As winter approaches check your heating is ready.
Get out, dust off and test those portable electric heaters you've had stored for the past few months.
Order a new cylinder for your Calor gas heater
Fire up the central heating boiler and bleed your radiators.
Check those gas fires are working,if you haven't had your boiler or gas fire serviced then call a gas registered engineer for an appointment
If you use a wood burning stove, call out the chimney sweep to check your flue / chimney is clean and won't catch fire when you stoke up.
Maybe your going to buy a new portable heater, use our Which Heater guide to choose the right heater for your needs.
How about getting a Calor gas heater as back up in case of power failure, flooding or other emergencies?
See our Surviving the Winter page for tips on how to deal with power cuts & winter emergencies
Whatever your winter heating plans consider this:
'In 2011 - 2012 there were 37,600 accidental household fires in Great Britain resulting in 244 deaths and 11,300 casualties.
The main cause of accidental household fires is the misuse of appliances (14,700). While heaters are responsible for only a small portion of these (we only use heaters for 4 - 5 months of the year), fires started by domestic heaters tend have a greater fatality rate.
There were just 1,364 space heater fires but 24 people died as a result of them and a further 39 deaths were caused by putting articles too close to a heat source.'
Figures from Department for communities and local government fire statistics Great Britain 2011 - 2012
Take home heating safety precautions, don't become a casualty.
Why heating fires start
An appliance designed to heat your home should be safe, and most of them are very safe if used properly. Most heater fires are not caused because of a technical fault with the heater, but because of the way people use, or misuse, them. Appliance misuse is the major cause of domestic fires.
Ignoring basic home heating safety advice by:- Standing or sitting too close to a fire; Hanging laundry near an open fire or draping it over a convector, gas or radiant heater; Leaving fan or open fires on overnight or unattended; Putting objects or furniture too close to a heater are just some of the ways fires start.
Who is most at risk?
Age: The very young and the elderly, 0-4 years and 70 + (particularly women) are the highest risk groups.
Men between 30-69 are also a high risk group, one reason is that they are more likely to try and tackle a fire on their own. Also many men of this age make bad choices in critical situations due to being impaired by drink or drugs.
Households: Single person households; Terraced houses; Houses in multiple occupation (HMOS) including privately rented student houses; Households in rented accommodation and those on low incomes all tend to be at greater risk.
Where do most heater fires start ?
In the living room:
This is the room most used and the most likely place for the main fire or portable heater to be, it is also cluttered with personal effects, toys, reading materials and all the normal objects of everyday life.
In winter this is the room where elderly people will spend most of their time so clothes, blankets etc.. will be there as well. All of this clutter means more stuff to get close to a fire and more fuel once it starts.
'In 2011-12, 101 (41%) accidental dwelling fire fatalities occurred in fires starting in either the living or dining room. This equates to a fatality rate of 29 fatalities per 1,000 fires, and makes fires starting in the living or dining room the most likely to result in a fatality'
Figures from Department for communities and local government fire statistics Great Britain 2011 - 2012
Which type of heater carries the greatest risk?
Any heater taken for granted carries a high fire risk. Portable electric heaters are involved in the most fires resulting in the most deaths and injuries because they are the most common type of portable heater.
Calor gas, mains gas and solid fuel fires are also significant contributors. Oil and paraffin heaters are high risk, but over the last 20 years their use has fallen off. so are involved in few fires.
This one tip will reduce the chance of your heater starting a fire by about 80%
Have a safe zone around your fire or heater, use a proper fireguard if you can but even making a line with masking tape on the floor and ensuring nothing is on the heater side of it would stop many space heater fires happening.
A safe zone also includes the area above your heater, check for laundry, drapes & curtains, shelves paintings on walls etc.. The minimum recommended safe zone is 1 meter.
These signs mean danger, stop using the appliance immediately:
Staining, sooty deposits or discoloration of the appliance or surrounding areas.
A gas heater or boiler burning with a yellow or orange flame rather than its normal blue flame.
A strange smell when the heater is working
Crackling, fizzing or buzzing from an electric heater
Smoke coming from the plug or body of an electric heater
- Naked flame coming from a flame free appliance.
