Fall is without a doubt my favourite season. The brisk air and crunching leaves underfoot; cosy sweaters and the first light in the woodstove.
As the temperature drops, curling up next to a fire becomes very tempting, but remember that gas appliances can pose a risk. It’s important to make sure they’re in good working order before you turn them on for the season.
CSA Group, a leader in product safety standards, testing and certification, is spreading the word on safety this season. Anthony Toderian is digital communications manager for CSA Group and has many valuable tips for homeowners as they prepare to heat up their homes.
Question: HH: As the weather grows colder, we’re all cranking up the heat. What are the most common causes of accidents with regard to home heating?
Answer: AT: The biggest concerns with home heating are related to burns, fires and carbon monoxide. It is very important to follow all manufacturer’s instructions when using home-heating appliances and to properly maintain these devices.
Improper use or care can lead to poor combustion, poor ventilation, overheating, fires and explosions. If you have any concerns about the use or maintenance of your home heating appliances, have them checked out by a licensed technician.
Q: If heating with gas-fuelled units, what do we need to be on the lookout for?
A: Any fuel-burning appliance needs proper ventilation to and from the unit. For a large furnace, make sure the filters are clean, that all air vents are unblocked, and that there is nothing blocking exterior vents. For a natural gas fireplace, be sure your chimney vent is clear of debris such as leaves and branches, as well as any bird nests or animal roosts. For space heaters, be sure there is proper airflow in front and behind the units and that they are properly vented. Many modern units also come with automatic tip shut offs and low oxygen shut offs. For any fuel-burning appliance make sure it is never operated near any combustibles and that children and pets keep away from hot appliances. Always ensure your appliance is certified by an accredited organization such as CSA Group and bears a legitimate certification mark.
Q: How common, and how important, are carbon monoxide detectors in homes?
A: Carbon monoxide alarms are vital not only in homes, but also in cottages, campers and anywhere fuel-burning appliances are used. Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer. It is a colourless, odourless gas that can occur anytime there is incomplete combustion. Whether using a gas or a natural heat source, it is essential to have a working carbon monoxide alarm installed on every level of the home and outside of sleeping areas.
Carbon monoxide symptoms may mimic sudden flu symptoms and be disregarded this time of year so it is important to have an alarm that will give you advanced warning of a potentially lethal build up of gas in your home. In many provinces and municipalities, Carbon monoxide alarms are now legally required to be installed in all new homes.
Q: How can we ensure our smoke detectors are up to date?
A: Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the use and expiry of your smoke alarm or carbon monoxide alarm. Many of the units will have a date indicating their lifespan.
If you do not know the date, in most cases you can look up the information on the manufacturer’s website. If you have any doubt about your alarm, replace it with a newer model. Test the units once a month and be sure to replace the batteries twice a year during daylight savings time.
Q: What are some items we should keep on hand to help prevent accidents from occurring?
A: The best accident prevention tool is education and time. Make sure you take the time to think about safety whenever using fuel-burning appliances and that you and your family have taken time to review and follow general safety tips. Most accidents are preventable. It is a good idea to have fire extinguishers and first aid kits handy for small emergencies, but always call 911 or your emergency services first so that they can start their response on time when seconds are vital.
Q: How can proper maintenance aid with accident prevention?
A: Proper maintenance of heating appliances can mean the difference between life and death. An annual inspection of heating appliances by a licensed technician at the beginning of the season is always encouraged. Preventative maintenance will help ensure proper airflow and the working condition of your heating unit. Always be sure that any parts that are replaced are certified by an accredited organization such as CSA Group.
For more tips and consumer information, including a new video on carbon monoxide safety, visit www.csagroup.org/us/en/consumers/safety-tips.