Wood Burner Safety

Posted by:
Joe Canti
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A wood burning stove with the door open

When it comes to wood burners and heating equipment, the safety of you and your family must be given top priority. It may cost a little more to get everything properly checked out and signed off by a professional installer or heating engineer, but the extra cost is worth every penny.

There are two main things to consider:

1. The Fire Hazard

It goes without saying that any fire hazard must be treated with respect when it's been used in your household. Proper installation, usage and servicing is very important to ensure that nothing goes wrong. Although wood burners are much less of a fire hazard than open fires, it is still worth making sure that there is nothing flammable within the vacinity of the stove, and also that the chimney is regularly swept to make sure there is no build up of sooty deposits which can lead to chimney fires. The design of the system also plays a part, and flue & chimney runs should be kept as straight as possible. As for usage, well-seasoned hardwood will leave behind much less soot than green softwood. Softwood can also burn hot and dry, but adequete seasoning is a must.

2. Carbon Monoxide

When anything burns it produces carbon monoxide, but when we breathe carbon monoxide in, it can poison us in a very short amount of time. It does this by replacing the oxygen in your blood with itself, and so you slowly suffercate. It has no taste or smell, and is often worst when you are asleep as you do not notice any effects until it is too late. For the most part, a properly installing wood burner poses very little risk, and will have a good enough draw to take all the nasties up the chimney and out into the atmosphere. It is important to keep the chimney well swept and to make sure the seals are not worn out, and if you are having any problems with the draw, call in an expert to sort it out as these will most likely be worse when it is shut down at night time.

I would strongly urge anyone without smoke / Carbon monoxide detectors to go and buy several before you next light the fire. These days they are not expensive, and you can find detectors with both these functions rolled into one unit from most large DIY / home hardware stores. Really these are essential as they will wake you and your family up in the night if they sense carbon monoxide or smoke, and this could be the difference between getting out alive and well or not.

This would also be a good move if you have any other heating equipment, if anyone in the family smokes, or if you like to burn candles. You could say it will never happen, but it happens all the time, so take precautions today!