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Fireplace Safety

The weather is cooling down and the heat is being turned up. Many homeowners opt to use fireplaces as a cost efficient supplement to their main heat source. Since it's getting colder out, we’ll look at different types of fireplaces and the dangers and maintenance associated with each one.

Electric

​A close runner up to wood fireplaces in popularity, electric fireplaces use internal heating coils to provide cost efficient, emission free heating.

Most common dangers: Flames on electric fireplaces are simulated, but the vent can get hot. The risks are minimal, but burns are possible. 

Maintenance: Electric fireplaces are quite easy to care for. Before servicing or cleaning an electric fireplace, always unplug the unit and allow it to cool. Check all electrical components for signs of wear, frayed wires or broken parts and consult a professional electrician if any parts need repair or replacement. Dust the unit with a clean dry cloth and vacuum dust from the heater components with the brush attachment. 

Ethanol/Gel

This style uses liquid ethanol or gel canisters that are easily lit with a match. They provide little in terms of warmth, but have endless options when it comes to adding to home décor. They may come in handy if the power goes out, but don’t expect them to keep you as warm as traditional heating sources.

Most common danger: burns from handling the metal gel canisters or burst flames from ethanol mishandling. Always allow these types of fireplaces to cool before replacing or refilling the fuel source.
 
Maintenance: There is almost no maintenance on these fireplaces. Keeping the units clean simply requires a cloth and gentle cleanser. Replace or refill the fuel source as needed.

Gas

Propane and natural gas fireplaces are rising in popularity due to the low install costs and high heating efficiency. Gas fireplaces can also be retrofitted into traditional wood burning hearths, with very little modification to the home.

Most common danger: The main danger is emission of carbon monoxide, so always operate the heating device to manufacturer specifications and install carbon monoxide alarms around the home.
 
Maintenance: Maintenance should be done by a professional. A technician will disassemble the unit for a thorough cleaning of the ceramic logs, the pilot light assembly and the combustion chamber. They will also inspect your gas line, the gas pressure, and the burner operation and will also check for leaks of gas and carbon monoxide. Be sure to turn off the unit and gas main about two hours before your technician arrives to allow it to cool.  

Wood

​Arguably the most popular, wood burning fireplaces are cozy, nostalgic, and provide ample heat. Wood fireplaces are the only type of fireplace that require a chimney for ventilation.
 
Most common dangers: Particle pollution from burning wood, which releases byproducts such as benzene, formaldehyde, and methane. These toxins can aggravate asthma, bronchitis, heart, and lung diseases. A secondary danger is chimney fires, which result from a build-up of creosote, a combustible by-product of burnt wood.
 
Maintenance: Good chimney hygiene is the most effective step to preventing chimney fires, so hire a professional chimney sweep annually to check for any gaps, cracks or creosote build-up. Replace fire screens with a tight fitting door, ensure the room is well ventilated, and remove ashes regularly. Never burn particle board, treated wood, stained wood, painted wood or wet wood and never use accelerants such as gasoline, kerosene, charcoal starter or a propane torch.

FAQ's

Are chimney cleaning logs safe? Yes, but chimney cleaning logs only remove the first stage of creosote from a chimney, but not the advanced stages of creosote, which can become a sticky, combustible tar.
 
Do gas fireplaces need chimneys? They are not required for ventilation, so many homeowners opt not to have them.
Do you need to clean a gas fireplace chimney? Yes! Those that do have a chimney should have it inspected and cleaned annually by a professional.

A fireplace is a cozy addition to any home and can help lower the cost of traditional heating methods. Consider the options carefully before choosing the right one for your home, and regularly maintain your fireplace for maximum safety and efficiency.  


Information provided by Selective Insurance Group: https://social.selective.com/articles/cozy-up-to-fireplace-safety

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