Best Practices: Burning Wood Safely
It’s autumn. Leaves are changing and the daylight hours are getting shorter. Soon we’ll be stoking our stoves and fireplaces up for the first time this season – relishing in the peace and tranquility of gently rolling fires.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, be sure to perform proper maintenance before firing up! There are statistics that clearly indicate the importance of this; for example, the Consumer Products Safety Commission indicates that on average, more than 26,000 residential structural fires start in a chimney or fireplace each year.
You can easily avoid being a statistic. Take these steps to ensure your wood-burning hearth product and chimney are in good condition.
Maintain Your Fireplace or Stove
Clean the interior by vacuuming up ashes leftover from last year. Protect your lungs and hands by wearing a dust mask and gloves. While you’re in there, remove any creosote or soot buildup that you can see on the walls and lower parts of the chimney. Wear safety glasses and use a flashlight and mirror to look up the flue. We’d recommend doing this periodically during the heating season too.
Hire a Chimney Sweep
Chimneys for wood-burning hearth products should be inspected and “swept” at least once a year. Now is the time! Each year, thousands of fires start in chimneys, mostly due to improper maintenance. Most are caused by creosote – a flammable tarlike substance that’s a byproduct of burning wood. You can find a chimney sweep that’s certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America here.
Use Quality Wood
Good quality wood that’s been properly split and cured burns the best. If possible, use hardwoods like oak, birch, ash and maple. You can certainly burn soft woods like pine and cedar, but they burn faster and have higher concentrations of sap, which can cause smoke and sparks.
Be Aware of the Warning Signs
While having fires, watch for signs that could indicate a problem with your fireplace, stove or chimney. Excessive smoke can be a sign of a faulty damper (or one that it isn’t fully open), creosote or soot issues, or debris in the chimney. Troubleshoot the situation and don’t hesitate to call a professional.
Consider a Fireplace Insert
If you have an open, masonry built wood-burning fireplace, we’d recommend having a fireplace insert installed. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, these fireplaces can exhaust up to 300 cubic feet of heated room air outside the home every minute they burn! They also draw cold air into the home through the windows and doors while burning. EPA certified wood-burning fireplace inserts like the Harman 300i transform these fireplaces into powerful heat sources. They’re outfitted with technologies that effectively burn and re-burn the wood, smoke and gases, producing warm and long-lasting fires. And because they’re so efficient, creosote buildup is significantly reduced.
Please take these tips to heart before stoking your fireplace or stove in the coming weeks and months, and you will stay safe and warm!