Cold temperatures prompt reminders on how to safely heat your home

(Columbia) October 26, 2005 -     With colder temperatures in the forecast, you're likely going to be reaching for the thermostat to keep warm, and that could send your heating bill soaring.

The state's public service commission has approved a request by SCE&G to charge you more for natural gas. The average bill of $121 will go up about $54, and the rate hike will go into effect next week.

With the temperatures falling lower and lower each night, and people beginning to turn on their heating units, we have some tips that could not only save you on your bill, but could save your life.

If you are using a portable heater, make sure it has an automatic shut off feature. You should provide a three foot clearance around and above the heater to make sure nothing catches on fire. When you aren't in the room with the heater, unplug it.

On electric heaters, look for the CSA mark. It shows that the heater complies with recognized safety standards. Make sure your unit has an element guard in place to prevent fingers or flammable objects from touching the hot elements.

Check the electrical cord for worn insulation and splices, and check the plug for loose or exposed parts. If the cord is damaged, replace the entire unit or have the cord replaced by a qualified repair person.

Keep all electrical cords away from the heat. Never drape a cord over the hot surface of the space heater.

Do not use an electric space heater in a bathroom unless the manufacturer's instructions specifically say it is okay to do so. The high humidity could create a shock hazard.

Regarding the cost to run electric heaters, a 1500 watt space heater costs about 13 cents an hour to run and if you are looking to use your wood burning fireplace more this year, an informal survey found wood going for between $100 and $150 a cord.

If you are using a kerosene heater, make sure you never use gasoline, and refuel the heater only after the unit has completely cooled. Officials recommend buying a separate container for your kerosene, one that's a different color so you don't mix then up. Even a little bit of gas mixed in with kerosene can cause your heater to catch on fire.

Also, check the flame to ensure that it is burning efficiently. It should be a bright blue color. If the flame is yellow or orange, shut off the heater immediately and have it checked by a qualified repair person.

Another concern with kerosene heaters is carbon monoxide poisoning. Be careful. Make sure your heater is in good working condition, and that you have enough ventilation. The fire department says it's a good idea to crack a window.

Before buying or using a kerosene heater you need to check with local officials to make sure this type of heater is permitted in your community.

As for price, kerosene heaters are not as cheap as they used to be. Kerosene prices are almost as high as gasoline right now, averaging about $2.50 to $3 a gallon in most places.

Finally, if you're using your fireplace to keep warm, make sure it is cleaned annually. Also open the flue at the top, and put a screen in front of the fire for safety.

The Columbia Fire Department also strongly recommends you have a smoke detector in every room in your home.
(View more heating safety tips)

Updated 7:35pm by Bryce Mursch