The stockings might be hung by the chimney with care, but have you looked beyond your mantle this year? Your fireplace is likely a focal point in your home—but it’s also a major potential hazard if you don’t follow some simple guidelines. No matter if you have a wood burning or natural gas model, there are easy steps that you can take to save energy, improve efficiency and ensure your fireplace is operating as safely as possible.
Wood Burning Fireplace Tips
- Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned by a professional each year. Buildup of a substance called creosote is a major fire hazard, and you don’t want to accidentally roast any squirrels who may have built an unwanted nest.
- Resist the urge to flank the hearth with throw pillows. There are few items on planet Earth more flammable than little squares of cotton filled with polyester. (If you’re worried about kids bumping into the mantle or hearth, there are fire resistant padding products available.)
- Don’t use it much anymore? Inflatable fireplace balloons, available at home improvement stores, can be installed just inside the chimney to block frigid downdrafts from entering your home.
Natural Gas Burning Fireplace Tips
- Clean and dust the gas logs and synthetic coals annually.
- Consider shutting off the gas pilot light completely during the summer months or when leaving for vacation.
- Never add any additional items that were not specifically manufactured for your specific gas fireplace model.
Seriously never even consider:
- Using a liquid accelerant or gasoline to start a fire indoors.
- Burning your Christmas tree at the end of the season.
- Adding wood logs to a gas fireplace.
- Going to bed before a fire has been properly extinguished.
Finally, consider storing a small fire extinguisher in a nearby closet, and make sure to change the batteries in your smoke detectors every 6 months.
Now that your fireplace is safety ready, please share a favorite fireplace memory. Hopefully it did not require the use of the nearby fire extinguisher!!
Note: Information sourced from the Hearth, Patio, & Barbeque Association.
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As Community Outreach Lead for the Electric Vehicles Program, I am involved in education initiatives throughout North Carolina. One area I’m focused on is first responder training. You might be saying to yourself, “First responder training, why are they working on that?”
With almost 1,000 Plug- in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) owned by North Carolinians traveling on our roads today, first responders can face new challenges when dealing with emergencies involving these cars, especially in extrication situations where the removal of a car around a person who has been in an accident. They need to understand how to quickly disable the vehicle, and how fire control and extrication strategies can differ from vehicles with traditional combustion engines.
We’ve collaborated with Advanced Energy and representatives from the North Carolina Community College system to develop hands-on training that will prepare first responders to protect themselves and the public in the event of an emergency involving a PEV. The hands-on component of this course is unique: we supply a Chevy Volt for the training, enabling students to see first-hand what they are being taught in the classroom. The plan is to offer the course at local community colleges, at no charge to the first responders.
We delivered our first course on May 30th at Davidson Community College in Thomasville, and it was taught by Rich Cregar, the Department Head of Advanced Transportation Technologies, at Wilson Community College.
“This PEV First Responder training is a significant new training program that will be useful to all emergency responder agencies in North Carolina,” says Chris English, Research and Program Development Supervisor for the North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal. “PEVs are growing in number and are here to stay. As first responders we have to be aware of how to handle this new technology.”
We’ll offer the same course this summer in the Triangle Region, at Durham Technical Community College, and in the greater Charlotte region, at Central Piedmont Community College. Once these three sessions are complete, we’ll continue to partner with the State Fire Marshall’s Office to develop long-term solutions so that all first responders have access to this important training in the future. We intend to share this information for other states in Duke Energy service territory to use as a model as in their community readiness efforts.
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We’ve all seen one before: a standard water heater. A big, cylindrical drum sitting lonely and forgotten in the corner of a basement or garage. While they look unassuming, standard water heaters use energy around the clock to keep water hot, even when your family is at work or school or on vacation.
You probably already knew that heating and cooling costs account for the majority of the average home’s energy bill. But did you know that hot water accounts for up to 30 percent of those heating related expenses? That begs the question: is a standard water heater the best for your family? Should you consider a tankless model? Or are there alternative hot water sources?
- Tankless water heaters have been getting a lot of attention recently. These small wall mounted units don’t store any water at all. When hot water is “ordered” inside the home, high-powered gas or electric burners quickly heat water as it runs through a heat exchanger.
- There’s a small delay before hot water arrives, but some homeowners prefer the inconvenience to having to keep 75 or more gallons of water hot all day, every day.
- According to Consumer Reports, the tankless water heaters were on average 22 percent more energy efficient than standard gas-fired storage-tank models.
- While the tankless version would provide an average annual savings of $60 – $90 annually, at that rate, it would take over 20 years to recoup the investment costs of these very expensive units.
- In addition to the unit price, there can be additional significant up front costs should you need to upgrade your electrical or gas systems during the installation process.
- Consumer Reports also noted increased service and maintenance costs, with one manufacturer recommending units be flushed annually by a technician.
- If your standard water heater is located in a cold area, like a garage, you can visit your local home improvement store and purchase a specialty insulation blanket to wrap around the outside of the tank. In most cases this will keep water hot while using less energy.
- Turn down the temperature on your current unit. If water is hot enough to be uncomfortable at the maximum settings, you’re wasting energy by over-heating. Why keep water practically boiling just to mix it with cold water?
- Additional alternatives are in development, including solar and heat pump styles. These concepts will ‘harvest’ heat from the sun or from the inside of the home during warm months to supplement traditional heating methods and help offset costs.
Do you or a relative have a tankless water heater? We’d love to hear your opinion of how it’s working in the comments.
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