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Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Safety Tips: Prevent Carbon Monoxide Posisoning

When is a headache, nausea, and fatigue not “just the flu” and, instead, carbon monoxide poisoning? And how can you prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home?

Every year 20,000 Americans are treated in emergency rooms for carbon monoxide poisoning. But many of those at first thought they were dealing with a run-of-the-mill bug. Those who received treatment at the hospital quickly enough were the lucky ones: Annually, 400 people in the United States die from exposure to odorless, colorless, toxic carbon monoxide.

The only way to know for sure whether your symptoms are the result of carbon monoxide exposure, short of being tested for CO poisoning at the hospital, is to have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Every home that has a gas-fire appliance, charcoal or gas grill, attached garage, or wood burning fireplace or furnace or woodstove needs one or more carbon monoxide alarms with an audible warning signal.

Carbon monoxide alarms measure levels of CO over time and will sound an alarm if levels are reached at which a normal adult might experience some symptoms. Your CO alarms should be ones evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratory. Either battery operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery backups will do the job as long as you replace the batteries according to the manufacturer’s directions. Combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms do double duty. Remember, carbon monoxide alarms should be replaced every six years.


Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning with a Battery Powered CO Alarm
Battery Operated CO Alarms

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning with a Plug-In CO Alarm

Plug-In CO Alarms

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning with a Combination Smoke and CO AlarmCombination Smoke & CO Alarms


 Where should you install your carbon monoxide alarms?

  • You need at least one CO alarm on each level of your home.
  • Make sure a CO alarm is within 10 feet of each bedroom.
  • Install a CO alarm inside your attached garage.

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning with a CO Alarm

More safety tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Other than installing CO alarms with functioning batteries, there are a few additional things you must do to protect yourself and family and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Do not use a range or oven to heat your home, even in a power outage.
  • Only use grills and hibachis outside and never in a garage or other enclosed area.
  • Do not keep a car running in your garage. Even if you have the garage door open, there is not enough air circulation to prevent a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide.
  • Have a qualified technician install fuel-burning appliances and inspect them annually.
  • When buying a new home, have the fuel-burning appliances inspected as well as the seal between the garage and the house.
  • Do not rely on your pets to act as carbon monoxide “alarms.” Pets will not necessarily show symptoms of CO poisoning before the human inhabitants.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms need replaced every six years. Keep a record of when you installed your CO alarms in a manner that will alert you when they are six years old so you will remember to replace them. (Some write the month and year of initial installation on a sticker on the outside of the alarm and, each time the batteries are changed, note if the six years are nearly up.)

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen to anyone, even people with new homes and new fuel-burning appliances, but infants and children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, people with heart problems or lung conditions , and the elderly are especially at risk for dangerous or even deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

Most people think of fireplace screens, fireplace tools, firewood holders and fireplace grates as the essential fireplace accessories, but smoke alarms and CO alarms–or combination smoke and CO alarms– are also important. These alarms can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning of your family, friends and pets.

Posted in Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance, Safety Tagged with:

Will Fireplace Ashes Melt Ice?


Will fireplace ashes melt ice or just improve traction on ice? Are there advantages or disadvantages to using ashes instead of rock salt or other chemicals on snow and ice? What are the pros and cons of other de-icers compared with using fireplace ashes on icy surfaces?

Will Fireplace Ashes Melt Ice and Snow?

Fireplace ashes primarily provide traction on icy and snowy surfaces. As a secondary function, fireplace ashes melt ice and snow by darkening the area. Dark areas absorb more of the sun’s heat, thereby speeding up the melting process on sidewalks, driveways, streets and steps to which ashes have been applied.

fireplace ashes melt snow and provide traction

 Advantages of Fireplace Ashes

Fireplace ashes are a natural abrasive, so they provide good traction in winter conditions.

