Tips for safely heating a home with dangerously cold temperatures

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR News) – It is dangerously cold outside and too often that means house fires as many people heat their homes however they can.

Just in the past several days, there have been multiple house fires in the Roanoke area. Many of those displaced are being helped by the American Red Cross.

For those who are impacted by fires, the American Red Cross is there to set them up with a place to stay, money for food and a comfort kit with much-needed essentials.

Roanoke Valley Red Cross Chapter Executive Director Jackie Grant says while investigators are trying to figure out the exact causes of the recent fires, very often people lose their homes simply from trying to stay warm.

In her experience, one of the biggest threats to homes is alternative heat sources, like space heaters. She says when people use them, they need to be cautious.

“Really watch the placement of these items. Also, check them, make sure you’re not using extension chords. Plug them directly into the wall. Make sure if you do have those cords, check to make sure that there are no frays,” said Grant.

“And just really be smart, use some common sense when it comes to anything that can be a potential danger in your home.”

There are also other alternative ways to keep your home warm. Like opening windows during the day to use the sun’s heat and making sure they’re no gaps in windows and doors letting in cold air. Sealing those gaps can be as easy as using plastic, or even laying a towel or blanket down.

“Seal that off. Even if you put towels or something in the door to help keep the draft out,” said W.C. Butler Cooling and Air Conditioning Director of Business Development Hal Mabe.

Mabe says this time of year they get lots of calls for maintenance. Something people can do to help keep their heating system healthy is to change their filter regularly.

“Your air filters are there catch the dust in your home and if they’re stopped up your system is struggling to work. it can’t breathe, it can’t pull the air out. So you’re really putting a lot of stress on your heat pump and your furnace that’s trying to work,” Mabe said.

He says people should also be careful not to overwork the system when they turn it on for the first time.

“The biggest thing people want to do is, they think if they turn the thermostat up higher it’s going to get warmer quicker that’s not the case,” said Mabe.

“When it’s really, really cold outside, don’t go crazy with the temperature. Get something that you can be comfortable with. Put some more clothes on and do things to help your system because it will get under a lot of stress and that’s when they fail.”

Mabe also says that the first time you turn the heat on you might smell a slight burning smell, which is typically the dust that’s built up over the year burning off. That should go away in a few minutes, but if it doesn’t then call someone to have them come look at it.

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