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Wood Heat Safety – Do It Right And Don’t Worry

A safe wood-burning system will consists of:

  • a certified stove, fireplace or furnace
  • a certified chimney of correct type for the appliance
  • an installation that complies to current code (wood burning systems are NEVER grandfathered and must meet current code)
  • reliable advice on safe installation
  • a proper inspection by a Chimney Sweep or Techncian

The choices you make now will pay off later in comfort and piece of mind.

What Are The Merits Of Wood, The World’s Oldest Fuel

I work hard with each customer to allow them to understand how to but to heat with wood responsibly.  The responsible use of wood begins with a code-compliant installation, which is where a WETT Inspection comes in – ensure you ask for a Level 2 inspection.  Next you need a stove which is capable of performing advanced combustion of wood and finally you need to understand how to use it properly.

Some will complain about wood, and it is true that wood is not a perfect fuel, but really is there any perfect fuel available today?

In our area of North Simcoe (Midland, Penetanguishene and area) wood is often times a very accessible and affordable renewable energy resource for home heating.  The use of wood can help us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as the net carbon dioxide emissions are far below those of all other fuels.

It is true that some will argue otherwise, however science has proven that if one truly understands and calculates net carbon accurately, wood is by far the lowest contributor to green house gases if burned properly.

Wood is also a fuel that does not need energy from other sources, such as electricity, to provide the much needed heat in power outages.  The burning of wood also can strengthens the rural and small town economies, as wood that is cut and used locally means money does not leave the community.

But wood heating is not for everyone, it is as much a lifestyle choice as it is a heating fuel option.

For green house gas or environmental emissions, often times the old style wood heating systems with visible, smelly smoke from chimneys are quoted as examples.  The advanced technology stoves made today which are certified as low emission can burn with no visible smoke and have ninety per cent less pollution than appliances of only thirty years ago.

When the various energy sources are assessed to determine their environmental impacts, the entire fuel cycle must be considered. There are huge and serious environmental impacts of fuel oil and natural gas which are largely ignored.  This is due in part because a lot of these additional greenhouse gasses are produced earlier in the chain of production and during production, refining and transportation of the fuel.  Furthermore any greenhouse gasses emitted by the home burning oil or natural gas are easy to ignore as they are not visible.  Some will argue wood has a higher CO2 emission than these other fuels, and simply choose to ignore the downstream emissions from production, refining or transportation for often times political reasons.

Realistically though wood is not a good fit for all, and although I have seen in larger multi-family units, it really is not a great fit in those situations.   I would not recommend in the downtown core of a large city. The best place for wood burning is in small towns or rural areas, where the cost of firewood and population density are lower.

Families who use wood to heat their homes in a responsible manner should be recognized for their contribution to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a sustainable energy future.

What Is Blocking My Chimney?

Getting things in your chimney can be nasty.  Can cause your chimney to malfunction, allow odors into your home or even nasty fly and debris. Most chimney owners are prone to having some sort of blockage at one time or another.

These blockages can be leaves and twigs that end up inside your chimney, often times with or without a cap.  This accumulation can eventually create a blockage large enough to cause back-drafting into the home.  Yes a regular annual cleaning can prevent this!

There may also be raccoons, birds, bees or even snakes that make a home in your chimney.  These can be destructive and cause considerable cost.  It is not wise to remove the wildlife yourself, and is even hazardous for chimney sweeps.

But you may also get creosote buildup, that thick, sticky, black-brown tar-like residue that forms as a by-product of burning wood.  Creosote will eventually clogs the lining of your chimney, and create a serious risk of chimney fire.  Creosote is extremely dangerous, as it is a very combustible byproduct and is the number one cause of chimney fires.  Again with creosote regular, annual chimney cleaning will help prevent this buildup.  It should be noted that some homeowners who burn year around may need more than one cleaning per year.

Creosote Types and Varieties

Chimney Maintenance

At least once each year you should have your chimney inspected and if necessary cleaned.  While you may think it is good to do your self and save a few dollars, if you had a fire the evidence of it being cleaned and inspected by a professional may save you a considerable amount of grief.

