A chilly winter forecast may prompt some families to seek cheaper,
and potentially unsafe, alternative heating sources.
Shipments of wood burning stoves and inserts increased by more than
80% in 2008, while pellet stoves and pellet fireplace inserts rose more
than 160% over the same time period according to the Hearth, Patio and
Barbecue Association. High demands are expected to continue throughout
2009 and 2010 thanks to many consumers looking to supplement their main
home heating supply as a way to save money. Additionally, an incentive
from the federal government offering a 30% tax rebate, up to $ 1,500 on
the purchase of wood and pellet stoves meeting certain efficiency requirements,
makes purchasing these items more appealing.
Using supplemental heating devices can help keep costs down, but they
can pose specific hazards if they’re installed incorrectly or used improperly.
Among the problems, are chimneys filled with dangerous levels of creosote,
space heaters used with extension cords that overheat, improperly installed
wood stoves and fireplace inserts and kitchen ovens used as an extra heating
Homeowners should take the following precautions when using specific
Getting started: Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors
in several parts of the house and test them regularly.
Stove placement: Placement of the stove must take into consideration
adequate space for installation, maintenance and replacement, flue or vent
pipe routing and most importantly, safe location relative to combustible
Chimneys: Properly maintain heating equipment and chimneys with
an annual inspection by a licensed professional.
Pellet stoves: Hire a licensed and certified professional for installation.
Stove placement must allow for proper venting, electrical sources and required
clearances. Finally, have vent pipes or chimneys inspected annually prior
Space heaters: Maintain at least a three-foot clearance between
the heater and combustible materials. Avoid using extension cords (if necessary,
use cords marked with a No. 14-gauge or larger wire).
Wood stoves: Follow the same precautions as listed for a pellet
stove. Hire a licensed and certified professional for installation, position
for electrical sources and to allow clearance for proper venting, keep
the stove clear of combustible materials and have vent pipes or chimneys
inspected annually prior to use.
Fireplaces: Obtain an annual inspection from a professional chimney
Kitchen ovens: Never use a kitchen oven to stay warm as material
may ignite and catch fire.
Look for UL label: Choose products that have been tested by Underwriters