12 Jan 2023 | Heaters

Safety tips for operating your wood heater

In-built wood heaters in Sydney have come a long way. They’re far less of a fire hazard than they were few decades ago, and most of the hassles connected with wood fires have been eliminated. You can use a gas spark of GreenStart technology to light up your wood in seconds, just by pressing a button. Glass viewing panes allow you to watch the flames, but they keep any embers or ashes safely cordoned off.

Cowls and flues control the flow of smoke, leading it out of the house, while heat banks and fireboxes lessen emissions by raising temperatures to ensure a thorough burn. But even with such safe wood-burning furnaces, you should still be cognisant that you’re dealing with live flames, and certain precautions are necessary to keep your home from burning down.

It would also be nice to avoid fireplace injuries, so let’s look at ways to assuage fire safety concerns. First, don’t leave the fire unattended. You don’t have to sit there the entire time. You can use your home security cameras to glance at it from time to time. These indoor CCTV systems are pretty efficient nowadays, so you can even observe the fire-scape on your mobile phone. Ideally though, you shouldn’t leave the fire unattended, especially overnight.

Be careful while you sleep

Similarly, if you have a wood fire in your bedroom, make sure there’s adequate ventilation. Some portable stoves are programmed to shut off when oxygen levels get too low, so you could have one in your room to alert you when it’s time to douse flames on the main fireplace. You’d need some kind of alarm though. Alternatively, load a deliberately smaller pile of firewood for the night.

While the idea of an all-night burn is romantic, it can also be hazardous, so just put enough logs or pellets to ensure you fall asleep. Then the fire can naturally die off before it uses up your air. Use the right kind of wood, preferably hardwood, sourced from sustainable foresters and effectively seasoned (this can take a year or more). If your wood isn’t properly dry, it will produce more smoke that can become a choking hazard, even with your glass barrier and flue system.

Ashes to ashes …

Many home owners are anal about the cleanliness of their fireplace and will sweep away the ash religiously. That said, having a little ash in the grate will make your next fire light easier, so don’t take it all out. Leave it about 1cm deep at all times. If the mess really does bother you, buy a fireplace that has an ash pan for easy removal. You can empty the tray onto your flower garden or potted plants.

Also, while urban legend suggests you use oil, petrol, or kerosene to start a fire, they double as a great way to cause an explosion. They’re unnecessary in modern wood fires that can be ignited in minutes by flicking on the GreenStart. If you must use an accelerant (like if there’s no power to light your GreenStart, use lighting fluid instead, or long-spouted lighter. Don’t forget to service your heater in the warmer months when it’s mostly idle.

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