Using Your Wood Stove Safely

Wisconsin winters often bring harsh conditions. And as the prices of heating oil, propane and natural gas increased, wood boilers became a popular way to provide heat and/or hot water to houses and other buildings. 9% of Wisconsin homes use solid fuel as their primary source of heat. That’s a surprisingly high percentage.

Wood boilers include any furnace, stove, or boiler designed to burn wood. Outdoor wood boilers typically feature a firebox that is enclosed in a water jacket, surrounded by insulation and vented through a chimney stack.

While wood burners are a cost-effective way to heat your home, they can also cause health problems. Wood smoke contains a variety of pollutants. People exposed to smoke from wood boilers may experience eye and nose irritation, difficulty breathing, coughing and headaches. Individuals with heart disease, asthma, emphysema, or other respiratory diseases are especially sensitive to wood smoke. It also can be harmful to the elderly, babies, children and pregnant women.

guidelines to maintain health and safety when using a wood burner

  • Enforce a chimney height of 15 feet minimum from the ground or at least 2 feet taller than the nearest building, ensuring adequate smoke dispersion.
  • Install a spark arrestor on top of the chimney.
  • Only burn clean wood in order to avoid pollutants.
  • Never burn trash, which releases emissions and chemicals that pose serious health risks and remain in the environment.
  • Place wood stoves on a concrete pad.
  • Keep outdoor wood boilers at least 25 feet from the nearest building and 500 feet from the nearest building on neighboring property.
  • Store wood at least 20 feet from the wood furnace, and do not store wood between the unit and nearby buildings.
  • Clean out ashes regularly, place in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid and keep the container away from combustible materials until disposal.
  • Check with your local government before purchasing a wood burner – outdoor wood boilers aren’t regulated by the State of Wisconsin, but some area have ordinances that ban or limit their use.

Talk with your Rural Mutual Insurance agent about wood stove regulations to make sure your home is properly protected.