If you live in a cold part of the United States, you probably use a furnace to stay warm during the cold winter months. Unfortunately, too many people are unaware of the precautions that they need to take to safely operate their furnaces year in and year out. In fact, the Illinois Department of Public Health estimates that more than 8,000 Americans annually require emergency treatment for injuries associated with furnaces.
To help you avoid problems, here are a few precautions that you should take when using your furnace:
- Move all flammable materials a safe distance away from the furnace, including things like papers, sawdust, old rags, wood scraps and liquids such as gasoline and kerosene. As an extra precaution, since vapors from flammable liquids easily ignite, you should store these liquids in containers that are tightly sealed.
- Change or clean your furnace filter every month during the winter, or more often if you run your furnace a lot, smoke or have pets.
- Have a professional inspect your furnace every year to make sure it’s working well and getting enough fresh air. Ensuring your furnace gets enough air will prevent it from burning improperly, which can end up reducing the oxygen in your home to dangerously low level.
- Have a professional inspect your chimney and flue at least once a year and have them cleaned if necessary. Carbon monoxide levels in your home can become dangerous if smoke can’t escape a clogged chimney or flue. Additionally, built-up soot, which is highly flammable, can easily ignite and can send a fireball of flame from your furnace into your house.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home. Make sure to periodically test the alarms and change the batteries every year or more often if needed.
Illinois Department of Public Health, “Weathering Winter.”