Stay warm, stay safe when using supplemental heat sources -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Stay warm, stay safe when using supplemental heat sources

Content provided by Lowe's

(ARA) - To reduce home heating costs every winter, Americans turn to supplemental heat sources like gas fireplaces, wood stoves and kerosene heaters. While these heat sources can help reduce energy bills and keep homes warmer, experts say users should be aware of - and take steps to mitigate - potential fire and carbon monoxide risks.

"Space heaters and other alternative heating solutions offer cost-effective ways to keep your family warm throughout the winter without heating the whole house, allowing you to lower your thermostat to reduce your energy bills," says Eric Sowder, senior vice president of home improvement retailer Lowe's. "Many products have built-in safety features like automatic shutoffs, anti-tipping devices and heat guards, but be sure to follow all manufacturers' instructions for use and placement of heating devices to avoid serious home injuries and help you rest easy throughout the winter."

About 67 percent of American households use fuel-burning appliances and equipment during the winter months, according to a report by the nonprofit Home Safety Council. Yet 59 percent have not installed a carbon monoxide detector, and many others that do have CO detectors fail to replace missing or dead batteries, the council reports.

"Fires caused by heating appliances overtake cooking fires as the leading cause of home fires in January and February, and CO risks also rise with the use of alternative heating sources," says Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council.

Before you begin using a space heater, make sure you've accomplished these basic energy-saving steps first. Sowder advises:

* Improve insulation. Adding insulation and sealing air drafts can trim up to 20 percent off your heating costs.

* Installing a programmable thermostat can save you around $180 per year when used correctly to automatically lower the temperature when you're out of the house.

* Thermal window curtains, like the Eclipse brand available at Lowe's, can save up to 25 percent on heating and cooling bills, block 99 percent of light and reduce noise up to 40 percent.

When using a supplemental heat source to save energy and money this winter, follow this advice from the Home Safety Council and Lowe's to prevent fire and CO dangers:

Reduce fire risk from space heaters

* Be sure your space heater has been tested for safety. A label on the bottom will indicate if it's been tested by an independent agency - look for the initials ETL, UL or CSA.

* Keep space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn, including furniture, people, pets and curtains. An adult should always be present in the room when a space heater is running.

* Turn heaters off before you leave a room or go to sleep.

* Heaters should never be used to dry clothing or blankets.

Minimize CO threats

* Place at least one CO alarm in your home near sleeping areas.

* Have your home's central heating system inspected, cleaned and tuned by a trained professional who knows how to repair leaks and other problems.

* Be sure gas appliances like stoves and clothes dryers are properly adjusted and serviced.

* Never turn on the gas cooking range in an effort to heat your home.

* Don't use a gas or charcoal grill inside the house or in a closed garage.

Fireplace and wood stove safety

* Never burn trash, cardboard boxes or Christmas trees in your fireplace or wood stove; they burn unevenly and may contain poisons or cause a fire. Only burn seasoned hardwood, like oak, ash or maple in your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

* Get your chimney inspected and cleaned every year by a professional chimney sweep.

* Before you use the fireplace, be sure to open the flue and keep embers inside fireplaces with sturdy screens or glass doors.

To learn more about staying safe in your home during the winter, visit For tips on saving money and energy, visit

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