Safe winter heating tips for homeowners

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - It's about that time of the year again when people switch their homes from air conditioning to heat. But officials warn that doing so can raise the risk of a fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly half of all home heating fires happen during the winter months. Research shows heating equipment is responsible for tens of thousands of house fires and hundreds of deaths. Firefighters say cooking is number one cause of fires in the home.

The good news is those fires are preventable, by simply taking a few extra steps to make sure everything works correctly. Fire officials say you can never be too cautious.

"Things like space heaters and alternate heating sources shouldn't be left unattended. You shouldn't leave the home with those on or go to sleep with them on. You also need to make sure that the maintenance and care is up [to date] on them. Just a little bit of prevention will save you a lot of heartache down the road," says Battalion Chief Joe Best, Lexington Fire Department.

Here are a few other tips to keep your home safe:

• Have your chimney inspected each year and cleaned if necessary.
• Use a sturdy fireplace screen.
• Allow ashes to cool before disposing. Dispose of ashes in a metal container.
• Space heaters need space. Keep all things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.
• Turn portable heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
• Plug power cord only into outlets with sufficient capacity and never into an extension cord.
• Inspect for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections. Replace before using.
• Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home so that when one sounds, they all sound. Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
• Install and maintain a carbon monoxide alarm in a central location outside each sleeping area.
• Never use an oven to heat your home.
• Have your HVAC units and systems inspected by a qualified professional.
• Change your furnace filters regularly.

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