  • They are free! Your fireplace produces them during the cold seasons when ice and snow are an issue.
  • Fireplace ashes do not cause damage to lawns, shrubs or trees.
  • The ashes are actually beneficial for plant growth as it contains 13 essential nutrients soil supplies for plant growth.
  • Conveniently, hardwoods, which are best for fireplace and woodstove burning, produce about three times as much ash and five times more soil nutrients than softwood.
  • Fireplace ashes will not corrode concrete or metals (as some de-icers will.)
  • The ashes from your fireplace will not injure the pet paws.

Disadvantages of Fireplace Ashes

While they are both free and won’t damage plants, there are some disadvantages of using fireplace ashes on ice and snow.

  • Because fireplace ashes are alkaline, use the same caution with them as you would when handling other highly alkaline materials: Use gloves, eye protection and (if the ashes are very fine) a dust mask.
  • Ashes can get tracked into the house. They are, therefore, best used on driveways, roads and areas away from the house such as by barns and garden composts.
  • You don’t want to use ashes from fire pits or grills if you use fire starting fluids with these fires. These added chemicals are not good for your lawn.
  • Fireplace ashes melt ice more slowly than chemical solutions. If you want to speed up the process, mix vegetation- and pet-safe ethylene glycol de-icers (like Safe Paw Ice Melter) or calcium magnesium acetate de-icers (like Snow Joe Melter) with the ashes. Mixed this way, fireplace ashes melt ice and snow more quickly and thoroughly. While these de-icers can be a bit pricey, by mixing them into your ash bucket with the ashes, you can stretch your dollar.

    Safe Paws and Snow Joe Melt

    SafePaws and Snow Joe Melt – Mix either one with fireplace ashes to get a more effective ice or snow melt.

Pros and Cons of Other De-icers

While we think fireplace ashes melt ice and snow well enough and provide good walking and driving traction, they are not the only de-icers available.

  • Sand – Adds traction but is not a de-icer per se. Not harmful to plants, and in the amounts used for de-icing, sand is safe for pet paws. A natural product like fireplace ashes, it is nonetheless less of a problem if it gets tracked inside.
  • Rock and Table Salt – The most common of de-icers, it is also known as sodium chloride. This inexpensive de-icer, works well on snow and ice, but it damages plants, soil and paved surfaces, and it is highly corrosive on metals (think cars and snowmobiles.) Chemical formula: (NaCl)
  • Calcium chloride  – Most chemical de-icers are effective to 15 or 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but calcium chloride is works down to negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is preferred in super cold climates. Its disadvantages are that it can leave a slippery reside, is expensive, and is highly corrosive to concrete and metals. Chemical formula: (CaCl 2 )
  • Potassium chloride – This is used as both a de-icer and as a fertilizer, so it is better than salt for plants. Over time, however, it can pollute lakes and streams through runoff. It can also corrode metals such as concrete reinforcement bars. Chemical formula: (KCl)
  • Calcium magnesium acetate – Made from a type of limestone, as a de-icer it is harmful to neither plants nor animals. It is less corrosive than other de-icers. Its major drawback is its expense. Chemical formula: (CMA)
  • Urea or carbamide –  This is an organic compound synthesized from natural gas (not urine!) It is a moderately effective de-icer more useful it light winter than heavy winter situations. Runoff can be a pollution problem. Chemical formula: (NH2)2CO
  • Manual – If you’d rather skip the gym and get a workout while you remove the snow, a heavy duty ice chopper-scraper can make ice removal not only possible but also much easier than your would expect.
  • De-Icing Heat Mats – For those who never want to deal with ice or snow on sidewalks or steps again, de-icing mats such as HeatTrak are the way to go! They are designed to stay outside all winter, and, when one or a series are turned on, they safely melt ice and snow. With a wireless control switch, you can even turn them on without going outside. These are a great gift for older relatives living in cold climates.

    De-icing Mats

    De-Icing Mats remove the need have fireplace ashes melt ice and snow.

