Teelicht ovens, charcoal grills and radiant heaters – out of necessity, many households get creative when it comes to alternatives to conventional heating. There is great concern about rising energy prices and the next utility bill. Winter is approaching, fears are growing – and more and more curious “do it yourself” ideas are circulating, which are supposed to replace heaters. The changeover to winter time on October 30 also increases the uncertainty when it gets dark earlier in the evening.
But what do experts advise? Silvia Oestreicher, spokeswoman for the German Fire Brigade Association and has been with the voluntary fire brigade since she was twelve, emphasizes: “A tea light oven is definitely not suitable for heating the home.” You shouldn’t use a grill indoors either – because of the risk of fire, but also because of potential carbon monoxide poisoning. What many people take for granted, some see as a solution to their personal energy crisis. According to Oeststreicher, this is not just a trend, “because people are scared of their existence, which is understandable”. However, the debate about heating alternatives should not only be about heating and saving, but also about fire protection, health and safety.
“The best thing is still a permanently installed, existing heating option, i.e. really the heating. Even if it’s only at a low level so that the walls don’t cool down,” says Oeststreicher. “I know there are households that really cannot afford the extra cost of heating. However, my aim is to sensitize everyone to take a step back on the whole issue – to save a few degrees with a jumper or to use existing heating.”
In many cases, a heater would perform better purely in terms of efficiency than if, for example, “there is an electric fan in every room”. Even more important: “In almost all cases, existing heating means less risk and more security.” Many best sellers are obviously based on the principle of saving. But according to Oestreicher, this lure of the lowest price is a deception. “The bottom line is that you potentially have significantly higher costs because the devices have electrical defects, broken cables or simply have high consumption. That’s why the follow-up costs are often higher than what you wanted to save, and often more dangerous.” Many buyers do not inform themselves properly. “That’s why our urgent appeal is to look at tested quality and not to take the special offers from junk shops or the Internet.”
The fire brigade association advises “paying attention to your own safety and the safety of other people”. Many people also no longer have the necessary knowledge to deal with alternative energy sources such as stoves, “especially not in the event of a fire”.
What many people forget is that not all heating media are created equal. Energy sources have their own characteristics in terms of operation and fire hazards. Tea light ovens can lead to wax fires that cannot be extinguished with water. The filling of ethanol fireplaces, on the other hand, has nothing to do with conventional fireplaces that are fired with wood. Firewood and pellets are already sold out in many hardware stores. But caution is also required here. “Firing points that have not been used for a long time should not simply be put into operation,” says Oeststreicher. “You should always have a chimney sweep take a closer look first.” Even old wood can become a health hazard.
Oeststreicher’s recommendations for preparing for the winter are relatively simple, apart from permanently installed heating equipment: thick sweaters, thick socks – and “at least turn the heating on to the snowflake”. Fire brigades in Germany are aware of the increased risk of fire, “and are of course available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help others. But the best effort for us is still the effort that is not even necessary.”