Sunday Q&A: Some safety tips for those wintertime heaters
by John Mulcahy | The Ann Arbor News
Sunday December 28, 2008, 12:59 AM
Winter is a time when many people use fireplaces, wood burning stoves and gas or electric space heaters. The News talked to Ann Arbor Fire Inspector Allan Perry about how to use those items safely.
Allan Perry, Ann Arbor Fire Inspector.
Q: What are the biggest dangers associated with fireplaces and wood burning stoves?
Obviously carbon monoxide is a main one. It's odorless, colorless, deadly. A wood burning stove - if it's not properly maintained, cleaned and inspected - you can have a fire in the flue area that could spread to the rest of the structure. Over time, they tend to develop cracks that allow fire to get outside of its container. Anything like that needs to be inspected.
Q: What are the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
A: Generally, most people will describe something like they are coming down with the flu. They may leave the home and go shopping, and all of a sudden they feel better. They maybe go back (home) and don't feel good again. That would be a sign right there. If they have a symptom like that, they need to call 911 right away.
Q: What are some other safety tips for wood stoves or fireplaces?
A: The big thing would be to have a good carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector to give you that early warning. Make sure that you use dry, seasoned wood, a hard wood preferably. Pine will allow that creosote to build up in the flue. Don't overload the firebox with wood. You don't want to put garbage in there, or paper. Don't use it to get rid of things. I can't stress enough the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
Q: What should people know about small gas or electric heaters?
A: We don't recommend any of these things being left unattended or misused. We can even go to the situation of someone tries to use the stove to heat the home. Misuse of appliances is bad. Also, don't have them around combustibles. Talk to a professional, and make sure you are getting a unit that is matched for the space that you want to heat. Get a new unit. They have safety features. Especially with electric space heaters, you don't want to get them plugged in with other things and overload the circuit.
Q: How can people know they are getting a product that meets good safety standards?
A: If it's something that you are going to purchase, I'd be asking an expert. We'd be looking for something like the Underwriters Laboratories label. Most reputable places that you would go to purchase these things would carry that type of unit. There should be a label on the unit and on the packaging.
John Mulcahy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-994-6858.