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Maintenance and Safety Advice for Home’s Heat Sources

We can sometimes take our safe, heated homes for granted — that is, until the power goes out or something goes awry.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been singing the praises of heat pumps — ductless heat pumps in particular. However, if you are not currently planning to change your heat system, you need to know how to deal with what you have to safely heat your house this winter.

Here is some maintenance and safety advice for several kinds of heat sources:


Fireplaces are not intended to heat a home, but most folks like to use them now and then.

Those who use a wood stove to heat or partially heat their home also need to listen up: Make sure you have your chimney inspected and cleaned every year to prevent creosote buildup.

Burning dry wood keeps the creosote down, and storing that wood 25 feet or more from your living space can help keep the insects out.

With the holiday season around the corner, be thinking ahead if you will have any young visitors (or perhaps unsteady older ones) who will be near your hot wood stove. You may want to position furniture differently or have a screen handy for safety’s sake.


While not often installed in newer homes, plenty of homes on the Twin Harbors have oil furnaces. (And those folks are enjoying lowered fuel prices right now.)

If that applies to you, it’s important to have your furnace serviced, cleaned and inspected before the winter begins. Not only will the maintenance make your furnace more efficient (saving you money), it will also help prevent the hassle of having it break down when you least expect it.

Additionally, having your furnace serviced cleaned and inspected can help prevent fire.


If you use natural gas in your home for cooking and/or heating, now is a good time to make sure you’ve got plenty in the tank before heading into our chilly season.

It’s also a great time to service and inspect your gas insert or heater.

Just like any other heating appliances, maintain distance between it and any type of combustibles including furniture, curtains and paper.


Many people on the Twin Harbors have electric baseboard heaters or wall register (cadet) heaters. These also need some attention at the beginning of the heating season.

When we aren’t using the heaters during the summer months, we can become lax in keeping flammable items too near them.

Clean your wall register (cadet) or baseboard-type heaters of dust and foreign objects, then maintain 3 feet of clearance from the heat source. If you haven’t yet, take a warm day to turn them off and give them a thorough dusting.


Fire can be ferocious and fast. So, while tending to your heating appliance, make sure you also check your smoke alarms. Getting out quickly is the best way to survive a fire, and an alarm gives you extra time to do that.

Many of us use the clock-changing “Fall Back” and “Spring Forward” days to check alarms and change those batteries. If you missed doing so last weekend, do it today. Also, make sure each of the bedrooms in your home has a working smoke alarm.

One little reminder: Sometimes an alarm, usually one close to the kitchen, goes off when someone burns toast, and the quick way to silence it is to take out the battery. The problem with this, firefighters say, is that folks forget to put the battery back in. They’ve attended many a fire with smoke alarms present, but lacking their battery. Don’t let that be your house.


While you’re thinking about safety, consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm in your home.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can cause sickness or even death. It is a natural result of burning fossil fuels — oil, wood, gas — and can become a hazard if the appliances aren’t used as intended or are used without proper ventilation.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. This is a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. For questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or buying, call 360-533-7828 or visit 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.

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