9 of the Biggest Holiday Home Hazards & How to Avoid Them

Posted by Laine Smith on 11/23/16 10:00 AM

Topics: Home Ownership

The cooking and baking traditions, family get-togethers, and decorating for the holidays are fast approaching. Before you cozy up to the fireplace, put up your Christmas tree, or start on your holiday baking list, make sure you house is clear of these common holiday hazards.

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Be cautious when using a turkey fryer.

When the tradition of frying rather than baking your Thanksgiving turkey began to trend so did the occurrence of fires on Thanksgiving. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, nearly 4,300 fires occur on Thanksgiving, many of which are due to deep frying accidents.

To lessen the possibility of a deep fat fried disaster:

  • Place your fryer in an open area away from structures like walls or fences.
  • Never use your fryer in, on or under a garage, breezeway, carport, deck, porch, etc.
  • Make sure you allow enough time for your turkey to thaw, approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. Make sure to dry the turkey well before placing in the fryer to avoid excessive hot oil spatter.
  • Don't overfill the pot with oil, the most common cause of turkey fryer fires.

Properly prep your fireplace.

Fireplaces and chimneys are the cause of 42 percent of all home-heating fires. Before lighting up your first cozy fire of the year:

  • Have your chimney swept by a certified chimney sweep.
  • Have your gas burner inspected and thoroughly cleaned if you have a gas fireplace.
  • Stock up on the right kind of firewood. Dense hardwoods like maple and oak have higher energy content, so they release more heat and produce longer-lasting fires.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors are in working order. Now is a great time to go ahead and replace batteries.

On another note, avoid the seemingly harmless temptation to discard of wrapping paper in your fireplace. Doing so poses a flash fire risk.

Choose a safe Christmas tree option.

Christmas trees are a huge holiday fire hazard for several reasons. According to 2013 Allstate Insurance claims data, the average cost for a Christmas tree-related claim was more than $100,000. Whether you are an artificial tree user or you prefer the real deal, there are several steps you can take to avoid making your holiday decorations a fire risk.

  • If purchasing an artificial tree, check for a "fire resistant" label. Though this doesn't mean it can't catch fire, the likelihood is significantly less.
  • For live trees, checking freshness is a must. A fresh tree is green with needles that are hard to pull from branches and don't break when bent. Tap a potential live tree on the ground; if it doesn't lose many needles, it's a good one.
  • Make sure your tree is placed away from any heat sources, including appliances, fireplaces, vents, radiators, space heaters, etc.

Check your furnace.

Have a professional perform a maintenance check on your furnace and venting system to prevent carbon monoxide hazards. Cleaning and/or replacing your furnace filter should also be a regular occurrence during heating season. Winter is also a great time to double-check function of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; batteries should be replaced every six months in these devices.

Prepare your appliances for heavy usage.

Cooking accidents are the leading cause of house fires. Make sure you clean appliances that have any grease build-up, which could ignite a spark in a busy kitchen.

Cleaning dust build-up from dryer hoses and lint from the dryer itself also cuts down on fire risk.

Dispose of cooking excess properly.

Sewer back-up claims go up nearly 20 percent during the holidays, according to Allstate Insurance data. Make sure you dispose of kitchen waste, especially grease, the right way.

If you're pouring grease and oil down your drain, stop! It can clog your pipes with fat and cause sewage backup. For greases that solidify, like bacon grease, let them do so and then pitch them in your garbage can. For greases that don't solidify, pour them into a sealable, disposable container (preferably non-recyclable) and throw them away.

Also, try to avoid overloading your garbage disposal. Excess can become lodged within your sewer line.

Light timers are your friend.

Always turn off holiday lights when leaving the house for long periods of time or going to bed. Putting lights on timers is also helpful in deterring burglars. If you’re leaving town for the holidays, ask a neighbor to shovel and pick up your mail to keep up the appearance that someone is home. Avoid displaying gifts in windows and make sure you lock up.

Use cool tree lights.

“Cool” as in LED lights. They use up to 90 percent less energy than regular holiday lights and they don’t produce heat build-up like regular bulbs do. Because they use less electrical current, they are also safe to string together multiple strands.

Be cautious of cheap lights and cords.

Before stringing up lights on your Christmas tree or roof, check all electrical and extension cords. Discard any that are frayed or cracked. Don’t try to refurbish with electrical tape.

When shopping for extension cords, look for a certification mark from an accredited organization like CSA International, UL or ELT to ensure the products were produced up to code. Try to use as few extension cords as possible to prevent overloading.

Also, only use lights marked for outdoor use in exterior light displays.

Looking to do some home renovations or home improvements before the holidays? Download our free Rehab & Construction Guide for information on how you can structure the costs of renovation into your home loan.

Download: Rehab & Construction Guide

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