Heating Our Homes: What’s The Safest Choice For Children?

Air quality is a major concern for all parents, one made even more pressing by issues like global warming, wildfires, and rampant pollution - but as little control as we have over those matters, we can at least manage the air quality in our own homes. That means, as we make decisions about how to heat our homes, we should always consider how our choices impact indoor air quality. Failure to do so could have a significant impact on our children’s health, not just today, but for years to come.

The Impact Of Air Quality

Most people assume that indoor air quality is better than air quality outdoors, since we have more control over our environment when we’re inside. In reality, though, many homes suffer from poor indoor air quality because they have insufficient ventilation, contain petroleum-based products that release toxic byproducts, or because of structural issues like mold growth. These problems may be invisible to the naked eye and may not cause overt ill-health but can still have lasting negative effects, including a greater propensity for developing asthma, digestive problems, and even mood issues. 

Heating Options

When deciding how to heat your home, there are several factors that will determine how a heating system will impact air quality. For example, propane heaters are typically used outdoors because of concerns about air quality, but there are propane heaters appropriate for indoor use. Such models produce very little exhaust, and indeed, conventional propane cooking stoves are likely more dangerous when it comes to air quality. Additionally, those models that are fully vented represent virtually no risk at all.

If you’re concerned about using propane, one seemingly more natural heating option is wood heating, but this is generally a far worse choice in regards to air quality. Wood smoke releases an enormous amount of particulate matter and is considered one of the riskiest choices if you’re concerned about respiratory disease. A better choice might be a pellet stove, which burns much more cleanly and efficiently, and has been gaining in popularity.

Finally, old-fashioned steam heat systems are, at least on the surface, relatively harmless - but the problem with these systems is largely a matter of age. While some are part of updated systems, many steam-heated homes still use vintage radiators, which may release lead dust or fumes. Anyone using old radiator systems with children in the home should have their units evaluated for lead and other toxins.

Other Safety Concerns

While air quality is a top concern when selecting a heating method, parents also need to consider other safety issues, such as burn and fire risk. Vintage radiators can cause steam burns, while some radiant heaters may represent a burn risk if your child touches it directly. For safety purposes, a growing number of families are choosing ceramic convention heat systems, which are fully contained and unlikely to cause injury. Still, regardless of what heating apparatus you choose, the key is to place it away from soft toys and items like curtains that could catch on fire, and to teach children not to touch the heater. Additionally, young children should not be left unattended near an operating heating unit.

There’s no single correct choice for heating your home, but rather the right choice for your home and family is dependent on a number of considerations. Parents should consider their family’s particular needs and infrastructural options when selecting a heating system. And, whatever you choose, the good news is that we’ve come a long way since the days of coal - and that’s done all of us a world of good in terms of respiratory health and overall wellness.

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