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Home heating is a saving grace this time of year. But for as much comfort as it provides us, it also exposes us to certain safety hazards.
According to the American Red Cross, home heating is one of the leading causes of house fires in the U.S. We at LEAP want to make sure you keep warm safely during these next few months. LEAP is the Colorado Department of Human Services’ Low-income Energy Assistance Program, which provides cash assistance to help Coloradans pay a portion of winter home-heating costs.
“Home-heating safety is simple but crucial,” LEAP Manager Aggie Berens says. “We encourage everyone to follow a few basic steps to make sure their home heating doesn’t put them at risk.”
The following home heating safety tips come from the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Fire Protection Association.
• Keep anything flammable at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove or portable space heater.
• Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any fireplace embers are extinguished before going to bed or leaving your home.
• Place space heaters on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (like a ceramic tile floor). Keep them off of carpets or rugs and away from bedding or drapes. Also keep children and pets away from space heaters.
• Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
• Use a glass or metal fire screen to keep fire in your fireplace and catch sparks and rolling logs.
• Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year. Ensure that these devices are properly vented.
• Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use. Don’t substitute.
• Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation by installing battery-operated detectors. Test these alarms regularly.
• Defer to skilled professionals to install permanent heating equipment, water heaters and central heating units to ensure code and manufacturer’s instructions are properly followed.
Heating your home during wintertime is expensive. If you’re struggling to pay your heating bills, LEAP can help.
LEAP provides cash assistance to help hard-working families and individuals pay winter home heating costs or help with broken furnaces or wood stoves. This year the average benefit for people who qualify is expected to be $380 per household.
The program has several eligibility requirements. Applicants must be Colorado residents and U.S. citizens or legal aliens. They also need to provide a copy of a valid identification and a completed affidavit to comply with Colorado Revised Statutes regarding documentation of lawful presence.
Applicants also must be responsible for paying heating costs, either directly to a utility company or to a landlord as part of rent. Applicants’ income cannot exceed 165 percent of the federal poverty level.
People interested in applying can call 1-866-HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435) to order a mailed application. Alternatively, applications are available at every county department of social or human services, most utility companies, and many community agencies, like Catholic Charities. Applications also can be downloaded from www.colorado.gov/cdhs/leap.
LEAP accepts applications until April 30.