Safe and warm: How to heat your home safely through the cold snap

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 5:56 PM EST
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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - As it gets colder, you might be tempted to crank the heat up. But experts say that’s not the best approach. They recommend leaving the heat between 68 and 70 degrees and not dropping it overnight.

Firefighters say when the temperatures drop, many people reach for space heaters. And when they do, sometimes safety goes out the window.

“They’ll pull a 30-year-old space heater out that they may have never used,” said Prescott Nadeau of the Williston Fire Department.

Fire officials say the problem with space heaters is that when they aren’t used correctly, they can cause fires. That’s why it’s important to leave space around your heater.

“Any type of heating source that there is, that 3-foot barrier around it from any flammable objects,” Nadeau said.

If you are throwing more wood in a wood stove, make sure your chimney is clear and the fire doesn’t get too hot.

Williston fire also says a fireplace should have a screen to keep sparks in their place.

And with a fire comes another critical reminder.

“Make sure they have both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure they work, just a quick push of the test button,” Nadeau said.

And Nadeau says never to use your oven or stove as a source of heat.

Instead of adding extra heat, you can also try to keep the cold out.

“What we see as the least expensive energy efficiency improvement is stopping uncontrolled air movement,” said Tim Perrin, the energy efficiency program manager at Vermont Gas Systems.

That can mean plugging any holes exposed to the outside, layering insulation around windows and doorframes, and just making sure windows are fully shut and locked.

“Stop some of that uncontrolled air movement, as well as being able to provide just an additional level of insulation to be able to keep the heat in and cold out,” Perrin said.

He says the other thing to pay attention to is the pipes.

“Are there any pipes that are going to be directly exposed to the elements or within an unheated crawl space, or even in a basement that could dip into temperatures,” Perrin said.

If there are, Perrin recommends leaving the faucet on at a slight trickle to allow water movement.

And if pipes do freeze, Williston Fire says to use a hairdryer on them, not an open flame.

“Home fires are often caused when people’s pipes freeze and they try to tackle it themselves and use an open flame to do so,” Nadeau warned.

Williston Fire also reminds folks to check on their neighbors as the temperatures drop. A simple phone call to ensure those around you are set through the evening can go a long way.