We are well into December and only one day away from the official beginning of Winter. Today's focus is on fireplaces and wood stoves. According to a story from CNBC (2013), "Nationwide, about 2.5 million households are expected to use would as their primary fuel source..." They also report that this is a 39% increase since 2004. Though the statistics for 2017-2018 weren't readily available, these numbers show that the use of wood as a primary fuel source has increased a bit more. The reasoning behind this increase is believed to be the affordability of wood.
Choosing the Right Wood Stove
Before we get into the ensuring your fireplace and wood stove are safe for use, let's take a look at choosing the proper wood stove. It is recommended by the Insurance Information Institute (III) to select a sturdy stove, one made of cast iron or steel. As with every product your purchase, check for those listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or other recognized testing laboratories. Once you have purchased the wood stove, you want to check it for cracks or other defects, paying careful attention to the legs, hinges, grates, and draft louvers. Before installation of your stove, check with local code officials and visit https://www.iii.org/article/wood-stove-safety for more information.
Annual Checks for Wood Stoves and Fireplaces
It is encouraged to have your chimney checked at least once a year, before you light your first fire. For those using wood stoves, it is encouraged to have your stove pipes checked during this annual check also. If your chimney or stove pipes have a history of frequent creosote buildup, more checks throughout the season are recommended. Use caution when cleaning the chimney, as you could damage the chimney liner, which could cause a fire inside the walls of your home if not detected. If you are not comfortable with ensuring that the chimney is cleaned, contact a locally owned and certified chimney sweep company.
Choosing the Best Wood to Burn
Seasoned wood (wood that has been cut and stored to dry for at least six months to one year) is recommended. Green wood (wood that has been cut, but not allowed to dry for a minimum of six months) contains a lot of moisture which increases the amount of creosote being produced. Creosote is the product of incomplete combustion (unburned material) and a simple spark could ignite it causing a very dangerous and hot fire. Also, NEVER burn painted or treat wood because of the toxins they release!!!
Starting Your Fire
First and foremost, be sure to open the damper before lighting a fire. A closed damper will send smoke back into the home and could cause smoke inhalation. NEVER use lighter fluid, kerosene, or any other fire-starting chemicals in a wood stove or fireplace!!! Use small crumpled pieces of paper and small, dry wood to get the fire going. Once the smaller wood has began to burn and the smoke is drafting up the chimney, you can then add your larger, seasoned wood. Also important to note is never burn trash, as the flames could cause a chimney fire.
Cleaning out and Disposing of Ashes
Now that we have discussed choosing a proper stove, annual cleaning and checks, choosing the proper wood to use, and starting a fire; we will now cover cleaning out of your wood stove/fireplace and disposing of the wood ash. Many wood stoves and fireplaces have a "clean out" that is under the fire box (where the fire is lit and burns) that allows you to clean them out, while others you have to clean the ash from the fire box itself. Either way, it is important to allow the ashes to cool and have the proper equipment for removal. Removing the ashes can be a dirty job, but is necessary to allow the fire to burn. It is recommended that you have a steel bucket with a top and a small fireplace shovel for the task. Remove the ashes from whichever location, clean out or fire box, and place them inside the bucket. Once you have removed all of the ashes, place the top on the bucket and remove the bucket from the house (to a place that it will not be knocked over easily). Though ashes may appear to be cool, they have been known to surprise homeowners and catch the woods on fire or worse.
We hope that you have found this information helpful! Tomorrow we will be continuing the series with Electrical Heating Sources. For more information please checkout the links below: