If you live in an apartment or you don't have access to a garage, you might find yourself targeting unused areas to create functional spaces. After all, that boring entryway could become a handy mudroom, and that storage area underneath the stairs might make a great children's playroom. Unfortunately, some spots around your house need to be left alone. Here are two things you should never use your utility closet for, and how your choice could impact your home, family, and furnace:
1: Craft Time
Nothing is more frustrating than dealing with a craft mess that has spread across your entire kitchen. Because you can't put things away until you finish, you might find yourself hurrying through that sewing project or trying to glue pine boughs to that wreath in a hurry. To keep the mess tucked away where nobody would see it, you might be tempted to set up a table in your utility room. Unfortunately, crafting in an enclosed space with heat-generating home appliances could be dangerous. Here are a few reasons why:
- Painting: To keep spray paint liquid and flowing freely, manufacturers add ingredients like linseed oil and butane. Unfortunately, these ingredients, which act as solvents and propellants, are also highly flammable. If you start refinishing that picture frame or painting that board, you could fill the area with a flammable substance, which could be lit by your furnace's pilot light.
- Paper Scraps: When you get busy scrapbooking, you might not think twice about all those miniature paper scraps that start littering the floor. Unfortunately, tiny bits of paper can be sucked into your furnace air intake, which can clog up filters in a jiffy.
- Sewing: Sometimes when you sew, you find yourself trying to navigate large pieces of fabric under that tiny needle. Unfortunately, if you aren't paying attention, that quilt could block your furnace's air intake or sit against a hot heat exchanger—which could block airflow or destroy your fabric.
To stay safe, try to craft in open areas away from covered flames. You might have to endure a mess for a few days, but it could protect your home from a devastating house fire.
2: As a Storage Unit
If you are like most people who live in a tiny space, that empty utility closet might seem like the perfect solution to your storage woes. Instead of renting a storage unit down the street, you might be tempted to use the space to stack boxes, store seasonal décor, and to stash cleaning supplies. Unfortunately, filling your utility closet to the brim could make your furnace work harder than it needs to, and create safety hazards.
Your furnace relies on a steady stream of incoming air to heat and cycle through your home. Unfortunately, if you fill your utility closet full of stuff, your furnace might have to work harder to suck in air, which could damage your device. Believe it or not, impeded airflow can even cause your heat exchanger to overheat, which could lead to structural cracks and carbon monoxide leaks. Furnaces can also "short cycle" due to limited air flow, which means that your system will turn on and off repeatedly. In addition to reducing your home's energy efficiency, short cycling can also make it difficult to keep your home a steady temperature.
Before you store anything in your utility room, think about how it could impact your furnace. Never use the space around your furnace to store potentially flammable items like cleaning supplies, paint cans, or Christmas décor. To stay on the safe side, refer to your furnace user manual and abide by the manufacturer's space clearance recommendations.
By keeping your utility closet clean and empty, you might be able to avoid early furnace replacement while protecting your family from dangerous circumstances.