Safety of Pellet Stoves

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Pellet stoves burn small pellets of compacted sawdust, wood chips, corn kernels, barley, soybeans and other biomass fuels. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, they’re the cleanest way to heat residential homes. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency exempts them from smoke-emission testing requirements because they efficiently convert 78 to 85 percent of the pellets into heat. Although pellet stoves can be safer to run than other types of wood stoves, there are several steps you can take to make them even safer.

Installation

  • Don’t install your pellet stove on bare wood. A noncombustible floor protector must be used. Follow the pellet stove manufacturer’s instructions that come with your stove. In addition, you should leave a minimum of 36 inches of clearance around your stove so that combustible objects, like paper, don’t come into contact with it. Your pellet stove also needs its own chimney flue. Don’t hook it up to the same chimney flue other heating appliances use. Have the chimney inspected by a qualified chimney inspector before using your stove. Cracks in the flue can let flames and hot gases enter your house, causing a fire.

Temperature

  • Unlike other wood stoves, most pellet stoves stay cool to the touch even when they’re burning wood. This means it’s less likely for people to burn themselves on the stove. The one exception is the glass door, which can be found on the front of the stove.

Ashes

  • Place ashes from the stove into a metal bucket with a metal lid and put it outside, away from the building. Don’t store ash buckets under your porch or in the garage. Don’t use cardboard boxes to contain ashes. Even though the ashes might look cool, a live ember might be smoldering underneath.

Creosote

  • Creosote build-up is the cause of most chimney fires. However, less creosote builds up in a chimney when a pellet stove is used, because pellet stoves burn fuel more efficiently. To make your pellet stove even safer, clean the flue vent regularly.

Alarms

  • Faulty heating systems are the main cause of carbon monoxide poisoning in the homes, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety. Install a carbon monoxide detector within 10 feet of your pellet stove and make sure smoke alarms are working properly.

Venting

  • Pellet stoves don’t produce very much visible smoke, but about 15 to 22 percent of the fuel will turn into exhaust gases, soot and water vapor and they need to be vented outside so they don’t leak into the house. Venting should be done with double wall pipe, also known as PL vent pipe, labeled as tested to UL641. Using substitute materials isn’t as safe. In particular, you should never use PVC pipe, single wall stove pipe, dryer vents or gas appliance (Type B) vents.

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  • Photo Credit pellet naturale image by tiero from Fotolia.com
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