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Special to The Sun—
Summer and fall have faded in to a blur, and winter is in full swing across the Texas plains. While most imagine scorching heat, dusty plains, tumbleweeds and record high temperatures, winters across the Texas plains are among some of the coldest reported in the country. According to Amarillo.com, the town of Dahlhart, just north of Amarillo, takes the title of coldest town in the state of Texas.
As temperatures continue to plummet, more and more families are left scrambling to find heating methods that can meet the demands of the relentless cold, and keep their homes and families warm through the winter months. This often includes introducing temporary portable heating solutions. While portable heaters can be an efficient heating method and great way to supplement your existing heat source, there are important safety precautions to consider when making the choice to use heaters. Energy.gov recommends only purchasing newer model heaters. This is in an effort to ensure the heater you choose is equipped with all current safety guidelines and features. Additional recommendations include making sure you have the right size heater for the room and opting for a heater that is thermostatically controlled. Using a thermostat to regulate the temperature in your home helps to eliminate the energy waste of overheating a room.
Another popular method for heating is the use of a wood-burning fireplace. With over 40 years industry experience, Jim Ray, president of West Texas Chimney and Venting Solutions in Amarillo urges those who choose a wood-burning fireplace as their heat source, to regularly inspect their system. “First and foremost, it is recommended by the National Fire Protection Association that all wood-burning fireplaces and wood-burning stoves be inspected annually.” Ray recommends thoroughly inspecting the system from top to bottom. “We go in and visually inspect the firebox, we go up on the roof and visually inspect the chimney, and we run a camera from the very top all the way down to verify the integrity of the system,” explains Ray. This method allows extended visibility, and is a valuable step in ensuring your ventilation system is clear and free of any internal damage, and/or any potential gaps or cracks in your ventilation line. “A chimney takes all of the hot poisonous gasses and moves them to the outside air; that is the chimney’s job. So if your chimney is compromised, you may not have the clean, safe, breathable air in your home that you thought you had.”
The National Fire Protection Association website is a valuable resource for anyone interested in taking additional steps to ensure the safety of their home and family. Their website reports that half of home heating fires are reported during the months of December through February. Important tips include routinely checking your equipment’s functionality, ensuring proper installation and creating a kid-free zone around open fires and heaters. To access the full list of safety tips, recommendations and information visit nfpa.org/public-education. In addition to safety guides, the website offers printable guides to share with your family about fire safety as well as escape planning, seasonal risk guides, and information about fire safety away from your home.
While house fires related to portable heating options are common, carbon monoxide is also a common threat. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas, often called the “silent killer” that can be fatal when inhaled. Some examples of carbon monoxide risks include any fuel-burning appliance that is malfunctioning or improperly installed, furnaces, gas ranges and stoves, gas clothes dryers, water heaters, portable fuel-burning space heaters, fireplaces, generators and wood-burning stoves, and a blocked or damaged chimney or flue. Because of the wide range of potential exposure risks, safety.com recommends placing a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, including the basement. Safety.com reports, “And most importantly, install a carbon monoxide detector inside or directly outside of each bedroom or sleeping area. The effects of carbon monoxide are nearly impossible to detect when sleeping. If carbon monoxide is detected, the alarm will sound to alert and wake you.”
The National Fire Protection Association encourages you to stay educated and stay safe while staying warm.