Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team
The key to reducing employee theft rests in the hands of management. Management should begin by admitting that theft is possible and then create an environment that makes stealing as difficult as possible. By analyzing the opportunities for theft within a company, strategies can be developed to reduce or limit the exposure.
The strategies for controlling employee theft generally come under the following four categories: preemployment screening, procedures that make theft more difficult, improving employee job satisfaction, and maintaining a policy of apprehension and prosecution.
This report provides information on methods and actions that can help to prevent employee theft. These actions are not directed at honest employees, but will serve to protect them and their jobs from the destructive effect of employee theft. Honest employees will not be outraged by efforts to prevent theft, and dishonest employees will find it more difficult to steal.
Before implementing an employee theft prevention program, certain basic questions should be asked about the business and its operation. The answers to the following questions will provide insight as to which strategies should be applied by the business:
The first line of defense against employee theft is to hire honest employees at the outset. This is best accomplished through a program of preemployment screening. By performing in-depth checks of an applicant's job history and references, management can reduce its exposure to theft while creating an environment of honesty. A thorough screening process will convey to employees that management is concerned with ensuring the highest level of integrity in the workforce.
A comprehensive employment application form should be developed that affords the basis for an in-depth exploratory check of the applicant's background. The form should be consistent with federal and State requirements and should include, as a minimum, information about residence, education, job history, and references. Every applicant should completely fill out and sign the employment application form. Any gaps in information should be accounted for.
The applicant's references and previous employers should be checked, either by mail or phone. If the telephone is used, all questions should be direct. Letter inquiries should be designed as "check-off" type questions, not requiring narration-type answers, and should include a self-addressed, stamped return envelope.
Depending on the importance or sensitivity of the job, criminal checks and credit checks should be performed on the prospective employee. The Consumer Protection Act provides the general guidelines that employers must follow when performing background investigations. Also, employers should be familiar with applicable federal and State laws regarding employee screening.
A list should be developed of questions to be asked, during the job interview. The questions should be designed so that the answers provide insight into the applicant's character.
Procedures and devices that make theft more difficult or apprehension more likely are opportunity-reducing — they are intended as a means of limiting the opportunity for theft. In any event, the application of these procedures and devices should be performed with the knowledge of employees; otherwise, there may be a damaging effect on employee morale and productivity.
Employers should develop a set of written procedures, regarding security, that also outlines the company's policy for dealing with an employee caught stealing. A copy of the security procedures, as well as other company policies, should be provided to each employee and a signed statement of its receipt should be obtained. A notice should be posted, in a conspicuous location, stating that dishonesty will not be tolerated and that all offenders will be dismissed.
Management should ensure that responsibilities and functions are separated so that no one employee has control over all parts of a given transaction. Workflow should be organized so that the work of one employee acts as a check on that of another.
Employers should account for merchandise through inventory control. A program should be established of regularly scheduled inventories, combined with unannounced or "surprise" inventory checks performed by other than stockroom personnel.
A badge identification system should be implemented to identify all employees and to regulate the movement of visitors. All employees should be required to enter and exit the facility through a single employee entrance, monitored by a guard, where feasible. Employers should establish a policy that allows for searches of employee packages and lockers.
Employers should supervise shipping and receiving operations, and should utilize closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance in the areas to deter theft. All incoming merchandise should be checked against purchase invoices; all outgoing merchandise against shipping documents. An area should be designated within the facility, if possible, for the collection of trash prior to its disposal.
Improving job satisfaction is a desirable strategy for controlling employee theft since several of the accepted causes of theft are believed to stem from low job satisfaction. Also, job satisfaction has an impact on other causes of loss, notably waste, carelessness, and theft of time. Theft of time, and losses from waste and carelessness, are often overlooked by management and account for billions of dollars in losses annually.
Communication between management and employees should be established - and maintained. By means of an employee relation’s policy, employees should know that management is genuinely concerned with their problems.
An employee training program should be developed that seeks to improve job skills and opens the way for advancement. Employers should regularly review salaries, wages, and benefits to ensure that compensation programs are competitive with those of other companies in the area. Management should recognize the efforts of employees by establishing incentive programs, such as profit sharing, bonuses, etc.
Management should establish a suggestion box, and take into consideration what employees have to say. Regular staff meetings should be held and employees given the opportunity to air their concerns or grievances.
It is important for management to avoid creating a police-state atmosphere wherein employees feel they are being spied upon. An atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust will only serve to aggravate a theft problem.
Although its effectiveness is often debated, a policy of apprehension and prosecution is considered a control strategy because of its role as a deterrent. The fear of being caught, coupled with dismissal, possible prosecution and the threat of jail (depending on the severity of the crime), will cause many employees to think twice about stealing.
Some companies, however, feel that they gain very little by an aggressive policy of prosecution. Besides the expense in terms of time, money and effort, there is the fear of bad publicity and the risk of lawsuits for libel, malicious prosecution, and false arrest. It is possibly for these reasons that the rate of prosecution of apprehended employee thieves is so low - less than 1%. Nonetheless, where it is warranted, strong positive action should be taken, since prosecution is a recognized deterrent to employee theft.
Management should uphold company policies regarding employee thieves, judging every employee by the same objective criteria. When an employee is suspected of internal theft, local police should be consulted. Employers should be familiar with the evidence that is required and the procedures that should be followed.
An alternative to prosecution is restitution. Most States have "civil remedy" or "civil restitution" laws that permit retailers to bypass the legal system and simply ask the employee thief to make restitution, including some administrative costs.
Head to our loss control and risk management page to learn more ways to protect your business.
Any organization that does business online can fall prey to a disruptive network intrusion or costly cyberattack. A quick, effective response to cyber incidents can prove critical to minimizing the resulting harm and expediting recovery. The best time to plan such a response is before an incident occurs.
We’ll go over small business computer security best practices as defined by the Cybersecurity Unit of the Department of Justice to assist organizations in preparing a cyber incident response plan and how to respond to a cyber security incident.
Having well-established plans and procedures in place for preventing, managing and responding to a cyberattack is a critical first step toward preparing an organization to weather a cyber incident. Such pre-planning can help organizations limit damage to their computer networks, minimize work stoppages, and maximize the ability of law enforcement to locate and apprehend perpetrators. Organizations should follow the precautions outlined below now, before learning that a computer security incident has affected their networks.
Handling a cyberattack will depend on each company’s critical needs. For some organizations, even a short-term disruption in their ability to send or receive email will have a devastating impact on operations; others may suffer significant harm if certain intellectual property is stolen. For others still, the ability to guarantee the integrity and security of the data they store and process, such as customer information, is vital to their continued operation.
