Safe heating: wood stoves and pellet stoves
While cuddling up beside your wood stove or pellet stove may keep you cozy on a chilly winter night, these are two of the riskiest heating systems to install in your home — and because of this risk, using them could affect the cost of your insurance and even your eligibility for coverage. That’s not to say you need to kick your beloved wood or pellet stove to the curb — but if you’re thinking about installing a new heating system, be sure to connect with your group’s insurance broker early in your research process. Your group’s broker knows the ins and outs of home insurance coverage and can help you make an informed choice so you don’t run into any surprises down the road.
If you’re currently using a wood or pellet stove in your home, consider these tips to prevent fires and keep your family nice and toasty (and safe) all season long.
Home heating safety tips
While wood stoves and pellet stoves operate differently, there are a few things you can do to stay safe no matter which heat source you’re using.
- Call a professional. If you’re thinking of installing a new stove, bring in a certified professional. Not only can they help you choose the stove that best suits your home, but they’ll carefully inspect your space and even recommend floor protection. Once your stove is installed, have a professional inspect and maintain your system each year to ensure it’s in tiptop shape.
- Be alarmed. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly to make sure they’re in working order. Plus, check your stove’s instruction manual for specific instructions regarding alarm placement and other requirements (i.e., the distance your alarms should be from your unit).
- Keep it cool. Before cleaning your wood or pellet stove, let it cool down to room temperature to prevent burns. While the ashes may be cool enough to remove from the stove, they could still be hot enough to reignite or melt through plastic — so store them in a metal bucket with a secure lid and keep them away from any combustible surfaces for as long as your stove’s manufacturer recommends.
- Look but don’t touch. Some of the outside surfaces on your wood or pellet stove could be hot to the touch while the stove is in use, so be sure to keep kids and pets at a safe distance. Consider setting up a safety gate to keep little hands and paws away from the heat.
- Keep your clutter at bay. No matter what kind of heating system you use, it’s important to keep flammable items away from hot air and surfaces. Keep the area around your stove tidy and follow the manufacturer’s clearance recommendations.
Wood stove safety tips
Keep these tips in mind for safe and efficient wood stove use:
- Scrub, scrub, scrub. Clean out the inside of your wood stove with a wire brush once in a while to be sure it’s heating the air as efficiently as possible — even the slightest buildup of soot can significantly lower the heat transfer efficiency of metal, meaning you might not be getting the most out of your stove.
- Go with what’s in season. Freshly chopped wood is too moist to burn in your fireplace; it can cause extra smoke and a buildup of creosote in your chimney, which could lead to smoke damage or even a chimney fire. “Seasoned wood” is wood that has been cut, split, and left to dry for six to 24 months, depending on the type of wood — and this is what you should burn in your wood stove.
Pellet stove safety tips
To keep your pellet stove running efficiently all winter, check these to-dos off your list:
- Keep it clean. Pellet stoves need to be cleaned often — usually once a week during heating season, or as directed by your owner’s manual. Plus, they need to be cleaned by a professional at least once a year.
- Follow the rules. With a pellet stove, it is especially important to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for operation, cleaning, and maintenance. Only use the type of pellets that are recommended for your specific model of stove.
- Charge your batteries. If the power goes out while your pellet stove is running, the fan system could stop working and cause smoke to pour into your house. Be sure you have a working battery backup system to keep the fans running long enough to finish burning the pellets in the chamber so you can safely turn your heater off and prevent smoke damage.
Whether you plan to stick with what you have or you’re looking for an alternative heating system to reduce your energy consumption and lower your heating bills, there are several safe and efficient systems on the market today, including heat pumps, solar systems, geothermal systems, and more. Making improvements and upgrades to your home, like switching your home’s primary heat source or using an alternate heating system, could affect your insurance. Depending on the kind of system or materials you choose to install, you could see a change in your premium or the type of coverage you’re eligible for. Be sure to reach out to your group’s insurance broker to learn about your options before you take the plunge.