Tips on staying warm and safe at home

Special to The Message

Like the pandemic, cold gets old. But like the coronavirus threat, you can reduce home-heating threats.

You can improve your heating system and warm up to safety and savings. Fuel to heat our homes can mean high bills. And heating increases the risks of fire, explosion and carbon monoxide poisoning. But a heating system that works efficiently can mean more warmth, more safety and more money left for other things.

The Evansville-Vanderburgh County Building Commission, Evansville Fire Department, Vanderburgh County township fire departments, American Red Cross, Vectren and your local heating and air conditioning contractors want to alert Southwestern Indiana to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, fire and explosion from a malfunctioning furnace, a blocked flue or chimney, a broken gas line or inadequate air for combustion.

There may be hidden damage to your furnace, gas piping, flue or chimney. Everyone should have their furnaces, space heaters, ranges, water heaters, gas lines, chimneys, flues and other heating equipment checked by a licensed heating contractor without delay. (You should do this every year.) You will protect yourself and your family this winter and save on heating bills.

Carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen in the air we breathe when fuel-burning equipment is operating and the vent or chimney is obstructed or there is not enough air to let the equipment burn fuel efficiently. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless and catches its victims unaware, sometimes as they sleep. If you suspect a carbon monoxide problem, leave your home and call 911 or your local fire department.

Families here and across the country have been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, and many others have become seriously ill. Symptoms may be similar to the flu, including headache, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath. There may be chest pain, fatigue and confusion. There also is a chance that you may go to sleep and never wake up.

Follow these safety guidelines:

  • Always use portable generators outdoors, far away from the home and any openings. 
  • Don’t use a range or oven for heat. 
  • Candle fires also have killed families. Be careful using candles during power outages and other times! 
  • Make a family fire escape plan.
  • The American Red Cross reminds you to use supplemental heating sources according to directions. 
  • Don’t use extension cords or power strips with space heaters.
  • Help alert your family with working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Regularly test the alarms and change any batteries, and replace the alarms as directed. Your local fire department may be able to check your alarms and replace them free.

If you need help

The following agencies are ready to help you assure that your home stays warm and safe:

  • Evansville Urban Enterprise Association offers free carbon monoxide alarms and smoke alarms, while supplies last, to residents of the Enterprise Zone and the service areas outside the zone who have not received them in the past. Phone 812-426-2490.
  • Community Action Program of Evansville (CAPE) handles the Indiana Weatherization Assistance Program in Vanderburgh, Posey and Gibson counties. (Every county in Indiana has an agency for the weatherization program.) CAPE may repair or replace faulty heating equipment and make other energy-efficient improvements. CAPE also helps with heating bills. CAPE has income limits. Phone 812-425-4241.
  • Affordable Housing Advisory Committee Rehab Program may provide loans to qualified homeowners for needed housing improvements. The program may repair or replace heating units and make other winter-related improvements. The owner must occupy the home and meet income and other qualifications. Phone 812-436-7823.
  • Vectren, a CenterPoint Energy Company, has details on no-cost home energy assessments and energy-saving products, income-qualified weatherization and rebates for purchases of qualifying furnaces, programmable thermostats and insulation. Phone 866-240-8476 or visit
  • Handy Chore will change furnace filters, install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, provide fire extinguishers, make some windows and doors weathertight and repair storm doors and outer doors. Handy Chore serves homeowners who are disabled or at least age 60. Phone SWIRCA & More at 812-464-7817.
  • Faith-based organizations, social agencies and township trustees may help with heating bills and needs. Phone 211 to find resources.