Home Furnace & Wood Stove Safety Tips: How to Keep Your Family Safe

Proper furnace & wood stove safety can go a long way in preventing disaster.

24 seconds. That is how often a fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the United States.

44,210. That’s the number of home fires caused by heating equipment between 2016 and 2020, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Home fires involving heating equipment follow a clear seasonal pattern and are most common during the cold weather months, so it’s critical to properly maintain and operate your wood stove or furnace to keep you and your family safe.

You can reduce the likelihood of hazards from your furnace or wood stove with these tips.

Wood Stove Safety: How to Keep Your Home Safe and Warm

Wood stoves can be a great way to heat your home, but they also pose some safety risks. By following these safety tips, you can help to prevent fires and other accidents.

#1 – Choose the Right Wood Stove

Choose the right wood stove for your home. Not all wood stoves are created equal. When choosing a wood stove, make sure to select one that is the right size for your home and that meets all applicable safety standards.

Better yet, hire a professional to select, size, and install your wood stove. A poorly installed wood stove can be a fire hazard. The professional will ensure that the unit is installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that all safety features are working properly.

#2 – Maintain Your Wood Stove

A dirty wood stove can be a fire hazard. Make sure to clean your wood stove regularly, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Pay special attention to creosote buildup in your chimney and corrosion or failure in the flue that might leak.

Your chimney should be cleaned and inspected regularly to prevent creosote buildup and other problems.

Inspect the unit regularly. Look for cracks, leaks, or other damage. Have the unit inspected by a professional annually or more often if recommended by the manufacturer.

Make repairs immediately. If you find any problems with the unit, have them repaired right away by a qualified professional.

#3 – Wood

Use the right kind of wood. Not all wood is created equal when it comes to burning in a wood stove.

Hardwoods, such as oak, maple, and hickory, are the best choices. Softwoods, such as pine and fir, can produce creosote, a flammable substance that can build up in your chimney and cause a fire.

Softwoods also burn hot and fast, while hardwoods burn slower.

You also want to burn your wood properly. This means starting with a small fire and gradually adding more wood as needed. You should never overload your wood stove.

#4 – Use a Wood Stove Thermometer

Wood stove thermometers help ensure you burn wood at the right temperature to maximize efficiency without the negative effect of creating unintentional hazards in your home.

If your wood stove isn’t hot enough, then insufficient combustion can lead to creosote buildup in your chimney, which is a fire hazard. If your wood stove is too hot, then it can damage the stove and the fan and ignite creosote that’s clinging to the insides of your chimney, causing a chimney fire.

You want to burn for optimum performance and safety, and a wood stove thermometer can help you do just that.

#5 – Remove Ashes

Remove the ashes properly. After extinguishing the fire, allow the ashes to cool completely before removing them from the stove or furnace.

Place the ashes in a metal container that is approved for storing ashes. Ashes removed from your wood stove or furnace, are required to be stored in a UL listed metal ash bucket with an air tight lid and removed away from the building and all combustible items (including decks and porches). Do not place ashes in a plastic container or near combustible materials.

Ash should be removed when it builds up beyond an inch and at the end of the fire-burning season. Ash is acidic, and it can corrode the bottom of your firebox or the grate that holds your logs. Too much ash also can inhibit your ability to build a proper fire.

#6 – Ventilation

Make sure your wood stove is vented properly. This will help to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke from contaminating your indoor breathing air and causing health problems.

Be sure to open a window or door a crack when you are burning wood in your wood stove to allow for ventilation.

#7 – Don’t Burn Trash

Never burn trash in your wood stove because it can release harmful pollutants into the air.

#8 – Fire Extinguishers

Have a fire extinguisher and fire escape plan in place. In the event of a fire, you need to be able to contain the fire or, in worst-case scenarios, get out of your home safely.

#9 – Keep Children and Pets Away

Keep children and pets away from your wood stove. Wood stoves can get extremely hot and instantly burn if touched, so it’s important to keep children and pets away. These simple solutions can help you maintain a safe home:

  • Buy a Fireplace Baby Gate
  • Install a Fireplace Door
  • Buy a Hearth Pad

#10 – Clear the Area

Keep the area around your wood stove clear of flammable materials. Don’t place items on or near any heating device. This includes furniture, rugs, and bedding. Anything that can catch fire should be kept away from your wood stove.

#11 – Watch Your Fire

Never leave a fire unattended. This is one of the most important safety tips. Again, never leave a fire unattended, even for a few minutes. It might be tempting to fill your wood stove before going out to do errands so you come home to a nice, cozy home, but this adds unnecessary risk.

Home Preparation

Furnaces are a vital part of many homes, providing warmth and comfort during the winter months. However, furnaces can also be dangerous if improperly maintained or operated. By following these safety tips, you can help to keep your home safe from furnace fires and other accidents.

#1 – Furnace Inspections

Did you know that 9 out of 10 HVAC systems fail due to a build-up of dirt and dust or lack of maintenance? Or that a properly maintained furnace can reduce your energy bills by up to 30%?

