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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Winter Heating Safety Tips

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On October 6, 2008, a retired Williamston teacher went into his basement to attempt to relight the pilot of his hot water heater. Thereafter, the house exploded trapping the retired man under a pile of wood and insulation. He was later airlifted to Sparrow Hospital where he subsequently died from his injuries. Although the exact cause is still under investigation, authorities believe the accident was caused by a gas leak.

Now that winter is rapidly approaching, its time to get the house and heater ready. The cost of home heating has sky rocketed over the last several years causing people to look for alternative sources of heat. Although these sources may heat the home, they can also prove deadly.

A furnace should be checked at least once a year to ensure it is working properly because if it is not running at peak-performance, it can be deadly. Although this applies to all furnaces, newer furnaces are usually equipped with features that automatically shut off the unit once a problem is detected, whereas older ones are not. The most dangerous side effect to your family from a gas furnace is carbon monoxide poisoning. This is a natural product of heating your home and if the furnace is working properly, it is carried away from your home through a vent.

However, if the furnace is not up to par, the tasteless, odorless, colorless gas can leak into your home poisoning your family. This is easily prevented by yearly furnace check-ups and by installing a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms are flu-like, including dizziness, faintness, pain in the ears, and seeing dots. If you suspect a leak, get out of the home, call 911, and contact your gas provider immediately.

In order to reduce heating costs, people have also turned to space heaters. Although these are efficient and quick, if not used properly they can lead to electrical fires. Space heaters need adequate space. Keep all people, pets, furniture, etc away from the heater. It is important to not overload the circuit and make sure if using an extension cord, that the cord carries at a minimum, the same amp load. Also, make sure not to use these heaters in bathrooms or kitchens where contact with water is likely. Unplug the heater whenever the heater is not being used by anyone, and no one is home.

Wood stoves and fireplaces have once again become a common and cheap way to heat the home. Be sure the stove is installed properly and both the stove and fireplace are at least 36 inches from flammable material. Chimneys should be inspected and cleaned on a yearly basis and a glass door or metal screen should be placed in front of the opening to stop sparks from jumping out. It is important to make sure the fire is completely out before going to bed.

Remember, if you feel unsafe or have any questions regarding your heating source, call your service provider and a technician will come out and examine your product.