How to prevent freezing pipes and use heaters safely

Photos.com image

Photos.com image

With snow forecasts becoming more common, the Prescott Fire Department encourages people to take simple steps to keep their pipes from freezing, and to check their heating equipment, said Eric Kriwer, Prescott Fire Department spokesman.

"Many calls about broken pipes that we responded to last year were in places where the owners did not maintain the heat," Kriwer said.

Keep central heating set at 55 degrees to avoid frozen water pipes that can burst and cause extensive and expensive damage.

"Last year we ran to over 100 water-line breaks," Kriwer said. "It's difficult for the homeowners and businesses who lose water, and it's also costly to fix, and we want to avoid that."

Drain your outside irrigation system and shut it off during winter months, if your home has a residential sprinkler system always keep the garage door shut in extreme cold conditions, and maintain heat at 55 degrees at all times in the home. Never for any reason drain and shut down a fire protection system.

If you have a sink or water pipes against an outside wall, keep the cabinets open to allow warm air to circulate to keep the pipes from freezing.

"Consider letting the faucets slowly drip," Kriwer said. "It's better to pay for a little extra water usage than to pay for a burst water pipe."

Before turning on the heater, check it and smell the air.

When not in use, many heaters collect dust that can cause a burning odor and produce smoke when the heater first gets turned on. If enough dust and debris builds up on the heater, it could catch fire, Kriwer said.

Keep space heaters 3 feet from combustible items, and never leave them on in an unattended room.

Prescott Fire Department also recommends that people:

• Install stationary space heaters according to manufacturer's instructions or applicable codes, or better yet, have them installed by a professional.

• Plug electric-powered space heaters into an outlet with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.

• Use only dry, seasoned wood to avoid the build-up of creosote, an oily deposit that easily catches fire, in your fireplace and wood stoves.

• Have your chimney or wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a competent and qualified chimney specialist.

• Leave glass doors open on wood-burning stoves while burning a fire. Leaving the doors open ensures that the fire receives enough air to ensure complete combustion and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney.

• Close glass doors on wood burning stoves when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney opening from getting into the room. Most glass fireplace doors have a metal mesh screen that should be closed when the glass doors are open. This mesh screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace area.

• Use only paper or kindling wood, not a flammable liquid, to start the fire.

• Do not use artificial logs in wood stoves.

• Maintain 3 feet of open space between your fireplace or stove area from combustible materials.

• Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen to prevent sparks from flying into the room.

• Allow fireplace and woodstove ashes to cool before disposing in a metal container, which is kept a safe distance from your home.

• Turn off space heaters whenever the room is unoccupied, you go to sleep, or under circumstances when manufacturer's instructions say they should be turned off.

• Portable space heaters are easy to knock over in the dark so they should be turned off when you go to bed and make sure your primary heating for the bedrooms is sufficient to avoid risks from severe cold.

• Do not use your oven to heat your home.

• Avoid using electrical space heaters in bathrooms due to risk of electrical shock.

• Inspect all heating equipment annually and clean as necessary.

• Keep trash and other combustibles away from your heating system.

• Test smoke alarms monthly; install a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area.

• Contact a local maintenance heating and cooling company to come and service your heating unit prior to use.

If you have any questions contact the Prescott Fire Department at 928-777-1760.