Note of Caution

“Fireplace ashes” means cold ashes. Don’t be tempted to think warm embers and fireplace ashes melt ice and snow more effectively than cold ones. A stray hot ember is a good way to get to know your local firefighters way too well.

cold fireplace ashes melt ice

The Fire Department warms: Do not use hot fireplace ashes and embers as de-icers this winter.

Also, store ashes in a metal ash bucket with a lid. A cardboard box will not cut it!

Reference: Oregon State Extension Service

Posted in General, Safety Tagged with:

New Year Fireplace Banners

New Year Fireplace Banners

Proclaim “Happy New Year” with banners or garlands or pennants hung from your fireplace mantel. Your options for messages on New Year fireplace banners range from the new year’s numerals to “Happy New Year” and more novel expressions such as “Cheers!”

New Year Fireplace Banners with Year’s Numerals

The classic way to decorate your fireplace mantel for the New Year is to display the numerals of the new year. Depending on  your point of view, that means each year you “have to” or you “get to” buy a new banner.

The following two New Year Fireplace Banners have big (15 inch tall) numbers and come on a six foot line, long enough for even large fireplace. Each jazzes up the number with stars and glittery colors. Choose from classic Silver and Black Sparkle Year Streamer or the more vibrant Multi-Color Sparkle Year Streamer.


For a smaller fireplace, these strung Gold 8 Inch Tall Year Numbers with printed-on glitter work well. Use it alone, or get three of them: One to hang toward the left of the fireplace, one to hang in the middle, and the third to hang toward the right of the fireplace.


Want a short-cut way to make your own New Year Fireplace Banner with the year? These twenty sturdy cut-outs , below, of the year’s number each measure 7 inches wide and 5 inches tall. The glitter looks like sparkly glitter, but is actually printed on the cards, so it won’t flake off onto your hearth or rug. Simply hang or string these on a ribbon of your choice, and you have a great fireplace banner to welcome the new year.


New Year DIY Fireplace Banner Year Numbers

Create a DIY New Year Fireplace Banner with these 20 pre-made year cards.


New Year Fireplace Banners That Say “Happy New Year”

Go straight to the message with a fireplace mantel banner or garland with those three magic words for January 1st: Happy New Year!

With large, 8 1/2 inch by 8 1/2 inch letters, the Beistle Happy New Year Streamers are a great size. The letters can be spread out more if you are using them with especially large fireplaces.  The Beistle Streamers come in sparkly Gold and Black, Silver and Black, and Multi-Color.


Prismatic New Years fireplace banners give the illusion of 3-D prisms and are designed to reflect light from the fireplace and the room. They come in Silver and Black or Gold and Black Banners as well as a New Year Individual Letters Streamer with Prismatic Dots.


These New Year fireplace banners below have one letter on each pennant – whether the pennant is a triangle, square or circle.

Triangle, square, and circular individual letter New Years banners.

Triangle, square, and circular individual letter New Years banners.


Jointed or hinged Happy New Year fireplace banners are another option.

Jointed or Hinged New Year Fireplace Banners

Hinged Happy New Year Fireplace Banners come in a 5 foot long Silver and Black or in a 4 foot long Multi-Colors.


Foil fringe New Year banners work well over a lit fireplace because the waves of rising heat will gently flutter the fringe!

Foil Fringed New Year Fireplace Banners

Foil Fringed New Year Fireplace Banners flutter as the heat rises from the fireplace.

If you want the best of both worlds for you fireplace mantel – the New Year’s numerals and the words “Happy New Year,” you are in luck with these Bunting Banners:

Two-piece New Year Fireplace Banner in Silver or Gold

Two-piece New Year Fireplace Banner in Silver or Gold

Reuse them next year by just taking off the pennants with the year.


New Year Fireplace Banners That Say “Cheers”

Banners that say “Cheers” are versatile. They can be used for New Year’s and encourage a toast. They can also be displayed for weddings, anniversaries, graduations, and promotion parties.


