Prevent home heating fires with these tips from the pros


two pairso f stockinged feet before a fireplace

As the temperature drops, home fire risk rises. It just makes sense. While cooking fires are the leading cause of residential fires, heating-related fires come in second place and peak in the month of January. The U.S. Fire Administration recently issued two statistical reports that talk about home heating fires. In their Study of Heating Fires in Residential Buildings (2013-2015), they report that:

  • Approximately 45,900 annual heating fires in U.S. residential buildings were reported to fire departments each year.
  • Annually, heating fires resulted in 200+ deaths, 700+ injuries, and more than half a billion dollars in property loss.
  • Residential heating fires peak in the early evening from 5 to 9 p.m., accounting for 29% of heating-related home fires.
  • Confined fires (fires confined to chimneys, flues or fuel burners) accounted for 75% percent of residential building heating fires.
  • Combustible materials that were too close to the heat source accounted for 29% of non-confined fires.

While only 4% of heating fires in residential buildings involved portable heaters, they were  involved in 43% of fatal home heating fires, a statistic that should give some pause. In the USFA study on Portable Heater Fires in Residential Buildings (2013-2015), they report:

  • Annual estimated occurrence: 1,650 portable heater fires in residential
  • Portable heater fires caused an estimated 90 deaths, 175 injuries, and $84 million in property loss.
  • In 54% of the fires, the heat source was too close to combustible objects
  • About 37% of portable heater fires started in bedrooms.
  • In bedroom fires caused by portable heaters, the leading items ignited (23%) were bedding, such as blankets, sheets, and comforters.

Here’s a short USFA safety clip related to portable heaters.

Heating safety tips

Fire prevention experts say there are many practices you can take to reduce your risk of a heating-related fire in your home. Here are few safety tips we’ve compiled from the experts

Practice the 3-foot safety rule. Keep combustible materials away from the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.

Maintain a “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. Again, 3 feet is the recommended distance.,

Inspect, clean and test. Have qualified heating professionals inspect and clean furnaces, chimneys and heating equipment every year. Replace batteries in your fire alarms in the spring and fall, and test smoke alarms at least once a month.

Turn off portable heaters when you go to bed or leave a room. Get more space heater safety tips from Travelers,

Never, never, never use ovens or portable grills to heat your home.

Fireplace safety:

  • Use a good quality screen to prevent sparks from jumping.
  • Dispose of ashes in a metal, non-flammable container when they are cold.
  • Dispose of ashes a safe distance away from your home – never beside the home or in the garage or cellar.
  • Learn more about how to dispose of ashes properly – and get a few tips on handy uses for the ash.

Related: see our recent post with money-saving home heating ideas:

Winterizing: Money saving ideas for heating your home

Fire up that snowblower – don’t wait until the first storm hits


We had our first snowfall of the season yesterday … OK, depending on where you live, it was only a few wimpy flakes. But take it as Mother Nature’s gentle advance warning: Winter is on it’s way – get your snowblower ready.

If you have a snowblower, take it out of storage now and test it out – you don’t want to get caught short in the first storm. Popular Mechanics has some tips for how to start your snowblower – including some tips for blowers that are stubborn about starting.

If you don’t have a snowblower, but you have one on your Santa wish list, this video offers  snowblower buying guide tips from Consumer Reports. It’s interactive so you can skip to different chapters. Learn about which type of snow blower best suits your property. The video breaks down what you need to know about size, power source – gas, battery or electric -, key features, trouble shooting, maintenance and how to ensure a smooth start-up each season.

Operating your snowblower safely

Every year, emergency rooms see about 6,000 injuries related to snow blower accidents, many of them amputations. Experts say that most snowblower injuries occur when snow is heavy, wet and deeper than 6 inches – those are conditions that lead to clogging in snow removal machines. Most injuries are hand injuries to the dominant hand.