The Ontario Fire Code says annually, however if you use your stove on regular basis it may need to be done more frequently.  If you are a DYI and can do the job yourself, maybe sweep as necessary throughout the year yourself and get at least one good annual sweep and inspection.  This will save you some money and yet provide you the protection you deserve.

When is the best time to have the chimney checked?  Well if you haven’t had it done this year, then do it now!   For a routine inspection and cleaning the early spring is good.  In fact the best time is after the heating season is over, cleaning the chimney in the sprig is a good habit and leaves the chimney free of corrosive and foul smelling soot deposits during the hot, humid summer months.  Furthermore in the fall, you are ready for the cold weather.

Ten Reasons To Use Wood To Heat Your Home

That is right, if managed properly, which our government encourages it will last for generations to come.  By managing it properly we do not deplete our resource now or for future generations.  Burning wood will release the stored energy, some may argue that it is not clean.  However when net energy is considered it is actually far cleaner than oil and somewhat cleaner than natural gas.  During the depth of winter, it’s like having a bit of summer sun on your hearth.

2. Wood Does Not Significantly Contribute To Global Warming

All fuels we burn release carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.

When you burn fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas is like pumping carbon dioxide from the centre of the earth into the atmosphere – a one-way trip.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, burning the wood releases this same carbon back into the atmosphere.  This carbon dioxide can then be released by younger growing trees.  Trees essentially recycle carbon dioxide.  Some will argue the release is far more faster than natural release, which is in some cases correct.

However regardless of speed, it is no faster than that of natural gas, propane or fuel oil.  And as a net contributor is less than either gas or oil (net contributor takes into account energy used during extraction from earth, refining/processing, transportation, etc).  Because trees recycle carbon dioxide, burning wood warms you, not the globe.

3. You Control Your Bank Account

Control you spend each month.  Stop sending huge sums of money to the utility, and use wood to heat or supplement your heat.  In Ontario, keeping warm is on the top of most lists in the important things in life.  Take control of that item, and manage it.  Furthermore by working with local suppliers of wood, the money stays in the local community.

4. Stay Warm During Power Outages

While power outages are not as common as even a decade ago, they still do exist.  Your wood stove keeps on burning.  Storms may knock the electricity off, the heat remains.  In fact a power failure can be kind of fun, using the wood stove and candles or kerosene lamps.

5. Wood Heat Warms Like No Other Heat

Wood heat is radiant, like the suns rays.  It warms like the sun itself.  Come inside on a cold winter day, stand near the fire rubbing your hands. It is one of the benefits and pleasures of having a wood stove in the living room.

6. Wood Fires Are Romantic

We love to have a crackling fire for intimate conversations.  A favorite place for friends and family.  Sitting watching the flickering flame.  It somehow takes you away from the harsh world outside – you’ll find solace there in the flames.

7. Increase Your Energy Intelligence

What nasty things to the environment are you saving by throwing a stick of wood into the firebox versus turning up the thermostat.  One armful of wood will last all day long.  Learn and research it yourself, while some will push back and say they pollute, fact is EPA certified stoves, properly installed and used actually contribute less net green house gasses to the environment than do our traditional fossil fuels.

8.Heat Your Space & Save Energy

If you use wood heat as a supplemental source, then by placing your wood stove in a strategic location, perhaps the living room, you can keep that room warm and cozy and save energy overall.

9. Spend Your Money Locally

Pay utility companies and your hard earned dollars are sent across the country and globe.  None of it remains in the local community.  Buying a cord of firewood which is cut, split and dried locally puts the money back into the community.  Yes you still spend money, but it is local and the person you help support will thank you over and over.

10. Wood May Be Cheaper

This really depends on what you use today, and where you live.  However while in some locations wood is the lowest cost option, in others it may not necessarily be.  But even if it is not the lowest cost fuel there are other advantages to wood heat.

