Introduction to Home Heating With Wood (Fire Prevention Canada)

There are several good reasons to heat your home with wood. While keeping your family safe and warm during the colder seasons you will also be saving money on fuel. You may require a guaranteed heat supply in the event of a power failure.You might also enjoy the sense of independence that comes from managing your own fuel supply. Or maybe you just like the warmth and beauty of a natural wood fire. Whatever your reasons are, using a wood-burning system to heat your home can be safe, effective and environmentally friendly provided that it is done properly. This guide will help you do just that.

Start With Good Advice

The type of appliance and installation you choose is influenced by several factors, including your house type, size and layout, and your wood heating objectives. A good way to evaluate your options is to get advice from experienced wood heat professionals. Experienced dealers know how various systems perform, and can suggest a range of options to meet your objectives.

Whatever type of appliance you choose, look for one that is tested and certified as “clean-burning” according to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standard B415 or by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Certified advanced appliances produce more heat from the same amount of fuel and cut smoke emissions by up to 90 percent compared to older “airtight” wood stoves. By choosing a certified clean-burning, efficient wood burner, you will save money and time on your fuel supply and do the environment a favour at the same time.

Fireplace Inserts

  • Inserts are similar to wood stoves but are designed to fit into the firebox of an existing fireplace, transforming the fireplace into a safe, clean-burning heating system.
  • Clean-burning, efficient and certified inserts, in addition to being almost as effective for home heating as freestanding wood stoves, have a more attractive flame than the original fireplace.
  • A new stainless steel liner is installed within the existing chimney to safely vent the insert’s exhaust outdoors.

Masonry Heaters

  • Although it may appear otherwise, high-efficiency, low emission heaters built mainly of brick and/or stone have little in common with conventional masonry fireplaces.
  • Only highly skilled people can design and build efficient masonry heaters.

Cook Stoves

  • Cook stoves can be a practical option for people who want to cook, heat water and a room or two with wood.
  • Cook stoves are not certified clean-burning and tend to operate at lower efficiencies than other wood-burning options.

Furnaces or Boilers

  • A wood-burning furnace or boiler could be an option for central heating if your house is very large, but most Canadian houses can be heated effectively with a space heater or advanced technology fireplace.
  • Wood-burning furnaces and boilers are mostly older designs and are not certified as “clean-burning”. Their efficiency is lower than new, advanced wood stoves and they tend to have high emissions levels.
  • The popularity of wood-burning furnaces and boilers has been declining for many years.

Wood-burning Appliance Options

Wood Stove

  • The most popular type of wood-burning appliance, wood stoves are used by more than 80 percent of Canadians who heat with wood.
  • A stove is a flexible option because it can be located almost anywhere in the house, provided there is room for proper clearances and a suitable location for the chimney.
  • Like any space heating system, a wood stove should be installed where your family spends most of its time. Avoid installing your new stove in the basement unless you spend most of your time there.

Pellet Stoves

  • The fuel for pellet stoves is compressed sawdust pellets that are fed automatically from a storage hopper into the combustion chamber.
  • Pellet stoves need electricity to operate.

Fireplaces

  • Nearly all wood fireplaces in existing homes are designed to be decorative only. They are highly inefficient because they consume a lot of warm room air and have no effective way of transferring heat to the house.
  • A few certified clean-burning fireplaces are now available. They have heating efficiency almost equal to that of advanced wood stoves and are capable of producing an attractive flame.
  • Some advanced fireplaces can serve as central heaters when ducts are connected to distribute their heat throughout the house.

Installation Safety

A wood-burning system that is installed exactly according to building code rules and the manufacturer’s instructions will provide safe and secure heating for years to come. Here are some suggestions to make sure your wood heating system is safe and effective.

Choose a Safety-Tested Appliance

Select a new, safety tested and labeled appliance that is the correct size for your home. If home heating is your goal, avoid used or antique appliances. Select an advanced low emissions model to minimize smoke and maximize efficiency.

Building Permit

Check with your municipal office to determine if a building permit is needed. Part of the permit process includes an inspection to confirm safe installation.

Get Expert Advice

Get advice from an experienced hearth retailer and consider having the unit professionally installed. Qualified installers are certified under the Wood Energy Technical Training Program.

Follow Minimum Safety Clearances

Confirm that there are minimum safety clearances between the appliance and combustible walls.

If clearances must be reduced, use shields that are constructed and installed exactly according to the building code or according to the instructions provided with the certified shield.

Location

Locate the appliance in a major open living area where it can “see” other parts of the house. Do not put a wood-burning appliance in a small closed room.

Install a Fire Extinguisher, Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Install an ABC-type fire extinguisher in the same room as the wood burner. Install a system of smoke detectors and at least one carbon monoxide detector to provide warning in case anything goes wrong.

Notify Your Insurance Agency

Advise your insurance company that you have installed a wood-burning system.

Chimney and Flue Pipes

The chimney does more than just provide an outlet for exhaust gases. It also functions as the “engine” of the woodburning system by providing the draft that pulls combustion air into the firebox and draws the exhaust gases out of the system. The chimney’s design, location and installation affect the performance of the whole system. Many complaints about the poor performance of wood-burning appliances are directly attributed to chimney and flue pipe problems. You should give as much attention to the selection, location and installation of the chimney and flue pipe as to the woodburning appliance itself.

Here are some practical suggestions for effective chimney and flue pipe installation:

  • Most importantly, have the chimney installed inside the house and not on an outside wall. Outside chimneys cause serious performance problems such as smoking, odours and backdrafting that reduce the safety and enjoyment of wood-burning.
  • A wood-burning appliance can be vented through a properly sized masonry chimney, through a certified 650ºC factory-built metal chimney (see your dealer for details), or through a stainless-steel lined masonry chimney.
  • Masonry chimneys must conform to building code rules.
  • Metal chimneys must be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • The chimney flue should be the same size as the appliance flue collar outlet.
  • The ideal chimney location is one that penetrates the roof near the peak; the chimney must extend at least one meter above the peak of the roof.
  • The ideal flue pipe assembly runs straight up into the base of a ceiling-supported metal chimney. If this is not possible, use 45-degree flue pipe elbows instead of 90-degree elbows to minimize airflow resistance.
  • Flue pipe assemblies are the weak link in many installations; single-wall pipes must be installed according to the Canadian Standards Association installation code CSA B365. Consider buying certified double-wall flue pipes to ensure good performance.
  • Factory-built fireplaces may be connected only to the chimney models listed in the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
  • Pellet stoves do not use standard flue pipes but use a specialized type of vent. See your dealer for details.

 

Source: Natural Resources Canada