“THE HEAT IS ON” IF NOT, IT WILL BE; SOON
Now that we have “survived” a mild summer and air-conditioning season it’s time to get ready for the cold(er) weather. Several weather prognosticators have predicted a colder-than-usual winter accompanied by lots of precipitation. I am not a weather analysis, but that prediction got my attention. As a first step, I have replaced my aged windows with thermal pane glass with vinyl fames.
Next, I have made arrangements to have my gas-fired furnace and water-heater serviced by a qualified technician. A programmable thermostat was also installed so the heat does not operate until the temperature drops below 65 degrees F when I am not home. Gas water heaters/furnaces must have the filters replaced, and the burners cleaned to detect any clogs or aging deterioration [oxidation]. The vent stacks must be checked for tightness and cleaned. If metal is used, joint connections should be fastened with self-tapping metal screws; CO detectors are a must. Install them as per the manufacturers’ instructions and if they already exist, change the batteries and clean them of dust and insects with compressed air.
Oil and gas fired boilers, water heaters and furnaces should be serviced annually by qualified technicians. Filters replaced, electrodes re-gapped (or replaced) if they are burned or pitted. Oil filter(s) must be cleaned/replaced, thermostats calibrated, water temperature controls adjusted, for hot water usage (showers, dishwashing, etc.) and domestic heat. Hot water heat (radiators/baseboard) must have air-pockets “bled” from them. Air pockets in radiant water systems will prevent heated water from circulating thru the system resulting in “bumping and banging “of the heating pipes and lack of heat.
• Natural gas is lighter than air. LP (propane) is heavier than air. Both displace oxygen (that humans need, 20.9%) and will kill by hypoxia [oxygen deprivation] when the oxygen level drops to 19% or lower. This can occur in an insidious manner [slow/deadly].
All hydro-carbon fossil fuels emit carbon as well as CO during the combustion process. Vents and stacks must be checked and cleaned to prevent possible ignition of the by-products of combustion, carbon build-up, cresote and a fire in the flue or chimney. Chimneys should be lined with stainless steel or high-temperature refractory masonry with terracotta liners.
Any location where a pipe or flue passes thru a combustible wall, ceiling or partition the phenomenon of pyrolysis can exist. Pyrolysis is defined as the lowering of the ignition temperature of combustible material(s) to a lower degree which they will readily ignite.
• Heat - A form of energy associated with the motion of atoms or molecules and capable of being transmitted through solid and fluid media by conduction, through fluid media by convection, and through empty space by radiation.
• Cold – The absence of heat in varying degrees; lack of molecular motion (friction).
Keep in mind, heat is energy and requires a generation source, e.g.: the Sun. Cold on the other hand, overcomes heat and it dominates; no generation source necessary, cold already exists.
Electric heaters should have a tip over switch to immediately shut down the heater and prevent burning of material, people, and pets. Check the cord and plug, if they are frayed or damaged repair or replace. Always maintain a proper clearance to any and all combustibles. Never plug a heater into extension cord; the connection can generate heat and may cause a fire should a melt-down of the connectors occur. Always plug the heater directly into a wall receptacle but be aware it can then become a trip-over hazard.
Kerosene heaters are NOT permitted in all localities. Consult with your local code enforcement official and fire administrator if you are considering purchasing or have one that you plan to use. Use ONLY 1-K (K-1) clear kerosene, NO substitute. Heaters must be cleaned, the wick(s) trimmed and ALWAYS used in a safe area at least 36” from anything. Always wait until the heater cools down before you fill it and always fill the heater outside. If you see a heater at a yard or garage sale, be aware, it is being sold for a reason.
Fireplaces are great for supplemental heat sources. Fireplace inserts, “heat-ilators” and other devices to adapt fireplaces should be researched. Your devices should display the U.L. seal, the Factory Mutual label and other testing and certifying agencies testing and approvals. Fireplaces should be inspected annually by qualified chimney sweeps. The flues should be checked using Chim-Scans, rotating cameras and the results recorded on a disc for posterity. Chimneys must have caps and spark arresters (screen) on the top and all foliage (trees) must be trimmed to maintain a ten foot radius (clearance) from the chimney. Remember, your chimney is your responsibility, you have intentionally set a fire; make sure it (fire) stays on your property and in a safe place (your fireplace and your chimney). Always burn seasoned wood.
Be certain the contractors you employ are Qualified, Certified, and INSURED.
Educate yourself about: SMOKE ALARMS, (IONIZATION & PHOTO CELL), CO ALARMS; 10 YEAR LITHIUM POWER BATTERIES, and RESIDENTIAL SPRINKLERS. Pass the information on to your neighbors.
Reference sources to consult: NFPA 10, 13, 30, 54, 96, 101, 211, www.nsfa.dhs.gov.
Ed Knight is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI/CFIIi); a fire instructor (O&C 1033) member of KCFSI; a retired municipal assistant fire marshal, and forensic investigator. He is Chairman of the Pequea Lane Live Burn Facility, Pequea Lane (West Lampeter Twp), Lancaster, PA 17602.
Ed Knight is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI/CFII) and a fire instructor; a retired municipal assistant fire marshal, forensic investigator having investigated several thousand fires and testified over 60 times throughout the United States and several foreign countries. He is Chairman of the Live Burn Facility, Pequea Lane, Lancaster, PA.