Letter from the President: Home Heating Safety

As the days get noticeably shorter, our thoughts turn to children returning to school, fall sports and, especially for us at Brandywine Valley, the return of the heating season. As both vibrant leaves and temperatures fall, our minds naturally conjure up images of curling up with a cup of coca in a well heated home. While nothing is more inviting than the shelter of a warm home in the cold winter months, ensure that you are heating your home safely. I would like to join the National Fire Protection Association in reminding our customers that heater safety should not be taken lightly.
The most crucial step in exercising heater safety is to have your heating system and chimney cleaned and checked by a qualified professional. If you do not already have a trusted relationship with a heating contractor, visit the Air Conditioning Contractors of America website (www.ACCA.org) to locate one in your neighborhood. Always exercise caution in regards to advertisements featuring low-priced plans that may not allow the proper amount of time to perform a complete check of your system. While we would certainly prefer that you call us, that this service is performed by a qualified, trained, heating professional is more important than self-promotion. If you plan to use your fireplace or other wood burning equipment, contact a chimney professional to have your chimney inspected and cleaned. Looking to heat an individual room? Portable, electric, heaters can create a cozy space, but before plugging them in, inspect the cord to ensure it is not frayed. Furthermore, remind everyone in your home that the heater must be placed 3 feet away from any flammable items such as papers, clothes or furniture.
Central heating systems may seem like a worry-free method of evenly heating your home, but they can also be deadly if not properly maintained by a professional. Incomplete combustion or blocked furnace flues are just two of the many culprits that can produce carbon monoxide, a dangerous chemical compound whose reputation certainly precedes it. Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is poisonous to all warm-blooded animals, as well as many other forms of life. When inhaled, carbon monoxide combines with hemoglobin in the blood, preventing absorption of oxygen and resulting in asphyxiation. Due to its odorless nature, carbon monoxide is an insidious poison. It produces only mild symptoms of headache, nausea, or fatigue, followed by unconsciousness. The catalysts for carbon monoxide production are often fast moving in nature; an automobile engine running in a closed garage and a leaking furnace flue can both make the air noxious within a few minutes. It is imperative to call a heating contractor for a heater cleaning and safety inspection. As the technician completes his inspection of your equipment, be sure to ask about the type of wall-mounted CO detectors they recommend. Heating contractors typically have higher quality, more reliable detectors then what is sold in home centers.

There is nothing more important than your family’s home comfort and safety. My message is not intended to generate anxiety or disrupt your peace of mind. In turn, my advice is offered in the hope that your family will enter these cooler months feeling secure and prepared to operate your heating equipment safely. I leave you with a final encouragement to detail an emergency plan for your family. Set the example by verifying that your heating system is safe to operate, posting emergency phone numbers by the phone or programming them into your cell phone, and making sure that you review these procedures with the entire family. On behalf of all of us at Brandywine Valley, I would like to wish you a safe and enjoyable season with a warm home and equally warm memories shared between family and friends.