Using Portable Heaters safely
- Never use a heater with broken or malfunctioning parts.
- Always Supervise children & pets when a heater is on.
- Always put your heater on a flat solid surface, if you have carpet use a fireproof tile or hearth plate.
Don't put heaters where they will be knocked or tripped over.
Do not put heaters where objects will fall on them.
Make sure heaters are placed away from curtains, furniture and bedding.
Never move a heater while it is alight or switched on
- Never leave a heater unattended, in an empty room or on while you are sleeping (the exception being thermostatically controlled oil filled radiators)
Using an Electric heater safely
Whatever type of electric heater you use:
- It's better to buy one with an anti tilt safety feature, the heater switches itself off if it's knocked over
Make sure they are well clear of curtains and furnishings.
Do not use time-switched heaters in empty rooms.
Never sit too close to the heater - you can set light to your clothes or your chair, particularly if you fall asleep. Sit at least 1 meter away.
- Make sure electric leads wont be snagged, tripped over or have objects placed on them.
- Do not use an extension lead
Never use one without an anti tilt safety switch
If you have children or pets around, use a fireguard. Always use fireguards which meet the British Standard BS 5258-5.
Do not put clothes or other items on or near the fireguard.
In small rooms, radiant fires should be fixed high on the wall - at least 1 metre (3 feet) from any furniture, curtains or doors (open or closed).
Switch off the fire at the wall socket, unplug it and let it cool before cleaning it.
Never fit time switches and delay controls to radiant fires.
Never drape anything over a convector or storage heater.
Make sure that airing cupboard heaters are shielded against falling clothes, and that they have an overheat cut-out and an indicator lamp.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions for positioning heaters against walls.
Keep heaters at least 8 centimetres (3 inches) clear of curtains and furniture.
Never obstruct air grilles.
Never cover or obstruct air grilles.
Never obstruct air grilles.
Never use a fan heater if the fan stops working
Never use a portable fan heater with a timer.
Do not put a fan heater in your bed to warm it
Do not use hang your laundry in front of one
Do not use a fan heater in the bathroom
If a fan heater does not have an overload cut out do not buy one or use one (this switches it off in the fan stops working and it overheats)
Safe use of gas fires
Gas appliances operate safely when they are installed, operated and maintained correctly.
It is best only to buy appliances from reputable dealers. Make sure they meet the appropriate British or European safety requirements.
Avoid buying second-hand appliances if you can. If you do buy second-hand, choose appliances that have been tested for safety. Insist on a written guarantee from the dealer and a copy of the user instructions. Never install or reconnect a gas appliance yourself.
By law, gas appliances must be fitted and maintained only by a gas registered engineer ( see the list here). If the appliance is fitted to an existing chimney, this should first be swept.
Any newly installed appliance in a bathroom must be of the room-sealed type.
When installing a gas fire of 14 kilowatts input or less in a bedroom it must either have a spillage safety device or be room-sealed. If it is larger than 14 kilowatts input it must be room-sealed.
Have all your gas appliances serviced regularly by a gas registered engineer - once a year for gas fires and boilers. Ensure this includes a safety check to make sure flues are working properly.
Ventilation is vital. All fuel uses up fresh air as it burns and gives off waste gases. Gas appliances need fresh air to burn properly. Never block or obstruct any vent. If your appliances are fitted with balanced flues, make sure the grille outside is kept clear. Where appliances require flues, removal of waste gases is essential.
If you smell gas:
Turn off the gas supply at the meter.
Do not use matches or naked flames.
Do not turn electrical switches on or off.
Open doors and windows.
Check the appliance to see if the gas has been left switched on.
Do not smoke.
Call the gas supply company or the emergency service provider
It extremely dangerous and illegal to use an appliance you know or suspect is unsafe or dangerous.
Safe use of Calor gas heaters
heaters do not need flues but they do need a lot of air. They should never be used in confined spaces with poor air circulation.
Always check a Calor gas heater for indoor use complies with British Standards BS 5258 Parts 10, 11 and BS EN449 which ensure they fitted with a special safety device that cuts off the gas supply if the oxygen in your room becomes depleted. Calor gas heaters designed for outdoor activities (such as patio heaters), have no such safety device and must never be used in confined spaces.