Cheers Banners

Cheers Banners Work for New Years as Well as Other Events


No matter which option you select to welcome the New Year, whether banners or pennants on the fireplace mantel with the new year’s numerals, the words Happy New Year, or the single word Cheers, have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve.

Also, see more ideas for New Year’s Mantel Decorations.

Posted in Decorating, Holidays Tagged with: ,

Christmas Tree Fire Retardants

Fire Retardants for Christmas Tree and Fireplace Mantel Greenery

Nothing can completely prevent a Christmas tree or fireplace greenery from burning. But you can reduce the flammability of your Christmas trees and mantel greenery with these homemade or purchased fire retardants.

Fire retardants prevent fires from starting and spreading, reduce or eliminate harmful smoke, and minimize fire damage. Some are made specifically for Christmas trees and greenery; others are made for anything that can absorb the spray fluid (including fabric, paper, and cardboard)

Fire Retardants Specifically for Christmas Trees

No-Burn Christmas Tree Fire Gard

No-Burn Christmas Tree Fire Gard is designed to be used only on live Christmas trees and other live greenery such as wreaths, garlands, and centerpieces. One spray bottle will cover an 8-foot Christmas tree. Although it claims not to harm needle retention, some users experience a significant needle loss.

Tree Shield Fire Retardant for Christmas Trees

The manufacturer of Tree Shield Fire Retardant for Christmas Trees has had this certified as a fire retardant for live greenery including Christmas trees, garlands, Christmas wreaths and table centerpieces. It is odorless, colorless, and nontoxic.


Fire Retardants for Wood and Other Natural Materials

Master Flame – Fire Retardant – Spray on Application or Mix with Paint

Master Flame Fire Retardant is designed for any absorbent material, but will not work on non-absorbent materials like glass, plastics or Styrofoam. So holiday decorations that are cloth, paper, cardboard, or wood are ideal for this product: stockings, most holiday decorations (except glass or plastic), cardboard boxes including ornament storage boxes, and baskets. It is also appropriate for curtains, upholstery and carpets. To make walls fire resistant, mix Master Flame Fire Retardant with your wall paint.

Because it it not specifically designed for live greenery like Christmas trees and mantel garlands, we do not recommend it for those uses.


Billed as an eco-friendly, “green” fire retardant, this product is plant-based and biodegradable. It can even be safely applied with children present.

Firez Off Fire Retardant works with anything it can soak into: cloth, paper, cardboard, and wood, including live greenery like Christmas trees.

Stop-it Fire Retardant Spray 

Stop-It Fire RetardantStop-It Fire Retardant

This spray-on fire retardant is for use on both live and artificial Christmas trees. Unlike salt-based fire retardants, it will not dry out your tree. Stop-It Fire Retardant can also be used on other cloth (stockings, silk flowers) and wooden (including baskets) holiday decorations.

It is odorless, nontoxic, and meets the stringent California State Fire Marshal standards.

Homemade Fire Retardant

Make your own Christmas tree fire retardant using a product found at your local hardware or nursery.

Mix 9 pounds of Ammonium Sulphate and 2 gallons of water in a bucket large enough to hold your fresh Christmas tree. Place the bucket in a dark, unheated space like a garage or shed. Next place your Christmas tree in the bucket and leave it there for 48 hours. Your tree will absorb the ammonium sulphate, making it fire resistant from the inside out!

When you take your Christmas tree inside to decorate, save the remaining water. Store it in an air-tight container, and it can be reused with next year’s Christmas tree.

A Note of Caution with Fire Retardants

Even if you have sprayed your Christmas tree, fireplace mantel greenery, and Christmas stockings with fire retardants, the contents of your Christmas stockings are not fire proof or fire resistant. Hang your gift-filled Christmas stockings from the fireplace mantel only when they are empty.




Posted in Holidays, Safety Tagged with: ,
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