The expense and resources required to protect a whole enterprise may force an organization to prioritize its efforts and may shape its incident response planning. Before formulating a cyber incident response plan, an organization should first determine which of their data, assets and services warrants the most protection.
Prioritizing the protection of an organization’s critical information is an important first step to preventing a cyberattack from causing catastrophic harm. The Cybersecurity Framework produced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides guidance on risk management planning and policies and merits consideration.
Organizations should have a plan in place for how to handle a cyberattack before an intrusion occurs. During a data security breach, management and personnel should be focused on containing the intrusion, mitigating the harm, and collecting and preserving vital information that will help assess the nature and scope of the damage and the source of the threat. A cybersecurity incident is not the time to be creating emergency procedures or considering for the first time how best to respond.
The cyber incident response plan should be “actionable.” It should provide specific, concrete procedures to follow in the event of a cyberattack. At a minimum, the procedures should address:
All personnel who will play a role in making technical, operational or managerial decisions during an incident should have access to and familiarity with the cyber incident response plan. For instance, the cyber incident response plan procedures can be integrated into regular personnel training.
The plan may also be practiced through regularly conducted exercises to ensure that it is up to date. Such exercises should be designed to verify that necessary lines of communication exist, that decision-making roles and responsibilities are well understood, and that any technology that may be needed during an actual incident is both available and effective. Deficiencies and gaps identified during an exercise should be noted for speedy resolution.
Cybersecurity plans for small businesses may differ depending upon an organization’s size, structure and nature of its business. Similarly, decision-making under an incident response plan may differ depending upon the size and nature of a cyberattack. In any event, familiarity with the organization’s framework for addressing a data breach will expedite response time and save critical minutes during an incident.
Organizations should already have ready access to the technology and services that they will need to respond to a data security breach. Such equipment may include:
Computer servers should be configured to conduct logging to identify a network security incident and to perform routine backups of important information. The requisite technology should already be installed, tested and ready to deploy. Any required services should be acquired beforehand or identified and ready for acquisition.
It’s a situation no business owner wants — a person slips on a wet floor or a piece of ice and takes a tumble. Or, maybe someone trips over debris or an exposed object and falls, resulting in a minor injury. In a busy world where we juggle several tasks at once, it’s important to prioritize keeping the workplace safe for everyone. It could even mean the survival of your business.
Burglary is a crime of opportunity. Research into the crime indicates that burglars look for places that offer the best opportunity for success. In choosing targets, burglars look for locations that contain something worth stealing and then select those that look easy to break into. Burglars appear to be strongly influenced by the look and feel of the business they are planning to burglarize. Consequently, if the exterior of a business appears to reflect attention to security, the burglar will likely look for an easier opportunity.
Businesses that are at risk to burglary should implement measures to reduce the opportunity for the crime. This report provides information on the elements of a burglary prevention program for a business.
The first step in a burglary protection plan is to determine if the business is worth burglarizing. Some basic questions to ask include:
The next step is to look at the business as if through the eyes of a burglar. Burglars look for premises that afford concealment and appear easy to break into. Consequently, if the exterior of the business appears secure, the burglar will likely look for an easier target.
Windows should be kept clear so that the view into and out of the premises is not obstructed. Window displays should be arranged to provide for visibility into the premises. Indoor lighting should be located towards the rear of the premises, so an intruder's silhouette will be visible from the street. Automatic timers can be used to turn lights on and off.
All equipment should be marked with a serial number or other identification. This serves as a deterrent to theft (burglars don't like to steal marked goods) and provides a means for returning property that is stolen and subsequently recovered. Cash register drawers should be emptied during non-business hours and left open to prevent unnecessary damage.
Lighting serves as a strong deterrence to burglary, since burglars do not like to be seen. Interior and exterior lighting levels should be adequate. The Lighting Handbook, published by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, provides information on lighting systems and recommended illumination levels. Exterior lighting fixtures should be protected against breakage and damaged lighting fixtures or burned-out bulbs fixed or replaced as soon as possible.
Equipment or structures in outdoor areas that could be used by a burglar to gain entry should be removed or otherwise protected. For example, a ladder could be used by a burglar to access the roof or an upper-story window. Likewise, building alcoves and overgrown foliage could provide the burglar with cover to work without fear of being seen. Landscaping shrubs and trees should be kept trimmed to maintain clear visibility throughout the property. Alcoves should be properly illuminated.
Goods stored in yard areas should be protected by a fence or other barrier. The standard, ASTM F-567, Practice for the Installation of Chain-Link Fence, published by the American Society for Testing and Materials, provides requirements for the installation of chain link fencing. For additional information on fencing, see Crime Prevention Report CP-31-10, Chain Link Fencing.
Loaded cargo trailers should be secured with king pin locks to prevent their being stolen. Otherwise, thieves could easily hook up a tractor to a trailer and drive off with the cargo.
If burglars were to successfully enter the premises, it should not be made easy for them to get the goods out. For example, forklift trucks that have been left with the keys in the ignition, and side and rear entrances and doors to loading docks that are easily opened from the inside, can be used by burglars to help move merchandise out of the building.
An inspection should be made before closing the premises to assure that all doors and windows are locked, as well as any safes or vaults, and that the alarm system has been turned on. All closets, bathrooms, and other hiding places should also be checked - don't lock the burglar in. A walk around the property should be taken, before leaving, to see if everything appears normal.
For more information, see Engineering and Safety Service CH-20-17, Burglary Prevention Checklist.
Burglars will first look for easy ways to enter a premises - through unlocked doors, unlatched windows, and unsecured skylights. A study by Temple University found that, in 50 percent of commercial burglaries, entry was gained through a door. Failing that, burglars choose entry points that offer the least resistance to entry. While some burglars have the expertise to pick a lock, in most cases, entry is made using physical force - smashing doors, crow-barring doors or windows, and breaking window glass. Some burglars have even resorted to breaking through building walls with sledge hammers, pneumatic drills, or explosives.
All exterior doors should be provided with deadbolt locks that have at least a one-inch throw. Side and rear doors should be provided with supplemental protection, such as an iron gate, police bar, or four-point locking device. Outward swinging doors should have hinges with non-removable pins. For hinges with removable pins, the hinged side of the door should be secured to prevent removal of the pins and opening of the door on the hinged side. Regardless of the locking devices used, they should not create conflicts with building and life safety code requirements.
