Understanding Space Heater Safety

space heaterAs the days become shorter the outdoor temperatures begin to drop. With the cooler weather, many homeowners will be pulling out their space heaters for extra warmth and added comfort.

Using space heaters, whether electric or fuel-burning has some increased risk. However, if you follow a few simple safety rules, space heaters can safely and effectively compliment your whole home heating system.

Are Space Heaters Safe?

All space heaters are required to meet minimum consumer safety standards. When used properly, space heaters are safe to use.

However, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), based on 2011-2015 annual averages, space heaters “accounted for just over two of every five (43%) of home heating fires and four out of five (85%) of home heating fire deaths.”

While space heaters are technically safe to use, safety issues arise when they are not used properly. The primary causes of space heater fires are:

Operating a space heater near flammable items.
Leaving space heaters running unattended.
Operating a fuel-burning space heater with an unclean chimney.

Electric Space Heater Safety

The most common types of space heaters use electricity to warm the surrounding area. Here are some basic safety rules for operating an electric space heater.

Always read the owner’s manual thoroughly before operating an electric space heater.

Follow all operating instructions in the owner’s manual.

Leave at least three feet in all directions. Keep this space free of all flammable material, including toys, blankets, curtains, clothing, paper, etc.

Never leave your space heater on while unattended. A responsible and aware adult should always be present when your space heater is in use.

Use your electric space heater only on a level surface.

Keep children away from your space heater when it is in use. To prevent burns as well as fires, keep children a safe distance away. Consider child safety gates or other equipment to ensure small children do not accidentally touch or knock over your space heater.

Consider purchasing a space heater with added safety features. Many models feature an automatic shut-off system which employs when the unit tips over.

Fuel-Burning Space Heater Safety

A fuel-burning space heater is one that uses burnable fuel like wood pellets, kerosene, propane, or natural gas to heat the surrounding area. Fuel-burning space heaters are very efficient, but can present their own set of risks. With a few simple safety tips and
Precautions, however, a fuel-burning space heater can be a safe and comfortable way to complement your whole-house heating system.

Always use the appropriate fuel in your space heater. Check with the manufacturer or the unit’s user manual if you are uncertain.

Always remember to turn your space heater off before leaving the room or going to sleep.

Maintain a three-foot perimeter around your fuel-burning space heater. Keep all flammable materials outside of this area.

To prevent burns and accidental fires, keep children at least three feet away from your space heater.

Make sure the area has sufficient ventilation. Fuel-burning space heaters emit dangerous carbon monoxide, which can have hazardous effects on your family and pets. Use the space heater with an open window or running ventilation fan.

Refuel your fuel-burning space heater outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

Make sure your home’s carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Change batteries at least once each year.

If your space heater features a pilot light, use caution when lighting it. If the pilot light goes out, do not try to relight it for at least five minutes. This will give enough time for any lingering gas or fumes to safely dissipate before you attempt to relight it.

Consider purchasing a fuel-burning space heater that offers enhanced safety features. Many newer models feature special shutoff mechanisms which engage when ambient oxygen levels are low.

If your unit requires a chimney, have your chimney cleaned before use.

Consider Upgrading your Whole-House Heating System

Many homeowners turn to space heaters to correct bigger comfort issues. If your central heating system is not adequately heating your home, it may be time to upgrade your system. Contact your local HVAC professionals to help you determine the proper size and model to meet your needs. A qualified technician can perform load calculations to determine proper sizing for heating systems and help you decide if upgrading the central heating system is the proper solution.

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Essential HVAC Tips for Pet Owners

pet ownersIf you are a pet owner, you understand how an animal companion can enrich your life. You probably also understand how much work a pet can be. Keeping a pet healthy and happy will help you both live longer.

When you adopt a pet as a family member, it can out a strain on your HVAC system. If you have a furry friend, whether canine or feline, indoors or outdoors, there are certain steps you should take to keep your pet safe and your system running smoothly.

Groom Your Pet Regularly

Not only is routine grooming good for your pet, it is also good for your HVAC system. The hair your pet sheds can get sucked into your system, settle in your ductwork, and get blown back into your living spaces.

Grooming will significantly reduce the amount of airborne fur in your home. But regular bathing and brushing can also make you healthier. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, frequently bathing your furry friend helps eliminate microscopic pet dander, dust, and pollen, all leading causes of pet allergies.

Change Filters Often

Cleaning or replacing air filters is an essential part of HVAC maintenance. It helps keep dust and hair from bogging down your system. A clean filter is necessary to keep your system running efficiently and effectively.

How often you need to change your filters depends of the size of your HVAC system, the filter it requires, and how much dirt and debris needs to be filtered from the air in your home.

If you share your home with a pet, you will probably need to change your filters more often as pet hair and dander can quickly accumulate in your filters. Pet owners, especially those with multiple pets or pets that regularly shed, may need to change filters monthly to keep their system running at peak efficiency.

Consider upgrading to a HEPA filter.

For some homeowners, especially those suffering from allergies, frequent filter changes may not be enough. By upgrading to a HEPA filter, you can reduce airborne allergens by up to 99 percent. Drastically improving the indoor air quality of your home, a HEPA filter will more efficiently trap microscopic dust and dander and keep it from be recirculated into your home.

Vacuum Regularly

Vacuuming your home will also help reduce the amount of pet hair and dander that gets sucked into your vents. It is just one more step you can take to reduce the amount of hair that floats around your home and makes its way into your HVAC system.

If you suffer from pet allergies, consider purchasing a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Vacuum cleaner models with a built-in HEPA air filter clean the tiniest allergy-causing particulates from your home’s surfaces. This extra filtration is highly important for pet owners with allergies, asthma, or other breathing difficulties since pet dander irritates those conditions.

Protect Your Outdoor Unit and Your Pet

If your pets have free rein outdoors, you will want to take measures to protect your pet and your outdoor unit from each other.

Fido may think your outdoor unit looks like a great place to lift his leg, but pet urine can cause corrosion and other damage to the unit.

Pets may also dig or claw at the fins in your air conditioning condenser. This can cause expensive damage to the unit and could cause your pet unnecessary injury.

The outdoor unit also moving parts that pose an injury risk to your four-legged friends.

To protect dogs and cats from the condenser, and vice-versa, consider erecting a fence or planting dense shrubbery around the unit. This can discourage your pets from getting too close and give Fido other options for relieving himself.

Plants and shrubs can also be an attractive addition to your yard. Keep plants and shrubs at least three feet away from the condenser unit to ensure adequate airflow.

Secure Electrical Cords and Wiring

Since many pets, especially puppies, like to chew, be sure to enclose any exposed electrical wires and conduits. This will prevent electrical hazards to both your system and your pet.  Pets like to chew on electrical wires and cords, which is dangerous for them and can cause damage to the wires. Enclose electrical wires in conduits.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

An annual tune up for your HVAC system has many benefits. A well-maintained system will run more efficiently, lowering your monthly bills and saving energy. Also, a system kept in good operating condition will last longer. Regular maintenance will help pinpoint potential problems before they become expensive, emergency repairs.

Pets are a wonderful addition to any household. However, they do put added strain on your HVAC system. Pet hair, dander, and dirt can clog up vents and ducts causing your system to work harder than necessary. If you follow the essential tips above and schedule yearly maintenance, you can keep your system running smoothly and enjoy the company of a fine furry friend.

If you have questions about how your pet affects your HVAC system, or if you need to schedule routine maintenance, be sure to contact your local HVAC experts.

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