Alternative Home heating Safety as Londoners, have started to have that debate about whether it’s cold enough to switch the heating on, as thousands of people continue to work from home more regularly and the weather takes a noticeably colder turn, there is a real risk of a rise in fires as people look for cheaper ways to heat their homes as gas prices soar.
Portable heaters – such as halogen heaters and electric heaters – are one of the most common alternatives people use to keep warm, particularly if they are spending a lot of time in one room and want to avoid switching on their central heating. Although they can be seen as a more economical way to keep warm, if used incorrectly they can have devastating consequences and they are not an unusual occurrence.
Fires involving heaters have a high mortality rate and sadly, portable heaters have been the cause of 14 fatal fires in London in the past five years. Almost 200 people have suffered injuries from these types of fires since 2017, And those with mobility issues using unsafe heating methods are also, sadly, more likely to sustain a fatal injury.
Use electric heaters carefully this winter as misuse of them can lead to fires. Electric heaters should never be used to dry clothes, or obstructed, as covering electric heaters can increase the risk of a fire. (Of 3,000 adults surveyed, one in 10 admit to having used their electric heater to dry their clothes, posing a serious risk of fire).
Electric heaters will typically heat a small room in a short period of time, but they are not designed to be permanent fixtures in the home and should always be plugged directly into a mains socket outlet. (Of those surveyed who currently own an electric heater, one in six admitted they connect it with an extension lead), increasing the risk of a domestic fire.
Tips to use portable heaters safely
- Put your heater on a level surface, well away from anything or anyone that could knock it over.
- Make sure your heater is at least one metre away from combustible materials, such as paper, furniture or curtains.
- Never use a portable electric heater to dry your clothes.
Don’t leave your heater unattended whilst in use or while you are asleep.
- Never power a heater from an extension lead – they can easily be overloaded and cause fires.
- Regularly inspect your heater for damage and deterioration. If it isn’t in good condition, don’t use it.
- Avoid second-hand heaters. Make sure you buy from manufacturers or retailers that you know and trust.
- Make sure that you register your heater with the manufacturer so that, if there is a problem, it can contact you to repair or replace it.
- Before attempting to move your heater, turn it off and allow it to cool first.
- Gas heater cylinders should be changed in the open air, if you have to change them indoors, make sure all rooms are ventilated and open the windows and doors.
- Never store cylinders in basements, under stairs or on balconies and get empty cylinders collected regularly.
- Halogen heaters can be cheap to buy, but it’s important to buy from a reputable seller, as serious fires have been caused by non-compliant/counterfeit heaters.
- Beware if you have children or pets, in case heaters get knocked over or covered up, leading to overheating and a fire.
- Never install, repair or service appliances unless you are a competent professional yourself. Make sure anyone who does is a registered professional.
Consider the fire risk of other alternative ways to heat homes.
If gas, paraffin heaters or alternatives with solid fuel should fit carbon monoxide alarms in their homes, as an important precaution but they must not be regarded as a substitute for proper installation and maintenance of gas appliances.
Never leave the cooker, oven or hob on for heating. A build-up of heat can cause a fire, carbon monoxide poisoning or even death. Never use a barbeque or solid fuel fire indoors unless properly ventilated as this may also cause a significant risk from carbon monoxide
Safety tips for log burners and open fires
It’s really important to follow some simple rules to keep snug safely with a traditional fire:
- Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained.
Always have your chimney swept by a specialist – at least once a year for coal, twice if burning logs.
- Make sure you use a fireguard to protect against flying sparks and hot embers.
- Before you go to bed, make sure fires or hot embers are under control and guarded.
- Store logs away from solid fuel burners – radiated heat can cause them to burn.
- Keep clothing and fabric well away from open fires and log burners.
Watch out for children and pets – supervise them carefully, and use fireguards.
Electric blankets are also a way to keep warm, but there are some simple
tips to follow to keep safe if using them:
- They should always be stored flat, rolled up or loosely folded to prevent damaging the internal wiring.
- Always unplug them before you get into bed unless it has a thermostat control for safe all-night use.
- Never use an electric blanket if you have an airflow pressure relief mattress or use emollient creams and if your blanket gets wet, don’t use it and never switch it on to dry it.
- Do not buy second-hand electric blankets and check regularly for wear and tear and replace at least every 10 years.