Nothing beats the warmth of a wood stove on a cold winter’s night, but you need to care for it properly. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 16% of fires and 19% of deaths result from home heating equipment, such as wood stoves. Here are a few tips to keep you safe and warm this winter.
Install & Use the Stove Properly
Read the manufacturer’s manual for your insert, pellet, or wood burning stove. It describes the proper clearances needed for safe operation and how to vent your stove properly. Improper venting is a major cause of wood stove fires. If you do not have a manual, you can probably find it online. Look for the model number on your unit.
Your stove must sit on a non-combustible, fire-resistant base and remember, do not install a wood stove in a home with an unlined, single brick chimney. If you moved into a home with a wood stove, have a professional inspect the unit and the installation to ensure it is safe to use.
Always use a long match or a long-handled fireplace lighter to start your wood stove. Don’t use flammable liquids and always ensure the wood you’re trying to burn is dry.
Don’t Connect to Other Appliances
Don’t connect your wood stove to your fireplace, unless the fireplace is sealed off. Definitely do not connect your wood stove to a chimney serving other appliances that burn fuel, such as a hot water tank. This can draw dangerous fumes into your home.
Clear the Area
NFPA states 56% of home heating fire deaths are due to combustible materials near the wood stove or hearth. These include upholstery, clothing, bedding and decorations. Make sure the area around your wood stove or fireplace is clear of any and all clutter.
Clear Away Ashes
Ashes can stay hot for several days, so it is important to dispose of them properly. Always empty ashes into a metal bin and store them at least 10 feet away from your home until they cool.
Annual Cleaning & Inspection
The NFPA states dirty chimneys lead to 30% of home heating fires. Creosote from burnt wood accumulates in the chimney and it is highly-flammable. A hot fire can burn at around 1000 degrees, but a creosote fire can exceed 2000 degrees. This intense heat can crack and collapse the chimney flue, and ignite interior walls.
NFPA recommends “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances.”
Keep the Exterior Safe
Don’t stack firewood against your house. If there’s ever a fire, you’re adding fuel. NFPA recommends you stack it at least 30 feet away from your home.
Clear tree branches and leaves away from the chimney and install a chimney cap with a spark arrester, too.
Install Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detector
Where there’s fire there’s also smoke and fumes. The best way to stay safe while using a wood stove is to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 438 people die annually in the U.S. from carbon monoxide poisoning. Install these simple devices and test them monthly.
Check Your Insurance Coverage
A wood stove increases fire risk. Discuss your Rhode Island homeowners insurance coverage with your insurance agent to ensure you have adequate coverage. No one wants to think about a home fire, but they do occur. Prepare for the unexpected instead of leaving yourself vulnerable.