Preparing for winter and fire dangers

With winter well on the way, attention is turning to how we can prepare our homes for the colder weather. Low temperatures aren’t the only issue we face over June, July and August: fire hazards are a concern too.

Fire dangers

Let’s start by running through some common winter-related fire dangers you’ll want to avoid.

Clothes on heaters

During the winter months, it can be tempting to dry clothes on electric heaters. After all, it makes sense: heaters evaporate moisture from your clothes, allowing them to dry out faster than leaving them on the rack. But drying clothes this way is dangerous and the cause of many house fires.

This method of drying creates condensation and could cause property damage and mould spores to grow and release into the air, aggravating allergy, and asthma symptoms.

If possible, either use a regular dryer or, if you don’t have one, use an indoor rack in a well-ventilated space, away from your main living area.

Unserviced heat pumps

Proper operation of your heat pump will not only save energy, but it can also reduce the risk of fire.

A thorough heat pump service includes:

  • Full duct, indoor coil and filter inspection
  • Verifying adequate air flow
  • check operations, noise level of the fan, the flaps etc

Critically, it also tests for correct electric terminals – a potential fire hazard if not properly calibrated.

Uncleaned flues

A flue is simply a passage for conveying exhaust gases from an appliance to the outdoors. A flue may be a duct, pipe, vent, or chimney and require a clean and safety check. Unfortunately, over time, they can become impregnated with a flammable substance called creosote. At low levels, this substance rarely combusts. However, at higher concentrations, it can suddenly spark, leading to a flue fire.

The good news is that there is a simple solution: clean out your wood heaters regularly. Get them professionally serviced at least once per year, particularly in the run-up to winter.

Cleaning and servicing your heating

  • You need to clean your heater often to make sure it is free from dust.
  • Heat pump filters need to be cleaned once every three months by removing and vacuuming or washing the filters.
  • A wood heater flue must be cleaned once a year.
  • A dusty or unclean heater can stop working properly and can be dangerous.

Tips for keeping your house warm in winter

In Tasmania, winter temperatures plummet below 5 degrees C. So here are some of our quickfire tips for keeping your house warm as the colder weather approaches:

  • Install thicker curtains that act as insulators, keeping warmth in your home
  • Block out the draughts coming into your rooms using a draught excluder – usually a snake-like cushion that blocks the gap between your floor and the bottom of the door
  • Consider Installing insulation in your roof and under your floors.
  • Time your heating to turn on 30 minutes before you wake up so that it is cool while you sleep, but warmer when you get up for breakfast or a shower
  • Very importantly – make sure your smoke alarms are working and report it to the landlord or agent if not

How can I cut down on my heating costs?

There are some simple things that you can do:

  • Stop heat leaving your house by closing the doors and windows when your heater is on. This blocks off the area you are trying to heat.
  • Don’t try and heat your whole house. Closing some doors to rooms you are not using helps to cut down on the number of rooms you are trying to heat.
  • If you have any north facing windows, open your curtains as wide as possible during the day to let in the sunshine. Sunshine is a great free way to warm your house.
  • Close curtains and blinds after the sun goes down.
  • Put a draft stopper against the bottom of the door to keep any drafts out. A dry rolled up towel works well.
  • Wear warm clothes or put a rug over your knees when sitting down.
  • Set any heating temperature as low as you feel comfortable during winter (around 19 or 20 degrees C). Every degree increase adds around 10 per cent to your heating costs.
  • Use fans on heaters only every now and again. Fan heaters use a lot of power. If you have a Pureheat heater, use the fan and radiant bars to get the temperature to warm the room but then turn the fan off.
  • Make sure you clean any filters and heaters often. If your house is dusty, you might need to do it more often.
06 September, 2021
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