As outside temperatures start tumbling downward, you may find yourself seeking indoor comforts more and more. Unless you want to spend your time shaking and shivering, you and millions of other homeowners have to choose from myriad options for keeping your home warm.

But is the heating system you use safe?

Following a basic set of rules can keep your family safe and warm this winter. We have researched the most common heating methods used in American homes and ranked them based on how safe they are for use in your house.

4 Ways to Heat Your Home

#4: Electric Space Heaters & Portable Kerosene Heaters

Electric space heaters cause approximately 25,000 fires a year in the United States. Their fire-starting potential stems from their direct, focused heat and common metal exteriors, which create dangerous hot spots on curtains, carpets, and the like.

If you decide to try space heaters in your home, make sure that they are kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Using an extension cord is also not recommended with electric space heaters, as common light-duty cords can’t handle the heater’s wattage. If necessary, opt for a heavier outdoor cord.

Before purchasing an electric or kerosene space heater, check customer reviews online and make sure the devices have been tested by independent sources. Not all space heaters are created equally, and poor quality in parts or design can cause the heater to malfunction, leading to a possible fire in your house.

A smart rule of thumb in buying electric space heaters is to always buy a device with an automatic shutoff feature. That way, if you forget to shut down the heater, the automatic shutoff feature will lessen risk to your home.

Using a portable kerosene heater to warm certain rooms in your house can also lead to problems. Without proper ventilation, a kerosene heater can produce deadly fumes. Windows should be open and plenty of airflow should be allowed when using a portable kerosene heater. These are mostly built to work outdoors or in large open spaces, so consult a certified heating professional before using kerosene heaters indoors.

For refueling your heater, keep kerosene or other flammable liquids stored in approved containers outside of home. Refueling the heater should be done outdoors, if possible. Following these steps with electric space heaters and portable kerosene heaters can prevent fires in your home this winter.

#3: Wood Fireplaces & Pellet Burning Stoves

Modern fireplaces are not designed to heat large spaces, but rather act as an aesthetic upgrade or a gathering place for friends and family. When using a fireplace, have the chimney inspected and cleaned once a year. Creosote buildups can start fires inside your chimney, and you may not notice the problem until it is too late.

It may seem like common sense, but always ensure the fire in your hearth is completely snuffed out before you leave the house or go to sleep. Treacherous embers can stay alive and hidden under ash, so take care to store ashes in a metal bin with a lid.

Never use flammable liquids to start a fire in a fireplace or wood stove. These indoor heating sources were not built to use starter fluid or gasoline, and if the fire flares up unexpectedly or any flammable liquid spills, the fire can quickly spread in your home. Another product to avoid in home fireplace use is charcoal. It can generate lethal amounts of carbon monoxide or other gases, putting your family in serious danger.

Lastly, flaws in construction present potential safety hazards to your home. If the design and installation process was not correctly done, malfunctions can occur, leading to collapse and the spread of smoke and fire.

#2: Gas & Oil Furnaces

Most American homes are heated with furnaces and boilers. These work by heating air and distributing it throughout the house in a ventilation system.

Furnaces and boilers can range drastically when it comes to efficiency, and retrofitting options can help raise efficiency in a system you already have in place. By upgrading an existing system, you spare the cost of replacing the entire thing.

One problem with retrofitting, however, is human error. If cracked or misaligned parts are missed upon service on your furnace, this can lead to loss in efficiency and even start fires if certain pipes are damaged.

A good rule of thumb is to check your furnace annually, and specifically double checking after any repairs are performed. Look for cracked, frayed or rusted parts and make sure the flame is burning blue. A yellow flame is a sign that the burner could be out of adjustment. Additionally, clear any dust from in or around the burning chamber, then replace the furnaces filter and make sure blower door is properly secured.

Comparatively, heating your home with a furnace or boiler is one of the safest and most cost-effective methods around, but following these simple steps will go much further in preventing fires this winter. By having a qualified technician check your system annually and double-checking any repairs yourself, simple mistakes wont turn into deadly accidents.

#1: Electric Heat

Electric furnaces, baseboard heaters, and other heating methods that use electricity are among the most efficient and safe heating methods. As most are controlled by thermostats located in each room, electric heating systems are precise, working only when needed.

Electric heating methods are much more efficient than natural gas sources but they are also more expensive. Although the price makes it a tougher decision, the safety features that are inherent in electric heat make it the best choice in keeping both your house and your family safe from the threat of fire and other heating dangers. Electric heat is a cleaner heating source that lacks the potential hazards that come with natural gas use, like carbon monoxide poisoning. This puts electric heat at the top of our list when it comes to safely heating your home this winter.

Bonus: An Alternative Heating Method

Looking for a more modern, high-tech heating system for your home? If you live in colder states that still get lots of sun in winter months, like North Carolina and South Carolina, active solar heating systems are a good solution. These systems are quite cost-effective when they are used to displace the more expensive heating fuels, like propane, electricity, and oil.

Solar heating panels are also a safe option for heating a home, but they often have to be used in conjunction with another system. In addition, some counties and cities do not allow you to build solar heating panels. Make sure to check your local ordinances to see if they have any code restrictions on heating with solar panels.

Which Indoor Heating Option is Right for Your Home?

No matter what sort of heating system you use, it is best to have a programmable thermostat that can shut off automatically after a specific time period. Also, you will find comfort in knowing that Madison Homebuilders will install smoke detectors in your home, along with other standard features. These simple steps can help prevent disaster for your family this winter season.

Learn more about Madison Homebuilders and our custom floor plans to build your dream home today.