In mercantile premises, during non-business hours, the front of the business (e.g., entrance and show windows) should be protected by a roll-down grille or ferry gate. If aesthetics are of concern, the grille or grate can be installed inside the premises behind the glass surfaces.
Side and rear doors should be of solid-wood or steel construction and installed in reinforced steel frames. Hollow-core wood doors or panel doors should be replaced or be reinforced on the inside with sheet steel panels. Glass panels on side and rear doors should be replaced or backed-up with burglary-resisting glazing materials that are listed by Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL). Side and rear doors should be illuminated from above and the lighting fixtures protected against accidental or intentional breakage.
Side and rear windows should be protected with ironwork, such as burglar screens or bars, installed on the inside behind the glass. While bars installed on the exterior may serve as a deterrent, they are more easily attacked by the burglar; installed on the inside, however, the bars are harder to attack - the burglar would have to break the glass before attacking the bars or their attachment hardware. Skylights and other roof openings, transoms over doors, and air vents should be protected by a grille or burglar bars, or otherwise secured.
Padlocks used to secure sidewalk and basement openings, fence gates, and grilles should be of substantial construction and have hardened shackles to resist sawing or cutting. Hasps should also have a hardened staple and be solidly mounted. The term "lock hasp" may also refer to the style of latch most often used with a padlock. This latch uses a strip of metal on a hinge with a hole on the other end. Through this hole passes the staple, which looks like a link of metal chain. This staple passes through the hole, and it is secured with a padlock.
Control of keys is as important to the integrity of a locking system as is the proper selection of locking hardware. Keys are subject to being lost or stolen, resulting in a situation where an unauthorized person may have access to the locked premises.
Keys should be issued on a need-for basis only. Extra keys should be stored in a locked cabinet. Procedures should be established for collecting keys from terminated and/or departing employees. Lost keys should be reported immediately and affected locks rekeyed or replaced, as needed. All keys should be marked "Do Not Duplicate." For additional information, see Crime Prevention Report CP-35-20, Key Control.
High-value merchandise should not be left unsecured during non-business hours. Small, high-value merchandise should be put into a safe. Larger merchandise can be secured in a security cage or other enclosure.
The right type and class of safe should be chosen for the values to be protected. Safes are either fire-resistive or burglary-resistant and are available in various protection classes (or levels). The greater the values to be protected, a correspondingly higher level of protection should be afforded by the safe. UL has listings for safes in various protection classifications. For a discussion of these classifications, see Crime Prevention Report CP-61-10, Burglary-Resistant Safes.
The safe door should be left open when the safe is empty; otherwise, it should be locked at all times. Safes should be secured to the floor to help prevent their removal from the premises.
The number of people with access to the safe or vault combination should be kept to a minimum. The combination number should not be written in an easily accessible place, such as a desk blotter. The combination should be changed on a regular basis.
Executing a burglary involves locating and collecting items of value. Experienced, older burglars tend to remain on the premises longer than younger criminals and they tend also to make larger hauls (the smash-and-grab type burglar will smash a show window or glass front door, grab the goods, and be gone in a matter of minutes). Time on the premises can range from two to three minutes, to as much as a day or two, depending on:
A premises burglar alarm system can be effective in preventing or deterring a burglary. A UL-Certificated central station burglar alarm system that sends a silent signal to a monitoring station, which dispatches guards on receipt of the signal, is preferred. An alarm system that sounds a local bell is better than no alarm at all - at the very least, it may scare off the burglar.
Safes and vaults (and security cages) should be protected by a burglar alarm system. For businesses at high risk to burglary, such as jewelers, or where the values are high, the safe/vault alarm system should be monitored separately from the premises alarm system (i.e., by a different central station alarm company). Alarm systems for such risks should be provided with line security to prevent compromises of the system. For a discussion of central station burglar alarm systems, see Crime Prevention Report CP-46-20, Central Station Burglar Alarm Systems.
The alarm system should be tested regularly and maintained properly. A testing and maintenance contract is a requirement of UL Certification. A sign indicating that the premises are protected by a burglar alarm system should be posted in a conspicuous location.
Head to our loss control and risk management page to learn more ways to protect your business.
1. Engineering and Safety Service. Burglary-Resistant Safes. CP-61-10. Jersey City, NJ: ISO Services, Inc., 2008.
2. Burglary Prevention Checklist. CH-20-17. Jersey City, NJ: ISO Services, Inc., 2017.
3. Central Station Burglar Alarm Systems. CP-46-20. Jersey City, NJ: ISO Services, Inc., 2015.
4. Key Control. CP-35-20. Jersey City, NJ: ISO Services, Inc., 2008.
5. The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI). Division of Workers’ Compensation. Small Business Crime Prevention Guide. Austin, TX: TDI, 2010.
COPYRIGHT ©2017, ISO Services, Inc.
The information contained in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. ISO Services, Inc., its companies and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with either the information herein contained or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedure.
Burning wood is one of the most hazardous ways to heat your home, farm or business. If you have a woodburner or are considering installing one, this article is designed to help make you an informed wood-fuel user — because an informed wood-fuel user is a safe wood-fuel user.
Woodburning is different from heating with oil, electricity or fuel gases — a wood stove cannot be completely controlled with a wall thermostat, fuel cannot be cut off by flipping a switch or turning a valve, wood doesn’t burn cleanly like modern fuels, wood stoves get hotter than conventional furnaces and produce hotter exhaust gases, wood requires more physical work, and wood stoves require frequent cleaning and generate large volumes of waste.
Installing and using a wood stove is a lifestyle change for most people. It has been compared by some to adopting a new child into your home. It involves a lot of work, care, attention and knowledge, even if you don’t cut your own wood. Many people aren’t using the wood burners they spent a lot of money to install for those reasons. Others are taking dangerous shortcuts because they won’t make the commitment to woodburning and the lifestyle changes required to do it safely.
If you aren't willing to do the work and to become an informed wood-fuel user, you risk your home and family every time the wood stove is lit.
Check with your local building code officials, fire department and insurance agent before purchasing a woodburner (in most cases, a building permit is required to legally install one). These people can provide vital information about safe installation and operation and do the inspection services to help assure your family’s safety.
Check your local library, bookstore, government agencies and university extension services for good, reliable, current information about woodburning and safety. The National Consensus Standards for Woodburning Safety was changed by the National Fire Protection Association on February 11, 2000. Any material written before the changes may not be up to date.
Talk to people who are woodburning in your area about problems they’ve encountered and the lifestyle changes they’ve had to make. Talking to them may be the best way to determine if woodburning is for you.
