7 Essential Tips for Safe and Efficient Wood-Burning Stoves and Fireplaces
Fireplaces and wood stoves are an economical way of heating your home and the breath-taking fire adds ambiance and warmth to your space. However, these heating appliances can also result in injuries and chimney fires if you’re not careful. Fortunately, by following a few safety tips you can minimize the risks, and enjoy the warm glow of a burning fire during chilly winter days.
1. Have Your Chimney, Wood Stove and Fireplace Inspected and Cleaned at Least Once a Year
One of the most essential parts of maintaining the efficiency and safety of a fireplace or a wood burning stove is regular cleaning and inspection by a certified chimney sweep. Cleaning and inspecting the chimneys should be a top priority. The chimney may be full of creosote which is a real fire hazard. Having the chimney, fireplace and wood stove cleaned and inspected by a chimney sweep will remove creosote and soot build-up reducing the risk of a house fire. A professional chimney sweep will not only remove the flammable creosote deposits, but they will also check your wood stove or fireplace for early signs of damage and make the necessary repairs.
2. Only Burn Seasoned Firewood
The best type of wood to burn in a fireplace or wood stove is seasoned firewood which has been dried for at least 6 months. This type of firewood burns brighter, cleaner and quicker, thereby reducing creosote deposits. Consider storing seasoned hardwoods like white oak, hickory, sugar maple and beech. Not only will they burn longer, your home will be filled with a pleasant aroma.
3. Always Extinguish the Fire before Going to Bed or Leaving the House
When you are using a fireplace or a wood burning stove for heat, leaving the fire unattended is dangerous. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends ensuring that the fire is completely out before leaving the house or going to bed. The residual heat will continue to warm the space for the next few hours.
4. Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Each year, more than 3,000 people in the United States die in house fires, and over 150 people perish from carbon monoxide poisoning related to residential heating appliances. If you use a wood burning stove or a fireplace, you should install a carbon monoxide detector. This life-saving device may be the only warning of rising levels of this odorless and poisonous gas.
5. Test Smoke Detectors Twice a Year
You should install smoke detectors in the same room as your wood stove or fireplace, and also in the hallways and bedrooms. They should be tested at least twice per year to ensure they’re always in a proper working condition. You should also teach your family what they need to do in case of a fire.
6. Regularly Dispose Ashes Safely
The fireplace ash is a cause of many home fires. Moreover, a build up of ash can shorten the lifespan of your fireplace. After the fire is completely out, you need to collect the ash in a metal bucket. Watch out for burning embers which be still burning; you can wet the fireplace ashes to subdue any remaining embers. Remember to dispose of the ash regularly and properly; away from trees, plants, fallen leaves, and wood. Don’t dispose them in plastic boxes, compost piles, or any combustible container.
7. Don’t Burn a Christmas tree in Your Fireplace or Wood Stove
Burning a Christmas tree (which is unseasoned) in your fireplace or wood stove will cause creosote buildup in the chimney. This can lead to a smoky room, chimney fire, or even a house fire. So, it’s not a good idea to burn a Christmas tree in your fireplace.