As I’ve been thinking about adding a wood stove in our home, I have also been talking with my wife about fire safety. She has a very healthy fear of fire and is concerned about the dangerous aspects of a solid fuel burning appliance in our home. Some of the dangers are of little hands and feet getting near the appliance. This can be prevented by telling your children of the dangerous heat coming from the unit, and teaching your pets to not go near it. To step it up another notch, child-proof gates can be used around the hearth to keep unwanted attention away from the stove. We will probably go that route ourselves, to make sure everyone and everything is safe.
Another concern is the fire hazard itself. House fires can be caused by several things, but the largest concern is a chimney fire. Chimney fires occur when one or more of these things happen: you have a poorly installed chimney without proper clearances from combustibles, you have a chimney that is leaking/falling apart, you are burning “dirty” fires and building lots of creosote and/or you are not cleaning your chimney regularly. Chimneys should be visually inspected for creosote once a month, and cleaned as necessary. Most people clean once a year even if after 12 months the chimney “looks clean.” You can’t be too safe.
Even though our chimney is only 15 years old, made of cement block and has proper clearances, we are still going to install an insulated stainless steel chimney liner to make it even safer and much easier to clean. This will bring down our insurance and also help us both sleep at night. Our wood stove will also be installed by a professional company, probably Northern Lights in Farmington, ME.
Lastly, statistics have shown that 82% of house fire related deaths could have been prevented if there had been a sprinkler system installed in the home. People think that sprinklers are for businesses only and that is simply not true. Also, people are concerned about the price of sprinklers. It turns out that basic sprinkler heads run for all of $8 a piece! Designer ones that sink in flush with the ceiling to match the decor are still only in the $30 range each. Most sprinkler heads cover between 200 and 500 sq ft per head. A home the size of ours would require only 5 heads and that includes the basement! Of course there is the cost of the copper pipe and the time to install the plumbing. Then if you don’t want pipes all over the place you have to account for removing pieces of walls and ceiling to hide them. For this reason I would probably only install a sprinkler head over the furnace in the basement and one in the kitchen near where we want to have the wood stove.