We do not insure mobile homes with wood stoves installed in the residence. They have proved to be very hazardous in mobile homes because of limited space, airtight construction and use of lightweight combustible material in construction. If you insist on installing a wood stove in a mobile home, purchase only a complete system listed by Underwriters’ Laboratories for use in a mobile home and install and use it exactly as the manufacturer recommends.
Once you’ve made an informed decision to use wood as a heat source, you’re ready to buy your heating system. It is a system, not just a stove, because you must think of your wood heat as a total system. The system must include a source of:
This entire system must be put together with your home or building and your lifestyle in mind. The cost of the stove alone is often less than half the cost of the entire wood heat system. Any improper parts or mistakes in putting together the system can greatly increase your chances of a disastrous fire.
CAUTION: Wood heat is hazardous! Please realize that wood heat is hazardous and even if you comply with all suggestions and regulations, a fire or other mishap can occur. There are no known wood heat devices that are 100 percent safe.
The best place to buy your wood heat system is from a reputable wood stove dealer. They can sell you an entire system — not just a stove and assorted parts. A reputable dealer can advise how to use and care for your woodburner installation and can provide the accessories needed for safe and economical operation.
Don’t risk your home and family by buying a bargain basement system from someone who can’t provide good service and adequate information.
The core of your system is the woodburning device. There are many from which to choose, but it’s important to pick a quality device that will fit well into the area where you want it installed while maintaining proper clearances to combustibles.
Some points when picking a wood stove:
The advantages of buying a wood stove labeled by a testing laboratory are:
Most wood stoves are either of radiant or circulating design. The radiant type has one layer of metal enclosing the fire with no circulating air space. The exterior gets very hot.
The circulating design has a second metal enclosure creating an air space between it and the firebox. Air is heated in the space. This design often needs lesser safety clearances from combustibles and reduces the chance of accidental burns.
Controlled combustion (airtight) stoves may be either radiant or circulating. They have very airtight fireboxes and all doors and openings are gasket or finely machined, so the amount of air entering the stove can be controlled. They can be more efficient than non-air-tight stoves because the precise draft control governs the burning rate. Many of these stoves also include advanced design features like baffle arrangements, special draft patterns, thermostatically controlled draft and secondary combustion air to improve efficiency. Airtight stoves can increase creosote buildup when run frequently in an air-starved condition (we’ll talk more about creosote later). They may also puff back and burn the operator if the door is opened before the draft controls are opened. This occurs because the sudden increase of oxygen caused by the open door on hot smoldering fire creates a fireball as volatiles ignite. Therefore, safe operating procedures are a must.
CAUTION: Some stoves on the market resemble airtight stoves but they are so leaky that the air controls have no effect on the fire.
Box stoves and parlor stoves are small, non-airtight radiant stoves. They are inexpensive and generally inefficient. This type of stove is suitable for heating one room but it requires a lot of attention.
Wood furnaces, add-on furnaces, wood-fired boilers and dual-fuel furnaces are designed to fit into or replace the existing central heating system in the house. They are generally efficient and airtight. Installation is very critical and professional help is recommended. Also, any unit of this type should have passed the national standard test.
Homemade and barrel stoves are not recommended. Burn-throughs and other defects allowing the fire to escape the firebox are so common that we do not consider them suitable for any use. Most building officials will not permit them.
Wood-fired ranges or cookstoves are increasing in popularity. Many in use are antiques. Modern, efficient designs, however, are reaching the market. They can be used both for cooking and heating. Many also heat domestic hot water. Care must be taken with any wood stove with a built-in water coil or heater where sufficient expansion space, circulation, water storage and pressure relief is provided so a steam explosion cannot occur.
Fireplace stoves are designed so they can be operated with the door open to provide a view of the fire. Some of these units are airtight and of very high quality.
Fireplace inserts are factory-built, field-installed products consisting of a firebox assembly designed to be installed within or partially within the fire chamber of a fireplace that uses the fireplace flue to vent the products of a combustion. This is a popular way to make an open fireplace more efficient. Many units feature circulating designs for even more heat efficiency. Some important points when using a fireplace insert are:
If you plan to vent a conventional wood stove through a fireplace, we recommend you either:
Outdoor wood boilers and outdoor forced air wood furnaces should be installed with adequate clearance to the dwelling. Caution should be used when operating these units. These wood fuel units must meet the following requirements:
A detailed discussion of these devices is beyond the scope of this article. We recommend you buy only systems that have passed the national standard tests. There will be extensive and detailed instructions for quality units of this type. They must be followed. It will probably be necessary to consult an experienced heating contractor to properly measure the draft and set up a barometric draft regulator. Some hints about installing and using these systems:
The two most common fire problems with woodburning systems are creosote accumulations and improper clearances from combustibles. You should understand why creosote accumulates and how pyrolysis works.
Creosote deposits in your chimney and chimney connector provide the fuel for chimney fires. Chimney fires can destroy the most substantial chimneys and ignite houses. Creosote is a natural by-product of woodburning. It is a dark, tarry substance that can range from being solid and hard to liquid and runny depending upon the conditions under which it was deposited. It is also very corrosive and can damage metal parts of your system.
Wood burns in three stages:
1. Moisture is driven off. Heat from this stage does not warm the stove or room.
2. The wood starts to break down chemically and volatile matter is vaporized. These vapors contain between 50-60 percent of the heat value of the wood.
3. Charcoal remains and combustion of the charcoal completes the process.
All three stages of combustion are usually occurring in your wood stove at the same time until all wood in the last loading is converted to charcoal. Creosote is formed in the second stage of woodburning. If the hydrocarbon volatile gases are not burned in the firebox, the draft carries them into the chimney connector and chimney in the form of dense smoke. They encounter cooler temperatures in the chimney system and may condense on the chimney walls to form creosote.
Up to half the heat energy available from the wood you burn is contained in the volatiles that form creosote. Thus, it makes sense for both safety and efficiency to burn these volatile gases in the firebox before they can escape up the chimney and form troublesome creosote.
This is not as easy as it sounds because firebox temperature must be maintained at 1100 degrees Fahrenheit and above to burn these creosote-forming gases. However, you can learn to operate your system with a minimum of creosote development by frequently inspecting your chimney and adjusting operating procedures accordingly. Experts formerly recommended an annual chimney inspection. With today’s efficient airtight systems, an annual inspection probably isn’t adequate because an airtight stove usually operated during air starvation conditions can completely clog a chimney with creosote in as little as two weeks. We now recommend a chimney inspection every 1-2 weeks in the beginning until you become confident you’re operating your system to reduce creosote. Monthly inspections may be adequate. Accumulations of as little as 1/4 inch in your chimney can cause a serious fire. Therefore, we recommend you clean your chimney several times a year. (We’ll explain more about chimney inspection and cleaning later.)
