Since the price of heating fuels began to escalate in the 70’s, more people turned to burning wood as a cheaper source of heat for their homes. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the use of supplemental heating sources, such as woodstoves, has actually decreased in the last few years. As a result, the number of fires that resulted from using woodstoves and the like has decreased too. However, there are still 50,000 home fires annually that are caused by using these alternative heating sources. These fires take more than 600 lives, burn and injure numerous victims, and are the cause of hundreds of cases of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. It’s for these reasons that you need to know some tips on safely using a woodstove.
The type of wood you use in your woodstove will play an important role in using it safely. Here’s a helpful tip: don’t burn coal in a woodstove that’s designed to burn only wood. Avoid putting treated lumber, fake logs, plastic, trash or garbage in your woodstove too.
Ideally you should use a small amount of easier-to-light soft woods such as pine, fir, cedar, redwood or spruce to start a fire. Here’s a vital tip: never, ever use flammable liquids such as gasoline, kerosene or oil to start a fire in your woodstove.
Then, stoke the fire up with assorted hardwoods such as maple, walnut, oak, mahogany or cherry. All of the wood, whether it’s soft or hard, must be seasoned before using it. “Seasoning” wood means that it’s been allowed to dry out for at least twelve months. Seasoned wood burns more efficiently and produces more heat because it contains less moisture than freshly-cut wood. Obviously, water doesn’t burn, and an efficiently-burning fire in a woodstove has bright, clean flames, and is not smoldering.
Once the woodstove is going, keep the door closed at all times unless you’re adding more wood. To check the fire to make sure it’s burning safely, you’ll need to go outside and look directly above your chimney. What do you see? If you only see a whisp of steam or very light smoke, then the fire is burning correctly. However, if you see dark smoke, that means the fire isn’t burning bright and clean. Instead, it’s coating the walls of the chimney with flammable creosote and soot.
To safely use a woodstove, you’ll need to periodically remove the burnt ashes. If you let too many ashes accumulate, they can interfere with the air flow which will, of course, make your fire burn inefficiently.
Carefully remove the ashes from your woodstove and place them in a lidded, fireproof container. Then, take the container outside and store it away from flammable materials.
To add to the safety of your woodstove, it would be a good idea to purchase a fire extinguisher and install it nearby. If your home doesn’t have working smoke alarms installed, it would be a wise idea to have these too. And, a Carbon Monoxide Monitor can help keep you and your family safe as well.
Finally, keep your woodstove chimney clean and free from obstructions. You can save money by doing this task yourself, or, you can hire a professional.