Thursday, 8 January 2015

Stay cozy and safe with these fireplace tips

It goes without saying that last winter was hard to endure. The ice storms that hit Southern Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes last December made it difficult for thousands to stay warm. Some residents found refuge in warming centres, while others decided to hunker down in their cold and dark homes. A few lucky families huddled together into one room that thankfully had a fireplace or wood-burning stove. Hopefully the 2014 Farmer's Almanac is right and this winter won't be as severe. But if your memories from last year still have you thinking about buying a fireplace or wood-burning stove, the experts from Desjardins Insurance have some suggestions on how you can keep everyone safe, warm and protected.

Fire prevention:

• Equip your home with smoke detectors. If they are well located and maintained, they can save your life. Clean them regularly and replace the batteries twice a year, typically in March and November when the clocks are reset. Also consider equipping your home with a fire alarm system connected to a remote monitoring center.

• Place one or more fire extinguishers in locations that all family members can easily access and be sure they know how to use them properly.

• Maintain your furnace and hot water heater on a regular basis. This should also include replacing your furnace filter every 90 days.

• Hire a professional to clean your furnace and/or fireplace chimney regularly to prevent creosote build-up. Also make sure that your flue vents are in good working order.

• If you regularly use a fireplace or stove, only burn well-seasoned wood or special fire logs. Burning other material like cardboard, garbage and plastics will bring chemicals into your home and will create dangerous buildup in your chimney.

• When starting your fire, only use matches and open the damper. This should remain open until your fire is well out and cool.

• While your fire burns, put up a screen to keep kids and pets away from the flame, and to keep the logs and embers in the fireplace.

• Once your fire is out and cooled, keep the ashes in a metal container until they're cold enough to throw out.

CO2 Protection:

• Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colourless gas that is produced by burning fuels. Because it can't be detected by regular means, this gas can make you ill or can kill you.

• As evidenced by the recent ice storm, make sure your home is equipped with a carbon monoxide detector with a battery back-up. These alarms are affordable and can be found in most hardware stores.

• To prevent a CO2 leak, make sure that there is proper air circulation in your home, never use your BBQ inside and if your house has a connected garage, never run your car with the garage door closed.

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