Wood-burning stoves, while being a convenient option for home heating, raise safety concerns due to their combustion-based nature.
Wood-burning stoves are remarkably safer than open fireplaces. A properly functional wood-burning stove with no technical issue releases little to no smoke inside the home. When going to bed, just dampen the fire by closing the vents and make sure there is no flammable object close to the stove.
Read on to learn more about the safety concerns surrounding the use of wood-burning stoves and the importance of caution with combustion-based appliances.
A properly functional wood-burning stove vents smoke outside, and thus releases little to no smoke inside the home. Your stove can affect indoor air quality if there are issues such as improper combustion, wood moisture, placement of wood during startup, and negative pressure.
Wood smoke contains carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter. Exposure to them can cause respiratory problems and other health issues such as headaches and coughing. Children and elderly people are more susceptible to the health effects of wood smoke.
All non-electric stoves, including wood-burning stoves, produce carbon monoxide, also referred to as a “silent killer”. However, complete combustion of wood produces no carbon monoxide. You can eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by installing carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home.
So, to prevent indoor air pollution, it is important to make sure your stove is smoothly functional. Burning wet wood creates more smoke and harmful gasses. In the UK, there are restrictions on the sale of wet wood for domestic combustion.
You can leave your wood-burning stove lit overnight, but it’s important to take some measures to eliminate or minimize the risk of a fire hazard.
Before you go to bed, make sure there is no flammable item close to the stove. These items may include paper, kindling, and wax candles. Very high temperatures in the stove can damage the stovepipe, and even ignite flammable objects nearby.
Dampen the fire by limiting its air intake. Closing the vents will cause the fire to burn slowly and steadily over a long period of time. Before you do that, however, keep the stove lit for at least 3 hours and allow it to build up a good bed of ash.
In recent years, wood-burning stoves have undergone a huge transformation. A modern stove is 60% more efficient and remarkably cleaner than an old model manufactured 30 years ago.
The strength of a modern wood-burning stove lies in its greater capacity for combusting wood. The appliance burns wood completely and produces fine ash, which you can use as fertilizer.
Complete combustion produces fewer harmful gasses, and little to no carbon monoxide. A modern, sophisticated stove uses far less wood than an older model to produce the same amount of heat.
One of the most notable components of a modern wood-burning stove is a metal sheet called baffle. It increases the stove temperature by restricting the airflow up the chimney and reflecting heat inside the burner.
A secondary air input is another remarkable component of newer stoves. This component pushes pre-heated air into the firebox and thus helps the system burn gasses that otherwise would have made their way out through the chimney.
In other words, a modern wood-burning stove burns up gasses rather than allowing them to escape, and thus releases fewer harmful gasses. This technology also reduces creosote buildup inside the chimney, keeping the whole system smoothly functional.
A Rayburn range cooker can be used for cooking, hot water and home heating. You can can use this appliance to run underfloor heating and radiators. An Aga can replace a clothes drier, microwave oven, toaster and electric kettle. Rayburns and Agas come with sophisticated Eco-mode settings that save energy and help reduce your carbon footprint.
Wood is a carbon-neutral fuel, because the combustion of wood does not increase the overall amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And the same amount of CO2 is released when the tree is burned or decomposed.
As long as trees are planted and forests are preserved, the cycle of growth and decomposition of trees does not increase the net amount of carbon dioxide.
That is not the case with fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil. When we burn fossil fuels, the combustion releases carbon that was buried inside the earth for millions of years. The process increases the level of atmospheric concentration of CO2.
While the combustion of wood emits carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses in the long term, wood is a greener source of energy than fossil fuels.
With that said, all fossil fuels are not equally bad for the environment. Natural gas is remarkably cleaner than coal. When combusted in an efficient appliance, natural gas produces up to 60% less CO2 than coal does.
The combustion of wood emits harmful gasses and fine particulate matter that are bad for humans and the environment, but impact is local and short-term. On the other hand, burning fossil fuels has a long-term and far-reaching impact on the environment.
Wood-burning stove safety tips
Any combustion-based appliance, including a wood-burning stove, should be used carefully. Here are some preventative measures that will ensure the safety of your family:
- To begin with, get your stove installed by a professional. It will help prevent accidental fires and other risks. Also, ensure proper maintenance. Get the stove inspected and cleaned professionally, at least once a year.
- To prevent the nearby carpet, curtains and walls from getting damaged by heat, install a heat shield. Also, make sure the stove is installed on a surface that is non-combustible.
- In order to prevent carbon monoxide buildup, ensure proper ventilation in the room. Install carbon monoxide detectors in your house.
- Do not allow small children to get too close to your wood-burning stove. Keep them under supervision when the stove is on. Consider installing a small fence around your stove.
- When starting a fire, avoid using highly flammable substances such as kerosene, gasoline, wrapping paper or charcoal lighter fluid. Use small pieces of dry seasoned wood instead. Keep the damper open when lighting your stove.
- Get a stovepipe thermometer installed. It will let you know if the fire is too hot and thus give you more control over the temperature of your stove.
- To make sure your wood-burning stove is in a good working condition, install smoke detectors. Also, invest in a fire extinguisher and keep it in an easily accessible place.
- Act responsibly when you are under the influence of a mind-altering substance. As long as you are intoxicated, do not get around the fire.
Your wood-burning stove may or may not be safe, depending on the particular model, and the way you use it. While there are risks of fire hazards and other issues, you can prevent them by being a little bit cautious.
Choose a newer model, get it installed by a professional, burn only properly seasoned wood and ensure regular maintenance of your stove. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, install CO detectors throughout your home. It all comes down to using this combustion-based appliance responsibly.