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Nothing feels better than a warm house on a cold winter day, but remember that improperly used or maintained heating equipment can lead to fires or other accidents. Here are some ways to prevent such an incident:

Choose and use space heaters carefully

When shopping for a space heater, make sure it's been tested and approved by an independent test lab such as UL, CSA, or ETL.

Fixed space heaters should be installed according to the manufacturer's specifications and any applicable safety codes. If you can't have a qualified technician install the unit, at least have one check it afterward to make sure it’s functioning properly. If you must use a gas space heater in a bedroom or bathroom, make sure it's a small unit and safely mounted.

Portable space heaters should never be left unattended; turn them off every time you leave the room, and before you go to sleep.

Take care with wood, coal, or other solid fuels

Your wood, pellet, or coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, connectors, and other equipment need to be inspected at least once a year by a professional; they should be cleaned at least annually, or more often if your inspector recommends it.

Use a sturdy screen in front of your fireplace to keep sparks out of your living space. Store wood ashes only in an approved container on a non-flammable surface, and allow them to cool before disposing of them.

Use flashlights when the power's out

Candles won't do much for you in the way of light or heat, and they are fire hazards that must be monitored constantly, especially if you have small children or pets. They can also lead to carbon monoxide build-up. When the power goes out, flashlights are a much safer and convenient source of light. Just make sure you keep some extra batteries handy. You might also consider trying long-lasting, low-energy, bright LED flashlights.

Don't heat your home with appliances not intended for that job

For example, never use your gas oven, charcoal grill, or portable fire pit to heat your home. Those devices are not intended or tested for that use. In addition to posing fire hazards, such activity could quickly lead to carbon monoxide build-up and poisoning.

Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and test them regularly

No list of home fire safety tips is complete without a mention of smoke detectors. Their warnings can give you time to escape a fire.

Especially during the heating season, you'll also want a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is emitted when a fuel-burning appliance isn't functioning or vented properly; around your house, it can come from open flames, space heaters, a blocked chimney, or a car running in a garage. It's colorless, odorless, toxic at high levels... and impossible to detect without a device.

You need at least one of each detector on each level of your home and one outside each sleeping area; make sure you follow manufacturers' recommendations when you install. Test them at least once a month (once a week is better) and change batteries at least twice a year, or more often if they chirp to alert you of a weak battery.

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