You've been keeping the home fires burning for a few months now. But have you been properly caring for and feeding your hearth?
Every type of fireplace, whether wood-burning, gas, or electric, poses a potential danger to everyone in your home.
Here's a quick lesson in how to make sure winter nights are cozy and safe in your home.
To minimize the buildup of soot and creosote (which can cause chimney fires), use seasoned hard wood or manufactured logs, which burn even cleaner than real wood.
If you do use manufactured logs, be sure to follow the directions on the bag. Be aware that manufactured logs burn hotter than regular wood and can potentially warp metal chimneys if you burn more than one at a time.
Follow use directions on the bag.
Only burn wood or manufactured logs in your fireplace. Fancy finishes - like glossy wrapping paper, shiny bows and foam peanuts - release toxic fumes.
And never burn holiday greenery in the fireplace. It releases nasty stuff you don't want your family to breathe, too.
Though a roaring fire looks attractive, it's not as safe as a slower, steadier burn. Too-hot a fire can crack your chimney. Just a couple of logs at a time, please.
Position logs near the back of the fireplace to prevent fire and ashes from finding a way out of the hearth and into your home.
Open the damper before starting a fire in the fireplace. Keep the damper open until the fire is completely extinguished.
Don't position your Christmas tree - or anything else - near the fireplace. Should embers spark out of the fireplace and into the room, you want to make sure there is nothing nearby that will catch fire. This rule is essential for a safe home fireplace.
For safety's sake, never leave a fire unattended. And yes, this means you shouldn't go to sleep with a fire blazing away.
Fires require about five times as much oxygen as a room usually needs. To make sure there's enough oxygen for the fire to burn efficiently, open a window when you light a fire.
If you drape your fireplace mantel with holiday garlands or hang stockings or cards from it, don't light a fire.These flammable items are too close for comfort.
Stash a fire extinguisher near the fireplace so that it's handy - just in case.