Tip/Thought of the Day

Preparing Living Spaces For Cold(er) Weather

Cooler temperatures are always a welcome relief from the heat. We finally get a chance to turn off the air conditioning and open the windows, bringing the outdoors into our homes. This is when most people start using devices that help battle the sometimes uncomfortable effects of the cold. Humidifiers, vaporizers, space heaters, even your household heater are all excellent tools to keep you and your loved ones comfortable. But, if not maintained or used properly, they can actually cause health issues and harm. Here are a few suggestions to help keep you warm and safe this Fall and Winter.

Humidifiers:

According to the Mayo Clinic, humidity in your home should be between 30-50 percent to to help prevent dry skin, scratchy throat, and chapped lips. If you keep your home around this ideal humidity, the moisture in the air will also allow you to lower the heat in your home. Since household heaters remove the moisture in the air, not having it turn on as frequently will further prevent dryness.

As helpful as humidifiers and vaporizers are to help your skin and maintain warmth in the house, they can actually make you sick if they aren’t maintained regularly. Mold and other bacteria can grow in the device, as well as encourage growth of harmful bacteria and mold in your home if the humidity is too high.

To prevent this, start by using distilled water, which is free of minerals that can encourage build up in the humidifier. Then, every couple of days, clean the humidifier using a vinegar solution that will kill mold and bacteria. Once a month, clean the device using a bleach solution to get it back to a good starting point. Taking these precautions will give you peace of mind that they are providing the benefits you seek, while protecting your household from any ill effects. The video below give a step-by-step on how to clean a humidifier.

Space Heaters: 

Some people choose to warm their homes using space heaters. This can be a great idea if you live in a large home, but only use a small portion of it. Instead of wasting energy to heat the entire home, using a space heater allows you to be comfortable in the immediate area.

Heating equipment was involved in one of every
five home fire deaths.

-National Fire Protection Agency

But, while convenient and easy to use, space heaters must be used safely to prevent fires. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, 14,000 house fires and 94 deaths occur due to heating equipment each year. To avoid fires or injury due to portable heating units:

  • Ensure the unit is on a safe, flat surface (avoid carpeting)
  • Do not leave the device unattended
  • Do not use extension cords
  • Give the unit adequate spacing- a 3 foot perimeter around the device is typically the standard recommendation.

Home Heating Fire Prevention Tips

Furnaces: 

Did you know that poorly maintained or defective furnaces are the second leading cause of fire in homes? Regular maintenance of furnaces reduces the danger of fire and may also prevent dangers that you might not otherwise notice.

Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is emitted anytime fuel is burned (like natural gas in a furnace); properly installed and operating units vent the gas to the outside and away from your house.

spotlight1
Image courtesy of The Centers For Disease Control

If the system needs repair, or has not been maintained regularly, the gas can instead vent into the home, causing injury or even death. According to the Centers For Disease Control, symptom of Carbon Monoxide poisoning are:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • chest pain
  • confusion

For safety, it is recommended that every household have battery-backup Carbon Monoxide detectors (which run around $15) especially around bedrooms. Many heating and cooling companies, and even home warranty companies, offer seasonal system checks at a reduced rate in order to encourage safety.

Prevention goes a long way. Adding carbon monoxide alarms, doing periodic checks and regular maintenance will keep your household safe so you can relax and enjoy the cooler months.

dsc_0323-1    –Dr. Courtney

Sources:

Humidifiers: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/humidifiers/art-20048021

Space Heater Safety: https://www.esfi.org/resource/home-heating-fire-prevention-tips-620

Carbon Monoxide: https://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm

Causes of Home Fires: https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Fact-sheets/FireOverviewFactSheet.pdf

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