page contents

Indoor Home Safety

Indoor home safety includes checking and maintaining the different interior mechanics of your home to prevent any building system failures that might affect you and your family. During the fall, it's the perfect time to do an indoor home safety check in your house so you and your family can have a safe worry-free winter.  

The various building systems you will need to check includes:

  • Heating system
  • Water pipes
  • Fire prevention devices
  • Air quality devices.

Furnace check

Getting your furnace checked every year by a licensed HVAC company is the right and critical thing to do for everyone's safety. It will also ensure that your heating system is operating efficiently and optimally. Just like going to a doctor for an annual checkup, getting the furnace serviced regularly will prolong its life. Given how expensive a new heating system is, this is a smart strategy. Thankfully, most heating systems last quite a long time i. e. for many years.

I'm a firm believer in having some understanding of how the heating system works so I pester the technician ruthlessly with questions and ask for explanations. It also helps that my partner has thoroughly educated himself as well in this area so we feel quite comfortable talking about our heating system to HVAC contractors when we need to.

Why do this?

Because I want to:

  1. Make sure I understand what's involved in the servicing of the equipment
  2. Know what safety checks are being done on the furnace/boiler and outside vent
  3. Feel reassured that the company knows what they are doing to keep my family safe.
  4. Get a heads-up for any parts that may need additional service or replacement at a future date
  5. Feel comfortable that I'm getting value for service.

Furnace air filter

A key part of indoor home safety is checking the furnace air filter. The cleaner you keep the filter, the more efficient your heating system is going to be in delivering consistent heat throughout your house. As a bonus, you may also save a little money on heating costs too.

It's easy enough to clean the filter several times during the winter. However, if it's really dirty, just replace it.  Furnace filters are readily available from any retail hardware store. Checking the filter once a month during winter is a good strategy to adopt. If you have a clogged filter, you run the risk of damaging your furnace over time and the heat delivery throughout the house will be affected too. 

Indoor home safety tip 1:

  • Get your furnace serviced in summer when heating companies are not busy. Rates should also be lower and because it's the slow/off season, service should be faster to schedule.

Smoke alarms

Smoke alarms are a very important part of your indoor home safety.

Installing smoke alarms in houses is required as part of the building code pretty much everywhere in North America. And rightly so, because it could make all the difference.

Get in to the habit of checking the smoke alarms in your house at least once a year. You'll need to replace the battery once or even twice a year. You'll notice because there will be an intermittent chirping sound coming from the device.

Remember to vacuum the unit to remove any dust that has built up over time and washing the smoke alarm cover to dissolve any dust or debris is also a good idea.

Smoke alarm units generally last up to about five years before they need replacing. However, if one should fail, you'll need to replace it.

How to test a smoke alarm

You hold a heat source like a cigarette or similar, three inches from the smoke alarm unit. It will start beeping if the smoke detector is working properly. Remember to reset it after the test.

Indoor home safety tip 2:

  • Choose a memorable date and mark it on the calendar so you'll remember it going forward.

Carbon monoxide detector

Installing a plug-in carbon monoxide detector is becoming more common, and in some areas, mandatory. As a part of your winter home safety plan, it makes very good sense and it's ultra important to the safety of you and your family. In some states and provinces, it's been legislated while in other areas, it's not required as yet.

What makes carbon monoxide so dangerous?

  • Odourless
  • Tasteless
  • Invisible.

How is carbon monoxide created?

Carbon monoxide is created when any flame-powered appliance fails to complete the normal combustion process like a stove or furnace being turned on but doesn't ignite as it's supposed to. Instead, the carbon attaches itself to the oxygen, which then forms carbon monoxide allowing the newly formed and very dangerous gas to spread.

The carbon monoxide detector alarm will sound off to alert you if for some reason, you have a high level of carbon monoxide in your house.

Indoor house safety tip 3: (it's critical)

  • Leave your house and call the fire department immediately.

Chimney and Flue cleaning

For wood-burning stoves or fireplaces in particular, getting the chimney cleaned on a regular basis is absolutely essential to good health and warm fires. If you have wood fires frequently during the winter then an annual inspection is necessary. It makes sense to check for a birds' or squirrel's nest as well as removing any creosote buildup. Having an inspection done in the fall is an ideal time.

Part of the inspection should include the fireplace flue to make sure it's in proper working order. This includes both the open position when a fire is lit (so the smoke can escape) but also when there's no fire too. This is to make sure the flue closes properly. 

One other thing to check that is very important for wood stoves is the stovepipe that connects the wood stove to the chimney. Make sure there are no holes or corrosion showing along its length as this will allow gases to escape into the room. Not a good thing! You may need to replace the stovepipe at a future date if this occurs.

Frozen pipes

Having dealt with heat now let's deal with cold and what it can do to the water pipes in your house. Most building standards in a cold country mandate that water pipes be located well away or well insulated from an outside wall. Even so, water pipes close to an outside wall may freeze in really cold temperatures. 

One solution is to make sure each exposed pipe is wrapped in pipe insulation to help prevent the water from freezing inside the pipe. Pipe insulation comes in different widths. It's normally grey in colour and it's slit down the middle of the long tube-like shape so you can place it around the pipe very quickly and easily. Pipe wrap is readily available from hardware retail stores and is inexpensive to buy.

Pipe wrapping is generally a good idea anyway regardless of where they are located in your house provided that they are accessible to do so.



  • A. It reduces the potential for the pipe to freeze and because
  • B. In the case of the hot water pipe, reduces the heat loss and delivery time it takes for hot water to be delivered to your bathrooms and kitchens.

If the water pipes do freeze, call a plumber to resolve the problem. If this is a reoccuring problem, the plumber may recommend some re-routing of the pipe/s to avoid a future repeat of frozen pipes. However, if you go this route, there may be some significant costs involved.

Indoor home safety tip 4:

When the weather is going to be really, really cold for several days, think about leaving the tap turned on to have a slight trickle of water to reduce the chance of the pipes freezing.

Fire prevention and safety

You will also need to think about fire safety inside your home. Fire can start any time for any reason. You'll definitely need to be aware of some fire prevention techniques as well as be prepared in the event of fire and what to do.

Return to Winter Safety from Indoor Home Safety

Return to Winter Living Advisor from Indoor Home Safety