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Rescue board urges caution when heating the home during cold snap

A wood-burning fireplace.
A wood-burning fireplace. Source: Karin Koppel

The arrival of a particularly cold snap is naturally accompanied by a desire to heat the home to as maximum and extent as possible, but this has to be done with care, agricultural weekly Maaleht reports.

The advice in the Maaleht piece mostly concerns masonry heaters (Ahi), fireplaces and wood-burning stoves (Puupliit), common in older wooden houses in particular.

Based on its experience, the Rescue Board (Päästeamet) finds that the rate of call-outs to house fires rises in inverse proportion to outdoor temperatures, while Indrek Laanepõld, head of safety at the authority's Western district center, recommends as a rule of them – less heating at any one time, but more frequently.

Laanepõld noted that the lower starting point in a cold snap means ovens, stoves, fireplaces etc. have to heat up across a greater temperature span – but this in fact requires less heating but more often, as noted; lighting up once in the morning and once in the evening is sufficient.

Additional care must be taken not to close the damper, the metal flap which seals off the hearth from the chimney, too early, while potentially combustible items including even furniture or boxes must be kept away from a heat source.

With electric heating, care must also be taken not to overload a system.

Laanepõld said that pipes should have adequate insulation, including installing extra insulation when really cold weather arrives, to avoid their freezing – and in no circumstances should pipes be "thawed out" by using a blowtorch or other hope flame; specialist equipment must be used by an expert in this case.

Of more day-to-day precautions, in addition to not overdoing the heating process, stoves, hearths and chimneys must be regularly inspected and maintained and any soot cleaned away.

It is important to have a functioning smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector (closing the damper early can lead to a carbon monoxide build-up), while clothes etc. should never be draped over a radiator or heater to dry out.

 Another related hazard concerns vehicles – while the temptation in particularly cold weather and when in a hurry to get to work might be to have all in-car heaters going at full blast, this is not a good idea, particularly with older models, as it can overload the system and lead to an electrical fault or even fire.

Temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius were reported overnight Tuesday to Wednesday as the ongoing cold snap which arrived with the New Year deepens further still. While the skies are mostly clear, daytime temperatures on the mainland can still be as low as -25 degrees, worsened by easterly winds. The Environment Agency (Keskkonnaagentuur) issued a weather warning on Tuesday as a result of the conditions.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Maaleht

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