How do you operate the stove to reduce creosote? Here are some tips:
Parts of your wood heat system get very hot and can radiate that heat to nearby combustibles such as walls, floors, ceilings, doors, furniture, woodboxes, etc. Over sufficient periods of time, even temperatures as low as 200 degrees Fahrenheit have been known to ignite wood through a process known as pyrolysis. Combustibles near woodburning systems can get a lot hotter than that so ignition might occur in a matter of days or weeks. To reduce the changes of ignition of combustibles, the National Fire Protection Association changed the clearance requirements for solid fuel burning equipment in the February 11, 2000, edition of the national consensus standard ANSI/NFPA #211 “Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances.”
CAUTION: Even with proper clearances and listed devices, continual overfilling of a woodburning device can result in a fire from overheated combustibles.
Try to locate the stove centrally in the main living area of the house. Large, open areas are easier to heat than small rooms with poor air circulation.
Wood space heaters require lots of room unless the walls or combustibles are properly protected. Cut out a piece of cardboard the size of the space heater you are considering and try it in the area you are planning to install the device. Can you get proper clearance? If not, you will need wall protection according to our Clearance Reduction section or you can try to find a device that’s listed for lesser clearance by a testing laboratory. Don’t forget to consider chimney access when planning the location.
The smokepipe is used to connect the stove to the chimney. It’s also called “vent pipe,” “chimney connector,” and “stack pipe.” Use a porcelain-enabled, black-painted or dark-finished smokepipe for good heat transfer. Up to 15 percent of the heat from your system is given off by your smokepipe and dark surfaces radiate heat best. Don’t use a galvanized or zinc-coated smokepipe because at temperatures above 750 degrees Fahrenheit toxic zinc oxide fumes will be given off, which could cause headaches and metal fume fever.
Proper clearance from smokepipe to combustibles is 18 inches. There are two exceptions to the clearance requirement:
Rules for installing and using a smokepipe are:
1. Keep loose combustibles away from the smokepipe and stove. It’s a poor place to dry wet towels.
2. Use a smokepipe made of 24-gauge metal or heavier.
3. Keep smokepipe as short and straight as feasible and located as close as possible to the chimney or vent. The horizontal length of a smokepipe to a natural draft chimney or vent serving a single appliance shall not be more than 75 percent of the height of the vertical portion of the chimney or vent above the smokepipe inlet. It two or more complete 90 degree elbows exist in your smokepipe, you may have a problem keeping a good draft.
4. Lap stovepipe joints 2 inches and secure with three sheet metal screws at each connection. Connect pipe with male ends down so creosote won’t leak out of joints.
5. If smokepipe is over five feet long, support with hanger straps every five feet.
6. Use a proper stainless steel, cast iron or clay tile thimble at the chimney inlet. Extend it into the room so a secure attachment can be made. The smokepipe must snugly fit the chimney inlet. This fit is critical. Consult an experienced installer or dealer for ideas about how to make this a secure connection.
7. The horizontal part of the smokepipe must have at least 1/4 inch of rise per linear foot. The end at the chimney inlet is the highest point.
8. When you clean the chimney, clean the smokepipe.
9. Avoid running the smokepipe through a combustible interior wall. If you must do it, protect that wall in one of the following ways:
a. Use Underwriter’s Laboratories list of all fuel or solid fuel chimney material for that section of the stovepipe that passes through the wall. Instill it in accordance with the listing and the manufacturer’s instructions. Use only solid insulation packed chimney pieces. Thermomsyphoning-type A11 Fuel chimney’s won’t work in a horizontal position.
b. Use a metal ventilated thimble at least 12 inches larger in diameter than the smokepipe to protect the wall. (If you cannot purchase such a thimble, a local heating contractor or sheet metal shop can make it for you.)
c. Use a metal or burned fire clay thimble built into brickwork or other solid fire resistive material extending at least 8 inches from all sides of the thimble.
Clearances from hot parts of your system to combustibles can be reduced by using proper heat shields and wall protectors.
There are now wall protectors and heat shields on the market that have been tested and listed by recognized testing laboratories. These products are acceptable when installed and used in accordance with their listing and are available from quality wood stove dealers.
Other wall and combustible protection systems are acceptable if they are designed by a registered professional engineer using criteria set forth in NFPA standards for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances (NFPA #211-2000) Paragraph 9-6.2.1 and 6-5.1.2 and are approved by local building code authorities.
For clearance reduction systems using air space between the combustibles wall and the wall protector, adequate air circulation shall be provided. Adequate air circulation can be provided by leaving all edges of the wall protected with an air gap of at least 1 inch. An air space of 1 inch is usually required behind most heat shield and wall protectors. This 1 inch air space is critical to allow air flow to remove heat from behind the shield. Even a 4 inch thick brick wall will not protect a combustible wall directly behind it without this 1 inch air space. The space may be more than 1 inch, but not less. Remember to allow at least 1 inch space at the bottom of the shield to allow air circulation. Also remember the heat shield must cover all combustible material within the minimum distance. Suggestions for spacers are channel irons, porcelain knobs or nails driven in part way. Flexible heat shields, such as sheet metal, must be supported or spaced out every 16 inches to prevent them from flexing and touching the combustible wall.
A floor protector is a noncombustible surface applied to the floor area underneath and extending in front, to the sides and to the rear of a heat-producing appliance. If you install your stove on a combustible surface, you must provide a floor protector extending to 18 inches on all sides of the stove. On an existing installation, 6 inches on the sides and 18 inches on the front is acceptable. If in doubt, check with the local authority having jurisdiction in your area for recommended existing codes.
You may not install a woodburning furnace, add-on furnace or boiler on a combustible floor unless it has been specifically listed for such installation by a recognized testing laboratory. Carpeting should be removed under the stove and floor protector.
Several good floor protectors have been listed by recognized testing laboratories. These are acceptable when used according to their listing and are available from quality wood stove dealers.
The amount or type of floor protection depends on the leg height of the stove. Leg height refers to the ventilated open air space beneath the fire chamber or base of the unit.
Leg Height and Protection Needed:
18” or more — 24-gauge layer of sheet metal
6” to 18” — 24-gauge layer of sheet metal over or under 2” of closely spaced masonry units of brick, concert or stone.