A Guide To Residential Wood Heating

Published in 1993 / updated edition January 2009

bookcoverA new edition of A Guide to Residential Wood Heating is now available as a free download.  Published by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, an agency of the Canadian government. This resource, from first publication in 1993, has proven to be popular with the public. Hard copies are available for purchase, either singly or in bulk, from the CMHC information centre. Call (613) 748-2367 or (800) 668-2642.


Wood Burning Is Environmentally Friendly

Many do not actually know that wood burning, if done properly, is actually environmentally friendly.

The only real emission from burning wood is carbon, which is the same amount released if the tree were to fall and decay naturally in the forest.  If trees that fallen down, or would soon fall down are harvested; and then used as fire wood to heat a home the amount of carbon in the air is equal.

There is however a difference in the speed in which this carbon is released into the atmosphere.  There also is a very significant difference in the amount of CO2 produced by wet or green wood, so ensure your wood is properly seasoned and dry.  I have a moisture meter which I use for testing of wood dryness when at customers house and helping to understand problems with burning of woodstove.

Note that a poorly burning stove can release huge amounts of particulate matter into the air, which can be harmful if inhaled in large amount, and also can contribute significantly to the green house gases in the environment.  It is important your stove is burning properly and at its maximum efficiency.

Lennox Hearth Products Recalls Natural Gas Log Set Burner Assemblies Due to Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

Name of Product: Lennox Shadowdance Natural Gas Log Set Burner Assemblies

Units: About 3,200

Manufacturer: Lennox Hearth Products LLC, of Nashville, Tenn.

Hazard: A crack can develop at the gas valve connection allowing natural gas to leak while the burner is in use, posing a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Incidents/Injuries: Lennox has received 20 reports of cracks at the gas valve connection. No injuries have been reported.

Description: This recall involves gas burners sold with Lennox brand Shadowdance natural gas log set burner assemblies. The product is used in a wood-burning fireplace or a ventless firebox enclosure. The assemblies were sold under model numbers LSVFSD-18, LSVFSD-24 and LSVFSD-30, and include a burner and ceramic-fiber log set. Replacement gas burners also were sold separately under model number LSVFSD-NG. Burners included in this recall have serial numbers that begin with 6407, 6408, 6409 and 6410A through 6410G. The burner’s model and serial numbers are printed on a metal identification plate attached to the burner.
Sold by: Fireplace and HVAC retailers and installers nationwide from August 2007 through December 2010 for between $700 and $850.

Manufactured in: USA

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled natural gas log set burner assemblies. Consumers can contact Lennox to arrange for a free replacement of the burner

Consumer Contact: For additional information, please contact Lennox Hearth Products at (800) 299-0027 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s website at

Should I Hire A Chimney Sweep Or Do It Myself

It is try you can have some serious problems if you do not have your chimney cleaned on a regular, annual schedule.  These can be very serious and even fatal.  Without having your chimney cleaned by a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep you might encounter problems that perhaps you do not know how to take care of or even identify. Should you do it yourself, or hire a professional?
Chimney Sweep Certification
Chimney Sweep Certifications are something that takes a lot of experience and education, this is essential to ensure the people in the trade are looking out for consumers safety.  An Advanced Chimney Sweep is even more-so qualified and experienced.  It is true that you will likely pay a bit more for an Advanced Sweep, after all they have put more time, money and energy in so why do they not deserve a bit back in return?  But these are the professionals who are trained and equipped to properly clean out chimneys around their area.
Hiring A Sweep Versus Doing Yourself
The thing to consider above all else is safety.  Do you know all of the safety precautions that need to be taken in order to safeguard yourself, your family and your home if you are going to do this yourself? Can you positively ensure that the chimney is cleared of any dirt, dust and debris? How will you know if there are any other tasks which are required to taken to completely clean out the chimney?  If you are not 100% positive that  you can do this, and most people likely should not for safety reasons along, then you should contact a professional Chimney Sweep to clean out a chimney.