Turning up the heat: safety tips

There’s nothing like a home that’s toasty and warm when the temperature starts to drop. But there are precautions to take in order to heat safely. Here are some handy tips to avoid ending up… in hot water.
Women on couch reading a book next to a lit fireplace

Heating with wood

There’s nothing like the flickering flames and comforting smell of a wood-burning fireplace. But it’s important to remain vigilant as poorly installed wood stoves and fireplaces cause countless fires every year.

Ways to heat safely and efficiently

  • Every year, hire a professional chimney sweep to remove any creosote (a by-product of wood combustion), which builds up in chimneys and only a good sweeping can clear away.
  • Allow enough air to get in the chimney so fires burn properly. This encourages complete combustion and causes less smoke.
  • Firewood and other combustible materials must be stocked at least five feet (a metre and a half) away from the heating unit.
  • Keep logs outside, away from the house, and cover them so they’re protected from the elements. Wet wood burns badly and increases the formation of creosote.
  • Only burn paper and wood in your fireplace. Anything else could release toxic fumes.
  • Put ashes in a metal container with a raised bottom and keep it outside, away from combustible material, for at least 72 hours.
L Ittle boy getting hot by the space heater 840 X625

Precautions for space heaters

  • Plug the unit directly into a wall outlet—avoid using an extension cord.
  • Place the portable space heater out of reach of children and pets.
  • Don’t leave a working space heater unattended.

Electric heating

Electric heating is the most popular method, but it’s still smart to use it prudently.

Some good habits to adopt

  • Before the cold sets in, have your heating system inspected by a professional to ensure it works properly. This can help avoid unpleasant incidents.
  • Use electrical units that bear a seal from an accredited certification body (in French only).
  • Dust your baseboard heaters carefully and check that nothing’s fallen inside.
  • Don’t put anything on the baseboard heaters (such as damp mittens or socks), as objects in direct contact with the heat source could melt or catch fire.
  • For the same reason, window coverings and furniture should be at least 10 cm from the heaters. You can buy wire curtain protectors—available at hardware stores and home renovation centres—that fit over the units and keep drapes clear so they don’t overheat.
  • Avoid getting paint on baseboard heaters, as it can crack and catch fire.

Is wood-burning allowed?

Before getting a new wood-burning heating unit, check that it bears the seal of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Units certified by these organizations emit fewer toxic particles and consume up to 20% less fuel than conventional models. Check regulations in your town or province. For example, the dirtier wood-burning stoves have been banned in the city of Montreal since October 1, 2018.

Heating with oil or gas

Do you have a furnace, boiler or fireplace? Here are some important points to watch out for.

Maintenance is key

  • Get your heating system inspected every year, whether you have a furnace, boiler or fireplace. Preventative maintenance carried out by a certified expert will give you peace of mind, as you’ll know everything is in good working order.
  • Give your heating unit enough clearance to ensure adequate ventilation. Air intakes and exhaust outlets must be kept clear to ensure the gases can circulate freely.
  • Avoid covering the controls, air intakes and exhaust outlets.
  • Keep children away from the heating unit and ensure they don’t touch the valves or controls.
  • Clean or replace your heating unit filter in the fall, and clear snow from the exterior components in the winter.
  • Is your unit making a funny sound? Call an expert in to inspect it. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Senior hands lighting up gas fireplace 840 X625

Do you have a gas fireplace?

  • Before turning on your fireplace, be sure that it has been cleaned and inspected in the last two years.
  • Check that the glass doors are airtight.
  • Always turn off your fireplace before leaving the house or going to bed.

Whichever type of heating you use, stay safe and warm this winter with these simple tips.


  • The perfect time to check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors—and change them if necessary—is when you set your clocks back in the fall and forward in the spring.
  • Each floor of your house, including the basement, must be equipped with at least one smoke detector, which should be installed in hallways and rooms.
  • Every room with a gas or oil heating unit needs a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher easily accessible and be sure you know how to use it.

Sécurité publique Québec – Les appareils de chauffage électrique: https://www.securitepublique.gouv.qc.ca/securite-incendie/prevenir-incendie/conseils-prevention/chauffage-electrique.html (in French only)

Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal – Heating: http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/sim/en/heating

Ville de Montréal – By-law concerning the use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces: http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/portal/page?_pageid=7418,76005736&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

HPBAC – Wood burning in Canada: http://hpbacanada.org/wood-burning-appliances/