6” to 2” — Use 4” of hollow masonry laid to provide air circulation through the masonry layer covered by a sheet of 24-gauge sheet metal
Less than 2” — May not be installed over combustible floor unless listed by a testing laboratory
The chimney is the exhaust system of your woodburning setup. It’s critical to remove carbon monoxide, smoke and other poisonous combustion products from your building. To do this, it relies on the natural draft created by the principle that warm air rises. The draft created by a chimney is related to:
An adequate draft can be developed by controlling the above variables. Most wood stoves come with instructions as to height of chimney and size of flue required for most situations to have an adequate draft. For draft problem situations, an experienced heating contractor with draft measuring equipment should be consulted.
In general, a chimney must extend above the roofline and other obstructions for an adequate draft and to control downdrafts.
A downdraft is when the smoke fails to rise in the chimney. Instead, air flows downward forcing smoke and dangerous carbon monoxide into the house. If you have the problem, correct it. Your heating contract has draft test equipment and most likely can assist in determining corrective action.
There are two types of chimneys, one that is safe and one that could burn your house down. And, just because your chimney is safe today, doesn’t mean it’ll be safe next year.
Wind can damage your chimney. A loose brick can fall inside the flue causing a blockage and a house full of smoke. So can a bird’s nest or a hive of wild bees. A chimney fire can crack or buckle the chimney. A fire that burns too hot can also damage a chimney when it’s new or being used for the first time in the heating season. Keep the first few fires small to dry out the flue.
Chimneys get tired with age, mortar weakens and disappears, buildings shift, foundations settle and crack chimneys. So be wise and inspect your chimney before each heating season.
Good access for chimney cleaning and inspection should be built into your system from the beginning. Plan the cleanup doors or accessways so they’re readily accessible. You may inspect the chimney from the bottom using a mirror. You may have to remove the chimney cap to get enough light to see properly.
You may wish to lower a flashlight down the chimney on a line in order to carefully view all joints and parts. Be careful if using a drop cord hooked up to house current. A broken bulb or snagged cord could lead to electrocution, especially with a metal chimney.
The best way to clean your chimney is to hire a reputable professional chimney sweep. They’ll do a thorough job with the right tools and equipment and shouldn’t make a mess of your house. If you must clean a chimney yourself, get the proper tools and advice from a wood-stove dealer. Another important reason to have your chimney regularly inspected, cleaned and maintained is any device that burns fuel, such as wood, is a potential threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.
CAUTION: Working on roofs can be very hazardous without the proper equipment or experience.
Chimneys can be easily damaged during cleaning. Metal brushes shouldn’t be used on some metal chimneys.
To your knowledge, none of the chemicals sold to be burned in a fireplace to clean the flue are effective. They cannot replace a thorough chimney cleaning.
Don’t disregard odd rumbling, roaring or rushing noises coming from your chimney. Investigate the cause. A rumbling noise is many times made by a chimney fire. Feel the outside of the chimney — is it hotter than normal? Check outside — are flames coming out of the chimney? Your smokepipe may also vibrate rapidly during a chimney fire.
If a chimney fire occurs:
Shut off the oxygen supply by closing draft openings. An airtight stove is an advantage since by closing draft openings, the oxygen supply is easily shut off.
If you don’t have an airtight stove, close the damper. You may get some smoke in the house after closing the damper, so be sure to open a door or some windows to get plenty of fresh air. Put out the fire as soon as possible to avoid smoke and carbon monoxide build-up in the house.
When installing your system, instruct all family members on what to do. Evacuate the house at the first sign that the fire has escaped from the chimney.
If you don’t have a chimney fire, carefully inspect the chimney for damage before using it again. Check the inside (with a mirror) for blockage and cracks. Check the outside for cracks and be sure to check concealed areas such as the attic. If you can’t get up on the roof, maybe the fire department will inspect the chimney before they leave.
If the chimney is found to be damaged, repair or replace the chimney before using.
We recommend that a questionable flue be smoke tested. A small fire is made at the base of the flue (use material that produces dense smoke or a special smoke test candle) and when the flue is full of smoke, block the top. Examine the exterior of the chimney for leakage from the top to bottom. Careful — don’t smoke up the entire house.
There are two types of chimneys for woodburning system use — a masonry chimney or a factory-built all-fuel or solid-fuel chimney.
A masonry chimney is a field-constructed chimney of solid masonry units, bricks, stones, listed masonry chimney units, or reinforced portland cement concrete that is lined with suitable chimney flute liners and built by an experienced mason or conform to accepted masonry practice.
Interior chimneys are better than those built outside an exterior wall because they stay warmer when surrounded by in-house air. Warm chimneys have better drafts and cause less creosote to condense on their surface. Exterior hollow concrete block chimneys can be a problem because they cool faster than brick or stone and are much more susceptible to water and moisture damage. Hollow concrete block chimneys are very economical, but if installed on the outside of a building they should be made of special moisture resistant blocks or should be painted or treated with a moisture proof coating every two years.
Let’s review some basics about suitable masonry chimneys:
1. A safe masonry chimney must have a tile clay liner. Such liners are smooth and hard and crack easily. Liners are made of material like a clay flowerpot, but are harder. Such a liner protects the masonry exterior from the flue gases.
An unlined chimney may be lined by using a special stainless steel pipe listed by a recognized testing tab for such purpose. The stainless steel pipe is installed in the chimney and rigidly connected to the vent pipe from the stove. Make sure to leave access for proper cleaning of the stainless steel pipe.
There’s a process for lining an old chimney that uses a high temperature cement-type material poured or pumped around a special balloon inside an existing chimney. It appears to be an affective relining done by a trained contractor. When masonry chimneys are relined, the liner shall be listed or of approved material that resists corrosions, softening or cracking from flue gases at temperatures appropriate to the class of chimney service. Listed liner systems shall be installed in accordance with the listing.
Neither method of lining should be tried unless the chimney is otherwise structurally sound.
2. The chimney must not be used to support any part of the structure since a settling or shifting of the house will crack it. There should be 2 inches of free clearance around the interior chimney. This keeps excess heat from igniting combustibles.
3. A masonry chimney used for wood heat must be built from the ground up; a chimney supported by brackets can easily be damaged by a chimney fire and a house fire may result. A shifting or sagging of the bracket will cause the chimney to crack.
