6 Common Fire Hazards Lurking in Your Home (and Simple Ways to Prevent Them)

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Whether you're a homeowner or renter, a house fire can be a costly disaster. According to the National Fire Protection Association, home fires account for more than 2500 deaths and more than 12,000 injuries in the U.S. every year, not to mention billions of dollars in damage. U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 350,000 house fires annually.

The good news is, total fire-related deaths, injuries, and property losses have trended downward in recent years, and that may be due to improved fire-fighting technology at home. Nothing beats the effectiveness of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and a solid fire escape plan, but the newest smart home devices can help you prevent these common fire hazards lurking in your home.

1. UNATTENDED BURNERS

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We’ve all had that moment of panic when we ask ourselves, “Did I remember to turn off the stove?” It’s worth double-checking, since cooking equipment is the leading cause of house fires. Stoves, ovens, and other appliances account for nearly 50 percent of incidents, while unattended cooking is the leading contributor to these fires.

Fortunately, new smart stovetop sensors and monitors will alert you when you’ve left the stove on. The Wallflower simply plugs into the wall with your electric stove, then alerts you when the stove is turned on, when it’s been on longer than usual, and even when you leave the house without turning it off. The crowd-funded Inirv React, meanwhile, promises to be a system of smart stove knobs that use sensors and electronics to detect smoke, natural gas, and motion, while allowing you to monitor your stove remotely.

2. DEAD SMOKE DETECTOR BATTERIES

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Working smoke alarms should be placed on every floor of your home, and inside every bedroom: They cut the risk of dying in a house fire by half.

Basic smoke detectors can get the job done, but newer models can also alert your phone if there's smoke in your home, turn off your HVAC system to slow the spread of smoke, or record video so you can check the situation remotely.

Security expert Emily Patterson of independent review site A Secure Life highlights the Nest Protect as one of her favorite devices for fire safety. “It has CO detection as well as heat and humidity sensors, so it has the ability to distinguish between real causes for concern and burnt toast,” Patterson tells Mental Floss. “You can also enable smartphone alerts, which is handy if you’re not home, and set up automated protocols to unlock doors or record video if the alarm goes off.”

The detector is only as reliable as the battery powering it, though. The Roost Smart Battery allows you to retrofit existing smoke detectors with 9V batteries to be managed by your smartphone and alerts you when battery life is running low (after three to five years).

3. SPACE HEATERS

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Space heaters keep things cozy when your existing heating system performs poorly, but they can also be extremely dangerous. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 1100 residential fires—and more than 50 deaths—are linked to portable electric heaters every year. Fires often occur when the heaters are left on unattended or they’re too close to flammable materials like paper or blankets.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends purchasing only newer-model heaters equipped with safety features like a tip-over switch and automatic shut-off, which kicks in if the heater exceeds a certain temperature. The Dyson Hot + Cool fan heater uses diffused mode heat to warm rooms evenly while the machine stays comfortable to the touch. For a more affordable option, the Smart Ceramic Tower Heater has infrared heat settings, a sleep timer, overheating protection, a tip-over safety switch, and Wi-Fi connectivity that lets you control it with your smartphone—just in case you forget to turn it off before leaving home.

4. OVERLOADED OUTLETS

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Heat-producing small appliances like coffee makers and toasters can pose a fire risk if used improperly—like if you have too many appliances plugged into one outlet. The NFPA recommends plugging only one heat-producing gadget into an outlet at a time [PDF], while smart plugs make it easy to turn off power to small appliances when you’re not home. Some devices even turn off outlets automatically when they’re not in use. There are dozens of options on the market now, from Wemo’s Insight Smart Plug with energy monitoring to the iDevices Switch. Most can be controlled with your phone, and are compatible with smart-home hubs. Be sure to check that the smart plug you choose is equipped with enough power to handle the wattage of your appliances.

5. COMBUSTIBLE LANDSCAPING

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The landscaping around your home can mitigate fire risks—or multiply them. Any plants that are too close to the house can present a fire hazard, especially when they’re dried out, says Cassy Aoyagi, a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council’s L.A. Chapter and president of FormLA Landscaping. “Several popular plants, like pampas, feather, and fountain grasses, marketed in the West as ‘drought tolerant,’ are actually quite combustible,” she tells Mental Floss.