Always choose a heater that meets the British or European safety standard.
Avoid buying second-hand unless it is from a Calor gas accredited dealer
Get a gas registered engineer to install and check new fixed Calor gas appliances.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Have your appliances regularly serviced by a gas registered engineer.
Never block or obstruct vents in a room where you use a Calor gas heater
Keep the heater clear of furniture, bedclothes and curtains.
Do not use a Calor gas heater for drying clothes.
Changing gas cylinders:
If you are frail, ill or elderly ask a friend, neighbour or carer to do it for you,
Open windows and doors to increase ventilation. (If it's practical then change the cylinder outside)
Never change the cylinder in front of a door, on a stairway or other escape route.
Extinguish all sources of ignition such as cigarettes and pilot lights. If you are indoors, turn off other heaters and electrical appliances.
Turn off the valve on the empty cylinder before disconnecting the heater. Never open the valve on the new cylinder until the connection to the heater is secure.
Store spare cylinders upright, and outside wherever possible. Never store them in basements, near drains, under the stairs or in a cupboard containing electricity meters or electrical equipment.
You can find gas leaks by brushing soapy water onto the flexible hose and fittings and looking for bubbles. If you find a leak then take the heater and cylinder outside, get it repaired before using it again
If you do suspect a leak and cannot do the soapy water test then turn of the cylinder valve, take the heater and cylinder outside and call your Calor gas supplier or your local gas registered engineer for assistance.
Safe use of paraffin heaters
Paraffin heaters are safe when used properly and sensibly.
Choose a new heater that meets British or European safety standards. Wherever possible avoid buying second-hand.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.
Never refill with paraffin while the heater is alight.
Make sure the room is well ventalated.
Keep heaters away from doors and direct draughts.
Check all parts regularly and remove any build-up of dust, which could restrict the air flow.
Check regularly to make sure the wick has not become choked or dirty. When necessary, trim it with the special wick cleaner provided. If you do not have one, ask at the shop where you buy your wicks.
When buying paraffin, look for the special symbol with the number BS 2869 CI on the pump or tank. Using this paraffin will help to ensure that your heater works safely.
When refilling the heater:
Extinguish the heater and let it cool first.
Where possible, refill the tank outside.
Refill to just below the maximum level, to allow for expansion when the paraffin warms up.
Never allow the paraffin to overflow or drip onto the floor - clear up any spills immediately.
Before lighting, make sure the heater is standing level, preferably on a non-combustible base, and away from draughts.
Store spare fuel outside the home, and try not to store more than 9 litres (2 gallons). Keep the fuel in purpose-made containers away from sources of heat.
Oil-fired heaters with chimneys or flues need air to allow them to work properly. Make sure that air can enter the room.
Safe use of oil-fired heaters
Get a reputable company to install your oil-fired heater or boiler.
Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Get your appliance serviced regularly by an experienced engineer. This should include a safety check to make sure that chimneys and flues are not blocked.
Do not try to adjust gauges and instruments yourself.
Safe use of wood-burning stoves and boiler
Get a competent person to install the stove or boiler, following the manufacturer's instructions and the building regulations and code of practice. The accredited body for installers of wood burning stove is HETAS, always use a HETAS registered engineer to install and service your wood or multi fuel burning stove see (home fire shop page)
Never use wet or newly-felled wood as this can cause tar or creosote to form in the wood burner and flue, this is a fire risk and can cause a chimney fire.
Never burn household waste, plastics or painted wood in your stove, these can all give off toxic fumes as well as pose a fire risk.
Wood-burning stoves and boilers should only use the right quality of wood. The wood should be dry and well-seasoned ( see the home fire shop) They need to be properly maintained and regularly serviced.
Make sure your room is properly ventilated .
If the wood burner has been used slowly (overnight, for instance), this should be followed by a period of faster burning to dry out any creosote and to warm up the chimney again.
Get the chimney cleaned at the end of each heating season and at least once during the heating season this should be done by a professional chimney sweep.
Inspect your stove regularly, look for cracks in the body, loose door seals, leaks from flue joints etc...