Heaters pose fire risk for winter

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HeatersHowever it’s also time to make sure our beloved warmth-giving appliances are safe to use.

Every winter brings stories of devastating house fires caused by old heaters, blocked chimneys or faulty electric blankets.

David Hallett is the general manager of Archicentre, an inspection and design group owned by the Australian Institute of Architects.

He says those dusty, old heaters can be a source of disaster.

“I guess that was a warning to everyone who’s firing up their heater that might have been locked away for the summer months to get it checked out if necessary,” he says.

“But certainly give it a clean before they start using it through winter.”

The build up of dust around heating elements in column and bar heaters, even ducted heating systems, can spark a major blaze.

“They can accumulate a lot of dust when not in use and even when in use,” he says.

“That dust can ignite if the heater is left on for a period of time in winter.”

Mr Hallett recommends if you have a ducted system, or have recently moved into a house which has one, you might need to call in an expert to have it cleaned.

“It’s possible to clean parts of it yourself, but if you want the entire duct cleaned… you need to get a contractor in to do that,” he says.

While good old-fashioned wood heaters and fire places may provide warmth incomparable to electric heaters, they’re also a source of potential danger.

“There can be a lot of built up material, particularly in an open fire, that does need to be carried out periodically,” he says.

“There are still such people as chimney sweeps.”

Heat lamps, commonly used in bathrooms, can also present a risk if they’re not properly maintained.

“Exhaust fans and some of the fan-light combinations that are commonly used in bathrooms and laundries can build up a lot of dust on them,” Mr Hallett says.

“Particularly in laundries where there’s a lot of lint flying around if the dryer’s been in use.”

Safety is paramount and of course electric appliances should be disconnected before cleaning.

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