Wood-Burning Fireplace Safety
As a homeowner, you should make sure your wood-burning fireplace is safe and efficient before the temperature begins to drop. Here’s how.
Burn Only Firewood
It would be best if you only burned dry, cured wood and kindling in a wood-burning fireplace. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends you season your wood for at least six months before burning.
Hardwoods such as hickory, beech, and white oak tend to burn the longest, though the most important step is to make sure the wood is dry.
Check Chimney for Cracks
A chimney with cracks can expose the bricks to more moisture, causing damage to the chimney. Your chimney could collapse if it has too many gaps or the damage turns into larger cracks.
Look for Tree Limbs
While you’re inspecting the chimney, also check for nearby tree limbs. Limbs can restrict proper airflow in your fireplace and serve as a fire hazard if they get too close to the chimney.
Install a Chimney Cap
A cap on the top of the chimney can keep birds, squirrels, rain, and debris out. The last thing you want when enjoying a nicely lit fire is for a dead animal to fall into the flames.
Some chimney caps come with a spark arrester, stopping floating embers from escaping and setting fire to flammable roofing surfaces.
Check the Damper
Your fireplace damper should be open when a fire is lit. That way, less smoke, soot, and gases can enter your home. Check to make sure there’s no debris blocking the damper or the flue that would prevent them from working properly.
Clean Your Chimney Twice a Year
A clean chimney is a happy chimney. While the National Fire Protection Association recommends cleaning it once per year, twice per year is even better. You can DIY your chimney cleaning or find a certified chimney sweep on the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) website.
Look for Creosote Buildup
When you burn wood in the firebox, you end up with creosote. Less creosote is better because, left unchecked, it can build up inside the chimney and create a chimney fire.
Electric Fireplace Safety
You can get an electric fireplace with or without heat, making them an excellent option to add ambiance to your home without additional heating. Here are tips for using it safely.
Only Use Indoors
You shouldn’t use an electric fireplace outdoors or in an area that’s exposed to the weather. There are some rated for outdoor use, but most require indoor use only.
Don’t Use Extension Cords
Extension cords used with electric fireplaces could overheat, increasing the risk of fire. The typical electric fireplace has a six- to seven-foot-long cord, which is usually enough to plug it directly into a wall outlet.
Check Your Household Electrical Outlet
Electric fireplaces can draw a significant amount of power. Check your outlet to make sure it doesn’t share a circuit breaker or fuse with other outlets or light fixtures. If it does, the draw of electricity could trip the circuit breaker.
Place Away from Household Objects
Placing your fireplace near furniture, clothing, paper, or flammable materials, such as gas or paint, can increase the risk of fire. The best practice is to keep at least three feet between the fireplace and other combustible items.
Check the Plug and Cord for Damage
Check the plug and cord for damage frequently to reduce fire risk. You also shouldn’t run the electrical cord under furniture, carpets, or other appliances or cover it with a rug. It’s also smart to avoid high traffic areas because of the potential trip hazard.
Keep Away from Water
Water and electricity don’t mix. Don’t use your electric fireplace in the bathroom, laundry room, or other locations in or around your home where the unit could come into contact with water.