Energy prices may be coming down but costs are still high with many households looking for cheaper ways to power their home with heat and light. We’ve asked the experts how you can stay safe and what to avoid
Households are trying to heat and light as cheaply as possible given the ongoing size of our energy bills, but there are concerns that they may be opting for hazardous and dangerous ways of doing it.
New research from Zurich UK found that one in seven people might use candles to light their home to keep energy bills down, posing a fire threat.
The study found that fires caused by candles can leave households with average repair bills of £18,000.
The insurer’s research found Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Glasgow and Sheffield are among the cities where people are most likely to light candles in their home.
Paul Redington, property claims expert at Zurich UK said: “The energy crisis is forcing people to make tough – and potentially more hazardous – choices over how they heat and light their home.
“There is now concern that accidental blazes could become more commonplace if households use candles to keep energy bills down or cope with potential blackouts.”
Here we explain the hazardous ways to heat and light your home to avoid and the fire-risk appliances you shouldn’t leave running unattended overnight.
Safety tips when using a candle to light your home
A small candle might seem harmless, but if it causes a fire in your home it could lead to thousands of pounds in damages.
It’s important to use candles safely. Here are some safety tips that Zurich UK suggest households follow:
- If you leave the room, put the candle out. Never leave it on if it is going to be out of your sight.
- Don’t blow a candle out yourself; put it out with a spoon to avoid sparks flying.
- Keep candles away from flammable objects, such as bedding, furniture, books and bedding.
- Put a fire alarm in your home and test it weekly.
- When determining where to put candles, make sure it’s a stable surface, away from children and pets.
- Don’t leave lit candles near an open window and don’t move them around.
- Don’t burn multiple candles next to each other because this could cause them to flare.
- In the event of a fire, you should get out, stay out and call 999.
How to use your electric blanket safely
Electric blankets can be a useful and cost effective way to keep warm.
But it’s wise to understand how to buy and use an electric blanket safely:
- Regularly check the blanket to make sure there is no wear and tear. If there is, it needs to be replaced.
- The blanket should also be replaced if it makes a buzzing sound when turned off.
- Check to see if the blanket has a Kitemark. If it does, it means the blanket has been tested by experts and is more safe to use.
- To prevent damage to the wires in the electric blanket, you can store it flat or roll it up.
- Always read the instructions manual to get the electric blanket up and running the correct way.
- Don’t use a hot water bottle when using your electric blanket.
- Never switch the electric blanket on if it is wet.
Risks of using your fireplace for the first time
If you plan on using your fireplace, it’s essential you know how to set it up properly and the risks that come with using it.
The National Chimney Sweep Guild advises that before beginning to use your fireplace you get your chimney cleaned professionally, checking for animal nests and any deterioration – ensuring it is safe to use. You should get your chimney cleaned at least once a year.
Also check the surroundings of the fireplace and remove any flammable items, such as clothing, books and home decor.
According to the National Chimney Sweep Guild, here’s how you can safely start a fire in a fireplace:
- Put two medium pieces of firewood on the metal grate, with around a six-inch gap.
- Fill the gap with crumpled newspaper (tinder) and cover the tinder with kindling.
- Then place two more firewood pieces on top of the other logs in the fireplace, but be sure to leave room for ventilation.
- Make sure the fireplace vent is fully open.
- Now it’s time to light the fire by twisting a single piece of newspaper, lighting it and holding it upwards towards the chimney (high up in the fireplace). Then light the kindling.
- Once the fire is alight, you can keep adding firewood when needed to ensure the flame stays visible.
It’s important to always put the fire out if you leave the room.
Avoid overloading plug sockets
It’s easy to turn your electrical appliances on and forget about the risks that come with it, like overloading plug sockets. There are simple steps you can follow to reduce the risks of overloading, according to Electrical Safety First.
For example, it’s important to check the rating of your extension lead before plugging in appliances. The rating essentially tells you how much power your extension lead can handle. The most common rating stands at 13A, but also can be as low as 10A or even less.
So when plugging appliances in, you should make sure it doesn’t exceed the maximum rating of the extension leads, as it could cause the plug to overheat and start a fire.
You can use the Electrical Safety First overload calculator to ensure you are not exceeding the rating of your plug.
Electrical Safety First also recommends never plugging one extension lead into another.
The risk of leaving electric appliances on overnight
It can be unsafe to leave appliances on overnight, like an electric blanket or portable electric heater.
Insurance companies and energy experts have outlined some of the risks, as well as how to stay safe when using appliances overnight.
Electric heaters: London Fire Brigade dealt with a case in April where a woman sadly died because she had her heater too close to her and it got caught under her recliner chair.
London Fire Brigade urged people to keep electric heaters away from furniture and bedding, and to make sure the heater is in good condition and working well. If there are any issues, never repair or service it yourself.
Electric blankets: Martyn Allen, Technical Director of Electrical Safety First, says: “We would remind people to follow some simple guidelines if they decide to use electric blankets, as the results of using them incorrectly can end up causing a fire.
“When it comes to electric blankets, it is important that people carry out a visual check of their blanket before use to look for burn marks or damage and to never use it with a hot water bottle or when it’s folded or severely creased.”
Don't overlook the need for a carbon monoxide alarm
Whether you are using your central heating, or looking to use other methods like a fireplace, the process can potentially lead to the production of a poisonous gas called carbon monoxide.
The big danger with carbon monoxide is that you can’t see it or smell it. As a result, there is a risk that you could leave an appliance on and not know that it is releasing carbon monoxide.
Which? recommends every household should have a carbon monoxide alarm. It will sound a loud alarm if it detects that there is enough carbon monoxide in the air to harm you.
If the alarm does ever go off, you need to open all doors and windows in your home, turn off all fuel burning appliances and seek medical advice as soon as possible.