When the weather turns cold, there’s nothing better than relaxing in front of a cozy fire. In order to safely enjoy the benefits of this heat source, certain precautions must be taken.
Here are six need-to-know facts about wood heating:
1. Heating is a major cause of fires
According to the Quebec Ministry of Public Security, nearly 20% of residential fires start in chimneys each year. It is therefore important to properly follow certain rules of use.
In addition, wood heating emits contaminants such as carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). High concentrations of these contaminants can negatively impact health. Think about installing a CO detector to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
2. Make the right choice when buying your wood stove
If you plan on installing a wood stove in your residence or buying a home with this type of heating, keep these tips in mind:
- Check with a professional to ensure that your prefabricated or masonry chimney is safety compliant.
- Have your wood stove or fireplace installed by an expert.
- Ensure that your local municipal bylaws permit the installation of this type of heating. You can find out on your city’s or town’s website.
3. There are easy ways to reduce the risk of fire
If, like many, you think there is nothing like the heat of a wood fire to warm you up, there are a few simple things you can do to easily reduce the risk of a fire.
- Choose your wood carefully. Never burn painted or pre-treated wood, or garbage.
- Burning these materials creates harmful fumes that could damage your chimney flue.
- Instead use wood that is hard and dry.
- There are also environmentally-friendly logs that are less damaging to the environment and that release more heat.
- Lastly, don’t put the remnants of your Christmas tree in your fireplace, as burning needles produce a lot of heat very quickly, a factor that increases the risk of fire.
- Have your chimney swept by a professional every year, or after every five cords of wood burned. Sweeping will remove the creosote built up on your chimney walls. Creosote is a highly flammable material that can cause chimney fires, so it’s very important to have it removed.
- Keep all flammable objects away from your fireplace and store your wood a safe distance away. Also, never place your Christmas tree next to a fireplace or other heat source.
- Make sure your smoke detectors are working properly and have a fire extinguisher on hand.
4. How to store your firewood
Reducing the risk of fire caused by wood heating also requires proper storage of the material to be burned. Here are the best practices to follow according to Public Security Quebec:
- Always follow your municipality’s bylaws for storing your wood.
- Take care to choose wood that is well dried and has wide cracks in the ends.
- Store firewood outside and away from the house.
- Cover the wood to protect it from rain and snow. When wet, the wood burns poorly and this increases creosote buildup.
- Only bring a small amount of wood into your home at a time and store it away from the fireplace or other large sources of heat.
BONUS: Do you cut your own firewood? Remember to be safe! Always wear protective eyewear and gloves and keep your tools out of the reach of children.
5. How to safely dispose of hot ashes
When you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, it’s important to safely dispose of ashes. Ashes can stay hot for a week and cause fires. To dispose of them, place them in a metal container with a lid.
The container must always be placed outside on a non-combustible surface and at least one metre away from all buildings, hedges, fences, carports, etc. Always leave the ashes in the metal container for at least seven days and ensure that they have cooled down before disposing of them safely.
To learn more about the best way to safely dispose of hot ashes, read our article on preventing fires started by hot ashes.
6. It is important to inform your insurer if you have a wood stove or fireplace
It is important to tell your insurer if there is a wood stove or fireplace in your home to ensure that you have appropriate home insurance coverage. Be aware that using this type of heating can also affect your premium, as it is one of the main causes of residential fires.
In short, while a fireplace can make your home nice and cozy, you must always keep in mind that it must be used safely. Therefore, make sure your entire household is aware of the best practices related to its use so that you can all enjoy it with complete peace of mind.