On average, there are 22,300 fireplace-related accidents across America each year. By and large these result in structural fires that seriously damage the interior and exterior of the home, setting families back thousands. That’s no way to spend the holiday season! Flare-ups like these happen so often because of a lack of awareness around proper usage, as well as improper chimney care.
Luckily, you don’t have to get down and dirty and use complicated tools to install, operate, and maintain your household’s fireplace: the perfect wintertime gathering spot. All it takes is a little planning, and knowing what to look for as you shop. You can also dial up a fireplace installation contractor to inspect and advise you before you roll up your sleeves.
Regardless of which way you go, here are some essential fireplace safety tips to follow each and every year—not just when you get one installed:
- Keep the fire protected: When your fire is roaring, keep any glass panels or doors open to allow proper airflow up through the chimney, cooling it some. However, keep the screen close to prevent sparks from jumping out onto the floor—and everything else around it. As a rule of thumb, keep pets across the room, or in another room entirely.
- Install the right tech: You want both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the same room as the fireplace, with working batteries. CO poisoning has symptoms similar to the flu (dizziness, headaches, vomiting), but if it builds up too much indoors it can cause you to pass out, or even kill you. How to prevent CO build-up: Keep the chimney clean, and if you own a gas fireplace, have the pipes checked at least annually for leaks and defects.
- Find firewood that burns “clean”: Hardwoods like beech, sugar maple and white ash are the best to burn indoors. Lumber and treated woods can send harmful chemicals into your air called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Logs that have been split, stacked and dried for 8-12 months—what you would usually find in home improvement stores—have far less toxic smoke and fumes. On that note…
- Contemplate a wood stove insert: These are embedded in an existing masonry fireplace, and are similar to a wood-burning stove. When shopping, look for EPA-certified models, as they burn 70 percent more efficiently than the usual open fireplace. Fewer pollutants are released as a result.
Huddling up around the fireplace can be some of the most enjoyable moments of the season, so long as you do so responsibly. Put your focus on keeping the fireplace and area ventilated and clean, and the job is largely done.
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