Well, the cold has finally hit here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and it seems we’re all scrambling to get our heating systems tuned and up to snuff. Woodstoves and fireplaces are lovely home features, and can provide warmth and comfort – even when the power is out. However, there is always inherent risk with anything involving open flame. Here are some tips to help keep you safe and warm this coming cold season.
- Perform Regular Maintenance
Be sure to clean out your woodstove often. A wire brush works wonders both inside the stove and accompanying pipes. Keeping your stove clean benefits you two-fold. Exposing the metal/stone surface allows for better heat transfer, and stove efficiency. It also eliminates dangerous creosote – a black, stick liquid that forms when a fire burns too low, or the wood is too wet. If you are uncomfortable sweeping your chimney, consider bringing in a professional each year.
- Use Good Seasoned Wood
When you burn wood for heat in your home, it is essential to use the right kind of wood! You are looking for hard woods – maple, ash, oak, beech or hickory are best. And the wood should be good and dry – left to sit for a year prior to burning ideally. Wet wood is 1/3 water – and can accelerate creosote build up and cause other problems in your wood burning system.
- Use a Fire Screen
If you leave the woodstove door open, or have an open fireplace, use a fire-screen. This will protect carpets, people and furniture from flying sparks.
- Start the Fire the Right Way
Dry newspaper, and small kindling is the way to build a fire, adding larger logs as it grows. Once it’s up and running, it’s best to add two or three logs at a time, rather than singles. Be sure to steer clear of things like lighter fluid, charcoal or other combustibles.
- Dispose of Ashes Properly
Fireplace ash has started many home fires over the years. Ashes should be raked out regularly, using a proper ash shovel. It’s preferable to wait at least 24 hours after the fire has burned out before cleaning out ashes. Ashes should be stored in a proper covered bucket outside the home, and away from any leaves, kindling or wood. Ashes should only be moved when they are completely cooled.
- Place your Woodstove Correctly
Wood stoves should be placed on a stable surface, that is fireproof. Things like concrete, tile and special board work best for this. Also be mindful of local regulations, leaving ample rooms around the stove away from walls, and other combustibles like carpet and furniture.
- Check your Ventilation
All woodstoves have a vent system that connects them to the chimney. Stove pipes should be as short as they possibly can be, with no more than two right-angle elbows in them. They should never pass through walls, floors or ceilings. There should be good clearance all around the stove, with plenty of space for air to move.