HOUSTON -

Houston's first taste of winter is here and we have another freezing night ahead. So of course, we are all turning on our heaters to keep us toasty.

Before you crank up the heat, there are precautions you need to take to make sure your home doesn't catch fire or your family is not put in danger because of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Houston Fire Department along with heating and cooling experts urge homeowners to have whatever form of heating system -- whether central gas, electrical or fireplace -- they use be inspected by a professional.

HFD says faulty furnaces or space heaters are behind 100 fires a year in Houston.

Comfort Star Air Conditioning and Heating owner Habib Khoury has been busy getting homes safe for the upcoming cold season. His first stop during his inspection is something that gets overlooked often.

"This filter is very dirty. It really needs to be replaced as soon as possible," he explained. "It will cause the furnace to overheat and then catch fire."

Khoury and his team test lines for gas leaks and scour the home with their carbon monoxide detector.

"A lot of the old furnaces, if they have a crack in heat exchanger, they will leak carbon monoxide into the house," said Khoury. "That is a big hazard."

He advises having a carbon monoxide detector in every sleeping area and in the living room.

What about portable warmers? Remember, space heaters need their space.

"Because it is that time of the year for the holidays, people like to cover them up because they are unsightly. Well that is a huge no-no for the Houston Fire Department," said Capt. Ruy Lozano with HFD.

He says keep items, including those holiday decorations, at least three feet away from the space heater. Space heaters should always be placed on the floor and never leave children alone in a room with one.

It is also recommended fireplaces are looked at and inspected. Not only is a dirty fireplace a fire hazard, smoke can get backed up if not properly ventilated and leak carbon monoxide into your home.

If you are in need of a smoke alarm, HFD has a program for low income families to get a fire detector in their home.

HFD recommends the following safety tips:

  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm.
  • Never leave children unattended in a room with a space heater - Children knock over space heaters especially if they are placed on top of wobbly tables or stools and near where the children play. Children may also stick paper or toys in the grates of the space heaters especially gas space heaters. The city had two reported fires in 2004 caused by children playing with space heaters.
  • Keep all combustible materials, including yourself at least 3 feet from the heater
  • Open face heaters should have a screen
  • Provide ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

HFD says heating devices cause more than 100 fires in the city of Houston each year, resulting in numerous injuries and possible death.

Click here for more information about space heater safety from the Houston Fire Department.