4. If your chimney has more than one smokepipe inlet, cover these with a piece of tile clay liner and fill up the inlet with masonry material equal to the chimney thickness. Thin metal snap-in covers are not safe. The initial explosion of chimney fire often blows out such a cover. This opening would then provide oxygen for the chimney fire. You can no longer control it and often the house catches fire at this point. (See Chimney Fires section for control of chimney fires.)
5. Your chimney must have a metal clean-out door at the bottom. Clean-out openings shall be equipped with ferrous metal, pre-cast cement, or other approved noncombustible doors and frames arranged to remain tightly closed and secured when not in use. You need this to remove soot loosened after a chimney cleaning. Otherwise, the chimney will eventually fill with soot and plug the smokepipe resulting in a house full of smoke. A good mason can usually install a clean-out door in an existing chimney. The clean-out door is handy for inspecting the inside of the chimney.
6. Another reminder is to check the inside of the flue with a mirror before the heating season. It’s surprising what can happen. On one occasion, a chimney was blocked with a wad of insulation which blew over from a nearby construction project.
7. Vent only one heating device into a flue. (A chimney may contain several separate flues.) Several things can happen, including an automatic furnace failing to ignite and raw fuel is pumped into the chimney. Hot exhaust from a wood fire could then cause an explosion. Fuel oil furnaces and space heaters often fail to function properly, wasting fuel and potentially causing a house full of smoke. Also, the remaining space surrounding the chimney liner, gas vent, special gas vent or plastic piping installed within a chimney flue shall not be used to vent another appliance.
8. Masonry chimneys serving appliances shall be sized and configured in accordance with the appliance manufacturer’s instructions.
What happens if a chimney fire occurs? You can’t control it because you cannot shut off the draft openings of a gator fuel oil device. With only a wood space heater vented into a chimney, you can control the chimney fire by shutting off the draft (air supply). Dangerous combustion gases also may be forced into the dwelling.
Multiple venting can also reduce the efficiencies of all devices attached to the same flue because the draft created by one appliance will draw warm, already heated air through the other appliance(s) at a faster rate, resulting in energy wasted.
9. Screening material that’s attached to chimney or vent caps to prevent the entry of animals and insects should be installed in such a manner to not adversely affect the chimney or vent draft.
10. Spark arresters, where required by the authority having jurisdiction for chimneys attached to solid fuel burning equipment, shall meet the following requirements:
Where spark arresters are part of a listed chimney termination system, they shall be constructed and installed in accordance with the listing.
Factory-built chimneys are intended for venting gas, liquid and solid-fuel fired residential-type appliances and building heating appliances in which the maximum continuous flue-gas outlet temperatures do not exceed 1000 degree Fahrenheit. Factory-built chimneys are intended for installation in accordance with the Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents, and Solid-Fuel Burning Appliances, NFPA 211, and in accordance with codes such as the BOCA National Mechanical Code, the Standard Mechanical Code, and the Uniform Mechanical Code. They’re intended for installation inside or outside of buildings or both, in a manner that provides a vertical (30 degree maximum offset) conduit or passageway to transport flue gases to the outside.
There is some evidence that at least certain kinds of factory-built chimneys fail easily and early when subjected to chimney fires, resulting in a burned house. This may be due to design defects, to rapid deterioration of the chimney in “real world” conditions or to inadequate test methods. Work is being done in all these areas to find an answer to the problem. Meanwhile, if you choose to use a factory-built chimney, we recommend the following:
1. Inspect your chimney frequently (every 1-2 weeks during the heating season). Clean the chimney as needed to prevent creosote accumulations. Look for any corrosion or other damage, especially at joints and fittings. Replace or repair damaged chimneys before continuing use.
2. Use a thermometer to monitor stack gas temperatures. These temperatures should be above 300 degrees Fahrenheit and well below 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. If you experience a chimney fire, do not use your chimney until it’s thoroughly inspected by an experienced heating contractor or chimney sweep.
Factory-built chimneys should be rated “All Fuel or Solid Fuel” by Underwriter’s Laboratories, Inc. “All Fuel or Solid Fuel” means the chimney is built to use with wood fuel. These chimneys were formerly called “CLASS A” chimneys.
There are four types of All Fuel or Solid Fuel factory-built chimneys. They are:
1. Insulated type — This is a double-walled stainless steel pipe packed with a mineral insulating product. It’s suitable for use with wood stoves provided joints between sections are clamped together with the optional locking rings provided for these chimneys. Without the locking rings or other rigid support, the joints could wear out because of vibration form the wind or a chimney fire and cause heat and smoke to leak into the house. Some designed of this type of chimney buckle and collapse in sever chimney fires because of thermal expansion differences between materials.
2. Triple wall thermosyphon chimneys — These are three pipes — one inside the other. Flue gases flow up the center pipe. Cold air is drawn down the inside of the outer shell of the chimney all the way to the bottom of the chimney. There it heats up and rises up the inner shell of the chimney to cool the flue. This is a natural convection process. These chimneys run very cool and consequently can build up creosote rapidly. These chimneys were designed for and must be used with zero-clearance fireplaces. They’re often not suitable for use with wood stoves unless specifically called for by the manufacturer of a listed fireplace stove.
3. Air insulated triple wall chimneys (sometimes called modified thermosyphon chimneys) — These chimneys are similar to the thermosyphon type above but have internal baffling and provision to allow air exchange between the two outer shells at each joint. This produces a warmer chimney and makes it suitable for woodburning stoves.
4. Insulated triple wall —This is a type of chimney that has an inner pipe which is made of a heavy refractory material. It combines the advantages of the other types of factory-built chimneys, but it makes a very heavy chimney. Additional structural support may be needed.
If you decide to purchase a factory-built chimney, do first what many people do last — read the manufacturer’s instructions. Install exactly per those instructions. If you’re not sure, get help. (It’s easier than calling the fire department later on.)
Metal chimneys are made so the weight is carried on a special base furnished with the chimney. This base can be installed in a ceiling or in a floor. If your chimney goes through more than one floor or ceiling, we recommend a masonry chimney.
A manual damper is a shut-off plate installed in the stove or smokepipe. You can regulate the draft through the stove and the burning rate with it.
Check the manufacturer’s instructions that came with your stove. Some stoves have automatic dampers or draft controls and a manual damper shouldn’t be used with all models. In stoves without a built-in damper, install one in the smokepipe.
Always use a “cast iron” damper if you must install a damper in the smokepipe.
Never use an automatic damper — one that shut completely — with a woodburning device. You have to have a draft at all times when there’s a fire going. (This does not apply to factory-installed automatic dampers.)
