Assessing Secondary Heating Sources for Your Home in Winter

Assessing Secondary Heating Sources for Your Home in Winter

For most North American households, winter weather is accompanied by a rise in monthly utility costs from increased heating costs. Many homeowners start thinking about strategies to drive those costs down -- whether by searching the home for drafty areas, upgrading insulation, or simply throwing on a sweater and dialing down the thermostat a few degrees.

Other popular options include using a secondary heating source like a fireplace, wood burning stove, space heater, or electric blanket. These sources can produce comfortable heat for smaller, more targeted areas of the home at a fraction of the cost of turning up the thermostat for the entire home. They can be especially useful for heating rooms that tend to be cooler than the rest of the home, or for enduring the occasional chilly night in the southern United States where many homes don't have traditional furnaces.

But these heat sources also pose their own unique risks, and it's important to take safety precautions when using them.

Fireplace

While it can't heat a whole home, the fireplace can provide a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing space for a few people, even if the thermostat is turned down to a cool temperature.

Fireplaces and chimneys require regular maintenance, so conducting an annual chimney inspection and cleaning is crucial. A careful inspection can catch cracks that might leak dangerous gases into your home, and a thorough cleaning removes the buildup of creosote, a residue that can catch fire if ignited by a spark.

Other tips include:

  • Always keep the fireplace area clear of flammable materials and liquids, and use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks and embers from escaping into the room.
  • Use only natural wood or artificial fireplace logs. Never burn charcoal, newspapers or trash in your fireplace.
  • Open the damper before building a fire, and ensure the fire is completely extinguished before closing it again.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.

Wood-Burning Stove

Though not as popular in the modern era as fireplaces, wood-burning stoves have their own aesthetic appeal and are still used as efficient heat sources in many homes and cabins. And like fireplaces, these stoves must be connected to chimneys which require annual inspection and cleaning.

Consider the following:

  • Make sure the wood-burning stove is installed on a fire-resistant base and is clear on all sides from any flammable materials.
  • Only burn dry natural wood or fuel designed specifically for wood stoves, such as wooden pellets.
  • Don't let fires burn unattended.

Space Heaters

When it comes to safety, space heaters have come a long way in recent years. Some older models increased the risk of house fires, particularly models operated with liquid fuel. Today's space heaters are mostly electric and often have built-in safety features that turn the heaters off if they tip over, overheat, or have been left turned on for too long. Remember:

Remember:

  • Always operate heaters on a flat surface away from flammable materials and walkways.
  • Plug heaters directly into wall outlets. Do not use extension cords or power strips.
  • Dispose of a space heater if the cord or plug become damaged.
  • Don't operate heaters unattended or overnight.

Electric Blankets

As economical as they are cozy, electric blankets can provide comfort all night even with the heat down low. Operating electric blankets in multiple bedrooms can often be much cheaper than turning up the thermostat.

Be sure to

  • Examine blankets before each use for exposed or damaged wires, and dispose of any that have any damage.
  • Avoid using blankets more than ten years old, even if they appear to still be in good shape.
  • Consider using an electric blanket to pre-heat a bed and then removing it before going to sleep to minimize both operating costs and fire risk.

Stay Safe and Stay Warm

Always observe the proper safety precautions when keeping warm and saving money in winter. For assistance with comparing secondary heating sources and/or checking the home's primary furnace, reach out to a local HVAC technician today.


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