A smart sprinkler controller makes it easy to ensure that your yard is moist and as fire-safe as possible. It can regulate and even reduce your water consumption, too. The Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller is equipped with a weather-monitoring system to adjust water use based on the forecast. The Orbit B-Hyve has fewer bells and whistles, but still offers smart scheduling with a smartphone app.

6. INTENTIONAL FIRES

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Let’s hope you never have to deal with this one, because playing with fire is no joke. The NFPA reports that 8 percent of residential fires between 2011 and 2015 were set intentionally, with 15 percent of civilian deaths happening as a result [PDF].

To keep your home safe inside and out, consider using a smart home security system. The iCamera KEEP Pro from iSmartAlarm has a powerful image sensor, sound and motion detection, event-triggered video recording, and a motion-tracking feature that allows the camera to follow movement around your space. The Wyze Cam 2 is a smaller model with motion-tagging technology and a budget-friendly price tag.

Nothing beats the power of common sense, of course. “Preparedness is the best protection,” Patterson says. “Have the right tools, have an evacuation plan, and know what to do in the event of an emergency. Fires are scary and it can be difficult to act quickly and think clearly in the moment if you aren’t prepared.”

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

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Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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These 15 DIY Model and STEM Kits Will Be Your New Favorite Hobby

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Time for Machine

Put those fidgeting hands to good use with one of these beautiful DIY kits for adults and children. The kits range from standard car and plane models to STEM-based robotic and gaming projects. When you’re done building the intricate models, you can enjoy your creation as a desktop decoration or toy.

1. Heavenly Hercules Metal DIY Model Kit; $120 

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This DIY replica of a real-life visionary plane includes eight motors you can watch work. When you’re done building, plop it on your desk for the perfect conversation starter.

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2. Dazzling Steamliner Metal DIY Model Kit; $160

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Get your dieselpunk and steampunk kicks with this sleek steamliner model powered by a spring mechanism.

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3. Mysterious Timer Metal DIY Model Kit; $55

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This DIY clockwork timer will measure up to an hour of time, sound an alarm, and make a timeless decoration after you assemble it.

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4. Sunfounder Nano DIY Robot Kit; $47 (21 Percent Off)

Sunfounder

Give a younger pal an introduction to robotics programming with these robots you can build and train to walk, dance, and kick.

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5. DIY Bionic Robot Lizard; $55 (16 Percent Off)

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Trade the time it takes to care for a real reptile pet for some STEM education. This kit teaches kids to build their own bionic lizard using engineering, robotics, and programming skills.

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6. Sunfounder Picar-V Kit V2.0 Raspberry Pi 4; $105 (8 Percent Off)

Sunfounder

This STEM kit for beginners is the perfect way to learn Raspberry Pi, robotics, and electronics with easy coding tutorials.

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7. Glorious Cabrio Metal Diy Model Kit; $60 

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Under the hood of this stainless-steel model car is a spring-powered mechanism that allows it to travel across floors in style. There's even a functional steering wheel, trunk, and hood for added authenticity.

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8. Hot Tractor Metal DIY Model Kit; $25

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Build a real-life prototype of the heavy K700 tractor, complete with opening cabin doors and a working hood.

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9. DIY Robot Curiosity Kit For Ages 8 to 10; $70 (41 Percent Off)

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Make playtime educational with this introductory STEM learning kit that teaches kids to build modules that are LEGO-compatible for even more exciting play.

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10. Bondic Pro Kit With Extra Refills; $22 (45 Percent Off)

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Toss that Scotch tape and glue, because this liquid plastic uses a UV LED light to harden and connect model pieces together.

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11. Makerbuino Educational DIY Game Console (Standard Kit and Tools); $80

CircuitMess

Get kids away from their screens for a bit with this kit that teaches them to actually build their own handheld gaming device.

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12. Royal Voyager Metal DIY Model Kit; $80

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Let nostalgia take the wheel while you build this retro, disco-era sedan with a wind-up handle that starts the engine.

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13. DIY Robotic Art Kit For Ages 6 To 9; $30 (56 PERCENT OFF)

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Give craft-loving kids a lesson in STEM with this kit that explores art, science, and robotics while designing tons of projects.

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14. Silver Bullet Metal DIY Model Kit; $55

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This unique model design was inspired by international sports cars and includes intricate engine gears to tinker with beneath the hood.

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15. Marvel Tank Metal DIY Model Kit; $70

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This steampunk-style self-propelling tank can overcome obstacles or sit pretty on your desk.

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Prices subject to change.

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