It happens every year – people make home heating mistakes, and some result in injuries or fatalities. Common causes: heating a home with an oven, getting objects too close to a heater, or trying to thaw frozen pipes with a blowtorch.

Here’s what not to do when it comes to staying warm and safe this winter.

1. Heating with an oven. Engineers created ovens specifically to cook food and furnaces to heat homes, and each functions best when used as intended. Leaving the oven on for heating, especially with the door open, risks something falling into the oven and starting your house on fire, or a child or pet getting seriously burned by accidently coming into contact with it. Additionally, using a gas oven for heating may lead to a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas, explains the EPA. High levels can cause dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness and even death. Using the oven correctly for cooking - intermittently with the oven door closed and exhaust hood on - dramatically reduces the risk of carbon monoxide buildup, according to the Iowa Cooperative Extension Service.

2. Not using in-wall, baseboard or space heaters properly. Heating equipment is a leading cause of home fire deaths, reports the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The biggest causes? Space heaters and fireplace chimneys.

So follow the rule: Keep all objects three feet away from a space/wall/baseboard heater. Also, according the Insurance Information Institute:

  • Make sure your space heaters carry the mark of an independent testing laboratory like UL.
  • Turn space heaters off when you leave a room or go to bed.
  • Do not overload the circuit. If you must use an extension cord (try not to), choose one that is the same size or larger than the appliance cord.

One other tip: Avoid kerosene and propane heaters. They’re not meant for indoor use and can cause a dangerous carbon monoxide buildup (and so require venting), and they use a very open flame that can easily start a fire.

3. Not having the chimney swept. Failing to clean chimneys keeps coming up as a leading cause of home heating fires, warns the NFPA. In addition to having a professional clean your chimney every season, follow these additional fireplace and woodstove tips to stay safe this winter while getting cozy around the fireplace.

4. Thawing frozen pipes with a blowtorch or space/gas heater. Trying to thaw pipes with open flame heating sources could set your house on fire, which recently happened to a restaurant in Aurora, Colorado. You can use an electric hair dryer or wrap pipes with towels soaked in hot water, explains the American Red Cross, if you can find and access the pipe. But your best route may be calling a professional plumber.

Ultimately, preventing frozen pipes works best. Prepare your house using these outdoor and indoor maintenance tips. Then, during winter, keep the heat on even while gone, leaving it in the low 60s or mid 50s, advises Xcel Energy.

So, there you have it: the common heating mistakes to avoid. Remember, if you turn to alternative heating sources this winter, choose a space heater or a properly maintained fireplace/wood stove, and be smart about it. That way you can keep your family safe and warm this winter, and your home protected from damage.