My dad would work for hours in the garage during the winter. The antique woodstove stood in the corner of our attached garage glowing hot. It kept the garage toasty while Dad worked and my sister and I played. Dad never had any problems with that fiery beast. It was a part of the house and we weren’t the only house who had one. Because of the increase of potential hazard and past loss record history, a wood or coal-burning device is a significant issue in the insurance business.
The US Fire Administration estimates that more than one-third of Americans use fireplaces or wood stoves as a primary heat source in their homes. However, the department also reports that 36 percent of residential home fires are triggered by heat sources. That fire risk is exactly why homeowners insurance companies have some strict guidelines – and sometimes even charge higher rates – for properties that contain wood stoves.
A fire in Rhinelander, Wisconsin on January 2013, destroyed the home of its occupant. The RIVER NEWS ran this statement from Fire Chief Terry Williams on January 22, 2013, “The fire’s origin appears to be the basement and the victim reported having recently installed a new wood stove in that area.”
Most wood or coal-burning devices, including a stove, boiler, furnace, furnace add-on unit, freestanding fireplace or fireplace inserts are dangerous because they get left unattended for a long periods of time or they do not get installed by professionals to manufactured specs and cause costly fires and death. Insurance companies were never aware that the device was there in some cases. Some insures do not inform their agent of the installation of the device is even on the property for fear of the cost.
Wood is a cheap home-heating fuel. It was less expensive than coal or oil and nearly as cheap as natural gas. Up in these parts of the country, many go into their backyard and get a supply of wood with some elbow grease. Well, I should say, elbow grease and a chain saw and wood splitter. For some families during the recent tough times, it was a way to save money, so they could get by.
Our A rated or better companies, Acuity, West Bend and Secura, will accept wood or coal-burning devices. But because of the tragic possibilities, having one of these devices does come with some stipulations:
- They must be professionally installed to either the manufacturer’s specification or to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards 211 and 90B. A specific certificate is required to state that it was installed correctly.
- Must be a unit tested and listed by U.L. or other recognized testing laboratory – no barrel or homemade units
- They cannot be the primary source of heat
- Cannot be in the garage or an out building, where they tend to get forgotten.
- It must be disclosed to your insurance agent.
- There is a surcharge for solid fuel heating units because of the added underwriting concerns.
You don’t have to give up on your woodstove. You can still have it in your home. You just may have to fill out a questionnaire, recheck the specs and pay a small annual surcharge, but you can still enjoy your wood or coal-burning device. Call your agent today to discuss it.