Grilling

April is an odd month in some regards. For most people, it's the first taste of warmer weather after harsh winters full of bitter cold and lots of snow. But it also rains quite a bit throughout the month and temperatures are not always spring-like. Chilly air still hits the face, but not enough to warrant parka gear. As the weather continually warms, homeowners begin to dust off their grills.

A 2013 Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association study showed 80 percent of U.S. households owned a grill or smoker: 14 million grills were shipped that year alone. The same study also found 60 percent of homeowners grill throughout the year, even when temperatures may force others to stay inside. One would find little opposition to grilling as the days get longer and warmer because cooking on a grill is easier than cooking inside.

However, there are homeowner risks associated with grilling. According to a 2013 study by the National Fire Protection Association, cooking appliances were the cause of 156,600 home fires. When it comes to grilling appliances, gas grills carry a higher risk than charcoal, contributing to an annual average of 7,200 house fires from 2007 to 2011. Total direct property damages from the time period totaled nearly $96 million.

Many homeowners will be thankful to know home insurance policies can cover fires or potential explosions grills may cause. Hazard insurance is part of a homeowner's coverage policies. The list of hazards covered is extensive, but varies depending on location and insurance agency. In most instances, fire is a covered hazard.

Yet there are still some precautions homeowners can take to ensure their property is not the scene of a gas or charcoal grilling accident.

Grill placement
Placement of the grill is key. The NFPA report said 29 percent of fires were started on an exterior balcony or porch. To prevent these structures from catching fire, it is recommended that grills be placed outside, away from siding and deck rails and in well-ventilated areas.

Propane and charcoal
Households should have qualified technicians inspect propane systems at least once a year. When the burner and tubes need to be cleaned periodically, owners should turn off the propane cylinder. Before the grill is turned on, it is recommended to always check for gas line, propane cylinder and connections damage. Do not store any spare propane cylinders in enclosed spaces. Rather, always keep them outside, away from objects that may cause ignition.

When lighting a charcoal grill, never use gasoline or high-explosive fluids. Immediately put away lighter fluid after applying it to charcoal.

Cooking
The NFPA recommended a 3-foot safe zone around the grill to protect kids and pets. This safe zone will also safeguard any items that may be left nearby. For charcoal grills, ensure the vents are open because charcoal needs oxygen to burn. While in the midst of grilling, use utensils with long handles to avoid potential burns and the occasional splatters. Always keep an eye on the grill, even after the cooking is completed. Grills can remain hot up to one hour after use.

General maintenance
Grills should always be cleaned after each use. Scrubbing the cooking grids, in conjunction with soapy water, will remove grease that can lead to a fire if enough is built up. Flipping the grids toward the burners, turning the grill on high for approximately 15 minutes and closing the lid is another method to clean off grease. Charcoal users are advised to throw away cooled-off charcoal into metal garbage cans with lids.

If at any time homeowners are confused about their grills, they are encouraged to check the user manuals. Enjoy everything that comes with grilling, but most of all, stay observant.

In the event homeowner's do not have an insurance policy that covers fires or explosions, they can head to CoverHound to compare policies and find the one that best fits their needs.

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