Alternative heat sources
Think twice before exploring innovative ways to save on heating costs.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Home heating costs are expected to be about 25 percent higher this year. What's even more chilling is that during the winter months, there is at least one death a day from alternative heating sources, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
So before you begin exploring other ways to keep your home warm, 5 tips has some safety tips you'll want to keep in mind.
1. Get the safest product
When shopping for a space heater, you want to go with the newer models. There are basically two types of space heaters, electric and kerosene. Electric heaters have less safety risks associated with them according to Scott Wolfson of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If you're looking to invest in electric portable heaters, look for those products manufactured after 1991. These newer heaters have indicator lights that let you know when the heat is turned on.
Others have sensors that can turn a heater off when objects come too close to it. Space heaters should have guards around the heating area. Before you invest in your space heater, make sure it has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by either the Underwriters Laboratory or the Canadian Standards Association. You can pick up space heaters at your local home improvement store. They can range from $50 to $200.
2. Watch the space
Heating devices are the leading cause of home fires in December, January and February according to the National Fire Prevention Association. And where you choose to put your space heater is important.
It's not a good idea to put space heaters on carpets, rugs or uneven surfaces. Don't keep your space heater on if you leave the room or if you go to sleep. If a space heater is tipped over, it could start a fire. Make sure it is at least 3 feet away from bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials. If you're using an electric space heater, you should shy away from using an extension cord if absolutely necessary.
If this is the case, you use an extension cord marked at least #14 or #12 AWG. This number tells the thickness or gauge of the wire in the cord. (The smaller the number, the greater the thickness of the wire.) The shorter amount of space you have between the product and the outlet, the safer you will be says Wolfson.
3. Be extra cautious with kerosene
If you have a kerosene space heater, you will want to take some extra precautions. Of course you know that you should only use a certain type of K-1 Kerosene fuel. But you shouldn't even carry Kerosene in a container that has residual traces of gasoline because that's enough to make the kerosene more flammable. Don't fill the fuel tank to capacity either. As the fuel warms, it expands and could spill and cause a fire. And because burning kerosene creates carbon dioxide, you'll want to check your CO detectors frequently.
4. Keep your fire safe
A crackling fire is a very welcome heat source in the frozen winter months. If you are thinking about cuddling around your fireplace this winter, make sure you have had your chimney and flue inspected in case there is blockage by creosote or debris. Remember to keep the fireplace damper open before lighting the fire. Don't close it until the ashes are cool.
An open damper helps prevent poisonous gases from building up in your home. And we all know how frustrating it can be to start a fire when the wood just isn't cooperating. But don't use charcoal lighter or other fuel to light the fire because those vapors can explode.
5. Use common sense
And no matter how frigid it gets outside, certain heating alternatives are clearly too dangerous to use. Never bring a charcoal grill indoors, recommends the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Don't turn on your stove to heat your house. Leave the propane camping stove outside. This is when carbon monoxide poisoning is likely to kill you. You'll know if you have been exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning if you experience flu-like symptoms including dizziness, headaches, nausea and disorientation.
Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.