I borrowed this article from Edge, hope you find it informative as I did. Now don't get burned looking for data plates.
On bitter cold winter days, a wood-burning stove or fireplace can add warmth and comfort to any home. For many of us, it's part of our childhood memories. But improperly used and maintained, they can not only be dangerous to the homeowner, they may prevent a buyer from being able to get home insurance.
Keep your distance
The dangers from a wood-burning stove may be obvious- the risk of fire to the home and burns to the people in it. But perhaps the preventative measures aren't so obvious to a new homeowner, or to a homeowner using one for the first time. Graham Clarke is the VP - Engineering at Carson Dunlop & Associates Ltd, a home inspection firm. Clarke says that there are three things to be mindful of to ensure safe use: installation of the stove, what you burn in it, and how you burn it.
"All wood stoves have regulations about how far away they must be from combustible material," said Clarke. Those materials include the walls and ceilings of your home, and so installation is important.
Clarke said there are two categories of stoves- listed and unlisted. Stoves that have been tested (listed) will have a data plate in the back or on the side giving directions about proper placement of the stove away from walls, and how far the stove pipe should be from the ceiling. "A lot of older wood stoves have no data plate. They just have standard regulations about the distance from combustible materials." Unlisted stoves must be four feet away from a wall in the back and on the side, says Clarke, unless the walls are shielded.
"A listed stove may say that you can get closer," says Clarke. "As home inspectors we see a lot of wood stoves too close to combustible materials. Even the stove pipe has to be 18 inches away" from the ceiling.
The wood you are going to burn is also a combustible material, and it's important to store it a safe distance from the stove or fireplace.
"If you expose wood to high temperatures for a long time the chemical composition changes over time and lowers the auto ignition temperature of the wood. It can spontaneously combust."
The good woods and how to burn them
How you feed your fire is also important. Clarke suggests using split, dry hardwood that has been drying in a sheltered area, which can be purchased. In cottage and rural areas, homeowners may be able to split their own wood. Oak, maple and beech are some examples.
Do not burn magazines, newspapers, Christmas wrapping paper, plastic or any other garbage. "These materials will create creosote. Creosote is a black oily substance that collects on the inside of the chimney and can ignite. It needs to be cleaned out yearly."
Even when burning proper fuels, low, smouldering flames release more particulate, and so it is better to burn the fire really hot. "Fires that burn hot are more efficient and deposit less creosote than slow burning, fires. The build-up of creosote is minimized."
Looking for insurance
Insurance companies are very concerned about the placement of stoves and the condition that they are in, and may require a separate inspection.
Complete inspection of any wood-burning appliance involves an evaluation of every part of the heating system, from the floor pad to the chimney cap. All of these parts are covered in the Ontario Building Code, so compliance can only be determined if every part is inspected.
Clarke suggests having the wood stove or wood fireplace inspected by a Wood Energy Technical Transfer (WETT) certified technician.
The Ontario Fire Code requires homeowners to maintain the safety of their chimneys and inspect them at least yearly. A WETT-certified technician or chimney sweep will prepare a detailed, written report for the homeowner, outlining any areas where problems are found.
For more information about WETT Inspection, go to http://www.wettinc.ca/bi.cfm.