Whether you are operating a snowblower for your home or your business, the Outdoor Power & Equipment Institute (OPEI) urges you to operate your snow blowing equipment safely. They offer a great list of tips for preparing your machine before it snows, and the following snow blowing safety tips:

  • KEY SAFETY TIP: Never put your hands inside the auger or chute. Use a clean out tool (or stick) to unclog snow or debris from your snow thrower. Your hands should never go inside the auger or chute.
  • Turn OFF your snow thrower if you need to clear a clog. If you need to remove debris or unclog snow, always turn off your snow thrower. Wait for all moving parts to come to a complete stop before clearing any clogs or debris.
  • Only use your snow thrower in visible conditions. Never operate the snow thrower without good visibility or light.
  • Aim your snow thrower with care. Never throw snow toward people or cars. Do not allow anyone to stand in front of your snow thrower. Keep children or pets away from your snow thrower when it is operating.
  • Use extreme caution on slopes and hills. Use caution when changing directions on slopes. Do not attempt to clear steep slopes.
  • Know where your cord is. If you have an electric powered snow thrower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times. Avoid tripping. Do not run over the power cord.
  • Keep pets and children inside. Kids and pets may love to play in the white stuff, but it’s best to keep them inside your home and under supervision while you are using your snow thrower to clear a path or drive. Do not allow them to play in the snow as it is tossed out of the snow thrower’s chute.

If you like to remove your snow the old-fashioned manual way, be sure to see our prior post on Snow shoveling 101: Best shovels, best techniques.

Winterizing: Money saving ideas for heating your home


house wrapped in a sweater to illustrate energy efficiencycy

If you are dreading winter heating bills, it might be a good time to think of ways to save money now before the cold weather kicks in. You can find out how your energy use compares through EPA’s Home Energy Yardstick,. Answer questions about your use for a simple assessment of your home’s annual energy use compared to similar homes. Your energy supplier may provide a similar assessment so you night check there too,

Experts recommend that annual maintenance can help keep your heating bills to a minimum:

Other money saving ideas might involve modernizing or upgrading your systems :

  • Install a “smart” programmable thermostat – learn about Energy Star certified smart thermostats
  • Earn federal tax credits for installing solar heating systems. Tax credits for Solar Energy Systems are available at 30% through December 31, 2019. The credit decreases to 26% for tax year 2020; drops to 22% for tax year 2021 then expires December 31, 2021. Existing homes and new construction qualify. Both principal residences and second homes qualify. Rentals do not qualify. For more information, see Solar Energy Systems to learn about solar water heaters and solar panels.
  • Find Product Rebates & Other Special Offers on Energy Star products from energy vendors in your area – enter your zip code

State energy programs and incentives for New England & New York

 

Infographic and expert tips for Cyber Security Month


October is National Cyber Security Month – an annual reminder to safeguard your digital information and review your online safety practices. It’s a good time to ensure your software is up-to-date and take a few moments to review expert advise to ensure you have maximum protection against emerging threats.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security the National Cyber Security Alliance, a private consortium. Whether you are an individual, a family or a business, each of these links offer tips, tools and resources to help you stay safe online. We’ve included an infographic below.

Here are some other tips from cyber security experts

Infographic with syber security tips

Survival toolkit for college students


One of the first student tips we offer is our post about college students and insurance. We also have a grab-bag of useful tools, advice, and college prep resources — a mini college survival reference guide. We cover everything from safety & security to dorm room advice, with tips from experts. Plus, we offer a variety of links to advice for how to eat healthy while in college, including recipes.

Safety & security

Campus Security Checklist

Security Safety Checklist

Campus and dorm fires

Campus and dorm fire safety tips

Common College scams

9 Ways to Stay Safe on Your College Campus

General college survival advice

Using College Checklists to Plan and Organize Move-in Weekend

What to Bring for Campus Living and How to Pack in 3 Easy Steps

List of Items Not to Bring to College: Dorm Room Contraband

Off-to-College Checklist

Surviving the College Life

36 Life Hacks Every College Student Should Know

First year tips

25 Tips to Help You Survive Your Freshman Year (PDF)

10 Tips To Survive Your First Year Of College

Your First Year of College: 25 Strategies and Tips to Help You Survive and Thrive Your Freshman Year and Beyond

42 College Tips I Learned Freshman Year

Healthy dining in the dorms

22 Healthy College Recipes You Can Make in Your Dorm Room

27 Ways To Eat Like An Adult In College

24 Easy Dorm Snacks for When You Want to Eat Healthier

10 Easy Ways to Eat Healthy in College (It’s Possible, We Promise!)

15 Essential Non-Perishable Foods to Keep In Your Dorm Room