Homeowners have a variety of option for heating their residences. While geothermal systems, natural gas and electricity are common options, some homeowners prefer wood fires to keep them cozy through the winter. The state of Minnesota doesn't have statewide laws governing wood-burning units, but state authorities do recommend several safety practices.
Health and Environmental Protection
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency advises homeowners to make sure wood-burning fireplaces do not produce a smoky smell inside the home or structure where the unit is used. If smoke is escaping from the burning unit, it is not properly ventilated or the wood is not burning as cleanly as possible.
To reduce health risks, the MPCA recommends only dry, seasoned and untreated wood be burned. In addition, it advises against burning synthetic materials such as plastic and treated paper. When chemicals and synthetics are burned, they release toxins into the air, which can be hazardous.
Fire Hazard Reduction
In addition to long-term health problems, wood-burning fireplaces can present immediate fire hazards. The MPCA warns that residue from fireplaces can build up in chimneys and ventilation units; when the residue is overheated, it can catch fire. The MPCA advises that chimneys should be inspected and cleaned annually to remove flammable residue.
Minnesota residents also should keep outside wood-burning units clean and free of unnecessary debris because even a spark from a wood-burning fireplace could ignite an entire forest fire. Most importantly, the agency emphasizes that all wood-burning fireplaces, regardless of location, should be properly installed according to the manufacturer's recommendations to reduce the possibility of fire hazards.
While Minnesota does not regulate the use of wood-burning units across the state, many of its municipalities have local laws concerning wood-burning fireplaces. The city of Battle Lake, for example, requires anyone who wishes to install or use an outdoor burning unit to obtain a permit from the city. The unit must be inspected for safety before it can be used.
Some cities and counties in Minnesota ban the use of outdoor fireplaces altogether and permit the use of only indoor units. Residents who are unsure of local laws and regulations for indoor and outdoor wood-burning units should review their local ordinances or speak with local government representatives to learn more about local policies.
Open Burning Laws
Though there are no statewide laws governing fireplaces, the state of Minnesota has instituted open-burning laws that may be applicable to fireplaces. Minnesota statutes prohibit open burning of any materials that create excessive smoke or release odors. Under such statutes, anyone who uses an indoor or outdoor wood-burning unit is prohibited from burning anything other than clean, seasoned wood.
- Photo Credit fireplace image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com
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