is often fatal. If you use a space heater to supplement heat in a particular area:

  • Leave at least a three-foot space around the unit. Left too close to a heater, flammable materials—such as bedding, clothes, and upholstery—can ignite and start a fire.

  • Never leave it unattended. Choose a heater that has a digital timer to help ensure it isn’t accidentally left on unattended.

If you’re using a space heater because your home has drafty areas, have a home heating professional look at your heating system to locate and repair the source of the draft.

Other Important Fire Safety Considerations

Don’t forget about your laundry room. Most homeowners don’t realize the laundry room can be a source of home fires. The duct that connects to the back of the dryer collects flammable lint. You should have the duct cleaned at least once a year as the dryer doesn’t capture 100% of the lint and some of it ends up in the ducts. If you have enough flammable dryer lint built-up in the duct, you could have a fire.

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home—especially the one that the heater is on.

  • Check your smoke alarms monthly and change batteries annually.

Home Heating System Inspections, Maintenance, and Installation in NH and MA

When it comes to preventing home heating fires, being proactive can save lives. Begin by scheduling a home heating inspection. We provide inspection and maintenance and repair in Haverhill, Amesbury, Newburyport, Rowley, Topsfield, Boxford, and other locations across Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.


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