Cozying up to a crackling fire is one of the most enjoyable things about winter. Whether you have a wood burning, electric, or modern gas fireplace, take precautions to keep your family — and house — safe around the hearth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you have a professional check your chimney each year, even if you don’t think it needs to be cleaned. If something has blocked or damaged the damper, fumes and smoke will back up into the house. For wood burning fireplaces, remove pokers and other tools if small children are present and don’t leave the fire unattended. If you have a gas fireplace, installing carbon monoxide detectors and testing them each month is always a good idea, even if your fireplace is vented to the outside.
If you have a wood stove or fireplace, burning wood that is completely dry will cut down on smoke. Before lighting the fire, use a flashlight or mirror to look up the chimney and make sure the damper is open. Open a window in the room, if possible, even just an inch or two, and keep the glass doors of the fireplace open to let cooler air from the room feed the fire. Don’t keep the fire going for more than five hours, and remove ashes after the embers have completely died and cooled down.
All new homes built today are required to have hardwired smoke detectors, but you still need to check and replace the batteries in each unit so that they will function in the event of a power outage. Keeping a fire extinguisher on hand is always a good idea for fireplace use as well as daily cooking. Gas fireplaces offer many advantages over wood burning fires, including more efficient use of energy for heat, less mess, and no need to chop and store wood. But they can still become hot to the touch and cause burns. Electric fireplaces can pose other risks related to wiring if you live in an older home.
There’s nothing quite like a fireplace to add ambiance to your great room, bedroom, or even the master bath. Taking a few steps to keep your family safe around the fire will let you relax a little more while you are enjoying the warmth.