Have your furnace inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified professional. This is the single most important thing you can do to ensure the safety of your furnace. The professional will check for any problems with the furnace, such as leaks, cracks, or blockages, and clean the burners and other components to remove dust and debris.

#2 – Clear the Area

It might be tempting to use the area around your furnace for storage. After all, you don’t use that space very often. But, just like with wood stoves, it’s important to keep the area around your furnace clear of flammable materials. Don’t place items on or near any heating device. This includes furniture, rugs, and bedding. Anything that can catch fire should be kept away from your furnace.

Plus, your service technician will need unimpeded access to all sides of your furnace for maintenance and repair.

#3 – Maintain Proper Ventilation

Keep your air vents clear of any obstructions, including rugs and furniture. Covering these up can put unnecessary stress on your furnace.

Never block vents that exhaust toxic substances like carbon monoxide.

#4 – Furnace Safety Features

Become familiar with the safety features of your furnace. Most furnaces have safety features that will shut the furnace down if there is a problem. You want to know about these features so you can take action if they’re triggered.

Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your furnace. If you have any questions about furnace safety, contact a qualified professional.

#5 – Furnace Fires

Be aware of the signs of a furnace fire. These signs include smoke, flames, and a burning smell. If you see any of these signs, immediately evacuate the home and call the fire department.

#6 – Fire Escape Plan

Have a fire escape plan in place. This plan should include a way to escape from your home in a fire. Make sure everyone in your household knows the plan and how to follow it. In addition, you can:

  • Identify two ways out of every room.
  • Choose a safe meeting place outside.
  • Practice your plan with everyone in your home.
  • Teach children how to crawl low under smoke.
  • Call 9-1-1 from a safe location.
  • Make sure all doors and windows open easily.
  • If you have pets, plan for how you will evacuate them.
  • If you have a disability, consider how you will safely evacuate your home.
  • Keep fire extinguishers in accessible locations.
  • Test your smoke detectors monthly and replace them every five years.

#7 – Teach Your Children

Teach children about the dangers of fire and how to stay safe. Children should be taught not to play with matches or lighters and to avoid furnaces.

By following these safety tips, you can help to keep your family safe from furnace fires and other accidents.

Stovepipe, Venting Systems, and Chimney Safety

Stovepipes, venting systems, and chimneys are essential for safely heating your home with wood or other fuels. However, they can also be dangerous if they’re not properly installed, maintained, and inspected.

Here are some safety tips for stovepipes, venting systems, and chimneys:

  • Only one fuel appliance is permitted per flue. This helps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and other hazards.
  • Regularly inspect to make sure components are in good working condition. Look for cracks, leaks, and other damage.
  • Ensure that a UL-approved or clay thimble is installed per the manufacturer’s instructions. This will help to prevent creosote buildup and other problems.
  • Minimum clearance between stove pipes and combustible materials is at least 18 inches, but check with a qualified professional since state and local regulations may vary. This will help prevent fires.
  • Use only professionally installed chimney and venting systems. A qualified installer will ensure the system is properly sized and installed to meet your needs.
  • Hire a professional, qualified chimney sweep to clean and inspect the chimney annually. This will help to remove creosote buildup and other debris that can cause fires or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detectors

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are essential safety devices that can help protect you and your family from fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Smoke detectors detect smoke from a fire, giving you early warning so you can escape to safety. They are typically located on the ceiling in every bedroom and hallway and on every level of your home.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors detect carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly. Fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and generators, produce carbon monoxide. It can build up in your home if there is a problem with these appliances, such as a blocked flue. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on every level of your home, including the basement.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors save lives. They can give you an early warning of a fire or carbon monoxide hazard, so you can take action to protect yourself and your family. They’re also affordable and easy to maintain and install. They should be tested monthly and replaced every 5-10 years.

Here are some additional tips for using smoke and carbon monoxide detectors:

  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, including the basement.
  • Place smoke detectors on the ceiling, at least 10 feet from any walls.
  • Place carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms, on the same level as the bedrooms.
  • Test smoke detectors monthly and replace them every 5-10 years.
  • Have your carbon monoxide detectors inspected and tested by a qualified professional annually.

Do you have questions about your homeowners insurance coverage and safety risks around your wood stove or furnace?

Our agents are ready to help you out, so contact us to learn how we can customize your farm insurance policies to meet your needs.

*Disclaimer: We offer content for informational purposes; Co-operative Insurance Companies may not provide all the services or products listed here. Please contact your local agent to learn how we can help with your insurance needs.


National Fire Protection Association. Home Heating Fires.https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/US-Fire-Problem/Fire-causes/osHeating.pdf

Sanford Temperature Control. Heating System Checks Increase Comfort And Save Homeowners Money. https://choosesanford.com/heating-system-checks-increase-comfort-save-homeowners-money/

UL Solutions. Certification. https://www.ul.com/services/certification

Worth Insurance. 49 House Fire Statistics: How Common Are House Fires? https://www.worthinsurance.com/post/house-fire-statistics

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