During the winter months, wood stoves and fireplaces add cozy warmth to many homes. However, homeowners must keep in mind that heating equipment is also one of the leading causes of home fires. Half of home heating equipment fires are reported during the months of December, January, and February. To ensure that all heating systems are working properly, chimneys, stoves and vents should be inspected annually, just before heating season, in order to remove soot, blockages and built-up creosote.
Creosote is a highly flammable chemical substance that builds up inside chimneys or liners as a result of burning wood. Homeowners must be reminded that it only takes a small accumulation of creosote glazing to create the potential for a chimney fire that may damage the chimney and even spread to the roof and home. The rate of accumulation can be higher if the wood is not allowed to burn completely or if a burning appliance or stove is not working well. Different types of wood create different amounts of creosote when burned. Pine causes a rapid build-up of creosote and should be avoided as a regular source of wood. Creosote can also reduce the draw of the fireplace and its efficiency.
Even if a fireplace or stove is used sparingly, getting an annual inspection can help homeowners discover any defects, even if cleaning is not needed.
Other venting systems connected to furnaces and stoves should also be cleaned on a regular basis to ensure a safer and more efficient functioning.