Woodstove Safety Tips

Woodstove Safety Tips is a guest post by George Stewart

With home heating bills smoldering through the roof, it’s no wonder that many homeowners are contemplating a wood burning stove to help handle some or all of their home heating needs. Firewood is abundant and inexpensive in many parts of the country, and technological advancements have made woodstoves and other wood burning appliances safer and more efficient than ever.

Unfortunately, wood burning appliances still pose a danger if common sense safety precautions are ignored. Here’s a quick look at some key steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of a fire.

Find A Professional Installer

Few homeowners have the technical “know-how” to properly install a woodstove, fireplace insert or other wood burning appliance, and fewer still understand all of the pertinent building code requirements in their community. For example, clearances between the wood burning appliance, the venting system and any combustible materials above, below or beside the appliance are critical. What’s more, installation errors in a wood burning appliance rarely prevent it from “working.” This can all too easily leave a homeowner with a false sense of security—until it’s too late.

Ask about certified installation services when shopping for a wood burning appliance, and check credentials. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of the best ways to locate a certified professional is through a certification agency like the National Fireplace Institute (NFI). A list of NFI Certified Woodburing Specialists is available on the organization’s Internet site at www.nficertified.org.

Learn How To Burn

Before the installer leaves, ask him or her to show you how to use your wood burner. Include all family members in the discussion, if possible, and use this opportunity to set strict rules about who is permitted to operate the new appliance. Much of what you learn will be specific to the make and model of the wood burning appliance you buy. Other safety tips will be more general in nature, but are every bit as important:

* Keep a properly maintained fire extinguisher nearby at all times.
* Move combustible items as far away from the wood burner as possible.
* Use only clean paper, newsprint and dry kindling to start a fire. Never use an accelerant like gasoline, kerosene or lighter fluid.
* Burn seasoned wood only. Wet or green logs may cause a combustible residue to build up inside your chimney.
* Never burn trash or garbage in your wood burner.
* Close the door of your wood burning appliance as soon as it’s lit and immediately after loading new logs.

Talk to your local fire department. They may be able to offer additional information about burning wood safely, and they may be able to provide additional information about local ordinances that affect when you can use your wood burner.

Follow Maintenance Guidelines

Make sure you read and follow the maintenance guidelines provided with your wood burning appliance to help keep it working properly. Many manufacturers recommend an annual inspection, and your installer can often perform this service or recommend an inspector. Remove ashes regularly, and have your chimney inspected and cleaned each year by a certified chimney sweep. The Chimney Safety Institute of America offers a searchable list of certified chimney sweeps online at www.csia.org.

Install Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home. These devices can potentially warn you about a fire or wood burner malfunction, and may save your life. Talk to your local fire department about the best locations for each device, and make sure you test them regularly to make sure they’re working properly at all times.

The Home Improvement News and Information Center provides information and resources for home remodeling, home improvement and home energy management projects. For more home safety tips, point your web browser to Home Improvement News and Information Center.



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This entry was posted on Monday, November 17th, 2008 and is filed under Mountain Lake Resort.

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2 Responses to “Woodstove Safety Tips

  • 1
    david, 7000 feet up
    November 17th, 2008 18:29

    the tip about the CO2 detector is a good one, and these should be in EVERY home, since this deadly gas kills more folks than fire or smoke since it is invisible and you can’t smell it.

  • 2
    GG (Gossip Girl)
    November 17th, 2008 18:43

    Hi David! Yes, I was just watching a special where a service dog got the people out of the house. They asked the dog to show them what the problem was and he went over the water heater to point out the pilot light area. When the emergency services got their they found high levels of carbon monoxide in the home–they wouldn’t have left if the dog hadn’t warned them so a CO2 detector is a good idea–or a service dog!