We don’t recommend installation and use of heat reclaimers on smokepipes. Heat reclaimers are devices installed in the smokepipe between the stove and the chimney that transfers heat from the flue gases that would ordinarily be vented out of the chimney. These devices allow more heat to remain in the living area, which would seem like a good idea. However, these devices can cause problems such as lowering the temperature of the flue gases allowing creosote build-up inside the chimney.
And, unless cleaned often, they may quickly get plugged with soot and/or creosote blocking the smokepipe. Heat reclaimers will generally cause problems on short chimneys. If you do use one, make sure it has a cleaning device on it and make sure to clean it often.
Also, use a heat reclaimer only when you have a hot fire. The flue temperature on a low fire may be too low already, and using the device compounds possible creosote buildup.
There are thermostatically controlled heat reclaimers that should reduce creosote buildup by operating only when exhaust gas is hot enough above the reclaimer to carry volatiles out the chimney.
Never use a heat reclaimer as a clearance reduction device.
Generally, use only a fan designed by the manufacturer for your stove or device. Install the fan per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Do not place a floor or window fan so it blows on or around the device. The fan may increase the draft causing it to overheat or may suck smoke or even hot ashes from the device.
These are a good investment and should be standard with a wood heat system.
Smoke detectors should be listed by a testing laboratory. They need to be located where normal products of combustion that escape in small amounts from any woodburning device do not set them off.
Fire extinguishers should be listed by Underwriter’s Laboratories for Class A (ordinary combustible) fires. We recommend extinguishers that are rated 2A-10BC because they provide good extinguishing capability and can be used on burning liquid and electrical fires, too.
Chimney fire extinguishing flares may be effective in fighting chimney fires. You might have several on hand to supplement your regular fire extinguisher. Carbon monoxide detectors should be used with nearly all types of heating systems. Wood heat creates carbon monoxide gas. It’s an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that can be harmful and even fatal when you’re exposed to dangerous levels. It’s recommended that carbon monoxide detectors be placed near the living room and/or bedrooms.
Because today’s homes are built tighter, it may be necessary to provide fresh air for a wood stove. One way is to install an air duct form the outside to a location near the stove. Try opening a window if you have a problem with correct operation of your stove.
Some stoves now on the marker incorporate outside air ducts in their design. You might consider this type of unit to boost your system’s efficiency.
Choosing the kind of firewood to burn naturally depends on what is available. Softwoods, like pine, spruce and fir are easy to ignite. They burn rapidly with a hot flame and burn out quickly.
If you have a choice, for a long-lasting fire use the heavier hardwoods such as ash, beech, birch, maple and oak. These hardwoods burn less vigorously than softwoods and with a shorter flame. They produce a good bed of coals. Whatever type of wood you select, be sure it’s seasoned before you use it. Seasoned wood has been dried so the moisture content is about 20 percent. Green wood increases creosote accumulation.
It takes at least six months to air dry (season) fresh cut green wood, 12 months is better. Plan ahead for your fuel supply. Splitting the wood will reduce drying time. So will single stacking with both cut ends exposed. You will recover more heat value from dry wood than from green wood. Provide for at least some dry storage of wood. Snow and rainy weather will temporarily soak dry wood. Arrange your dry storage area so you can keep it full but have access to the driest wood.
Start a fire with a small pile of paper under some kindling. Place heavier wood on kindling. Never use flammable liquids!
If you have no experience at burning wood, read the stove manufacturer’s instructions. Then start with small amounts of wood, gradually increasing the amount as you gain experience in setting the damper and/or draft controls.
Hot sparks and burning embers can exist in your wood stove ashes for several days. Many fires have been started when ashes cleaned from wood stoves are placed in combustible containers or dumped with ordinary trash. We recommend you have a separate metal container or bucket with a tight-fitting lid only for disposal of ashes. It should be kept outside except when in use for wood stove cleaning.
Wood ash makes excellent garden fertilizer, provided it isn’t mixed with coal ash, burned plastic residue, or other contaminants.
Some people try to burn fuels other than wood in their wood stoves. This can be a dangerous practice unless the stove is designed to handle them. (Consult your stove manufacturer’s instructions.)
Coal is the most common fuel other than wood that’s burned in stoves. Some stoves are designed to permit the burning of both but the burning characteristics of coal are so different that it cannot usually be burned efficiently in a stove designed predominantly for wood.
Some stoves designed primarily for coal can burn wood relatively efficiently but their firebox size is often very limited. Bituminous and anthracite coal require different types of coal stoves to efficiently burn these different fuels. Coal stoves are equipped with shaker grates to remove ash without excessively disturbing the firebed. Bituminous coal produces large, hard clinkers of fused ash that must regularly be removed from the firebox. Improperly burned anthracite coal can also produce clinkers. Efficient coal burning is an art that must be learned. A good place to start is from a coal instruction manual.
Properly burning coal doesn’t produce creosote but it does produce soot and corrosive smoke that may damage chimney linings (especially the stainless steel variety) if regular chimney cleaning isn’t done. Coal stoves usually need barometric draft regulators on their smokepipes to provide a proper constant draft. Also, smokepipes for coal stoves usually are installed with the male connectors up because escape of carbon oxides from the exhaust system is more critical than creosote dripping out of the joints.
Coal ash shouldn’t be used as a fertilizer. Thoroughly clean the inside of a coal-fired system after each heating season because moisture over the summer can cause acids in the residue to severely corrode the system.
“Fireplace coal” or “Cannel” coal produces large volumes of volatile gas and a very active, sparky fire. It’s not safe to use this type of coal in a closed stove. Numerous flashbacks and small explosions may occur because of the volatile gas. This is probably true of peat.
Compressed logs or pellets made of sawdust or wood plant by-products may be acceptable for your stove if they are recommended by both the manufacturer and the maker of the logs or pellets. A pellet fuel system consists of a solid processed fuel of specified size and composition capable of being fed to an appliance combustion system at a controlled rate. Some appliances burn so efficiently they don’t need a chimney.
Decorative fireplace logs of compressed sawdust, chemicals, and a wax or paraffin binder are not safe to use in a closed wood stove because they produce too much volatile gas and the chemicals used to make the pretty colored flames may corrode parts of your woodburning system.
Wood heat has a poor fire record. Take the time to instruct all members of the family in the proper operation of your wood heat system. Don’t skimp on proper materials or safety. Do inspect your equipment often.
Wood heat will require lots of attention and a lot of your time. It’ll involve hard work. If you aren’t willing to do both — then perhaps wood heat is not for you.