Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas stocking fire hazard

Many fires during the holiday season can be avoided according to the Midwest Chimney Safety Council, whose members are professional chimney sweeps, firemen, and chimney technicians.  
The NFPA 211 Standard for Chimneys, Vents, and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances requires a 36” clearance to combustibles in front of fireplaces, and at least 12” clearance above the opening of fireplaces. Heat can cause combustible items to ignite without the direct application of flame. 
Many homeowners miss the obvious fire risk of hanging stockings "by the chimney with care." but Midwest Chimney Safety Council President Steve Hoover, of Lucky Sweep Chimney Service and Sales, LLC in Versailles, Missouri said that “We want people to be aware of fire hazards associated with fireplaces in order to prevent unnecessary loss of life and property.”  Hoover is also a volunteer fireman.

Hoover recommends that homeowners do not hang stockings over the fireplace while it is in use – but to remove them and replace after the fire is out, and to keep all combustible materials such as wood, presents, and furniture at least three feet away from hearth appliances. Combustibles do not need flame to ignite - only heat.  

For more safety and wood-burning tips visit Steve Hoover can be reached at 573-378-6142.

Five house fires in KC area over the weekend related to fireplaces and chimneys


At least five house fires in the Kansas City area over the weekend were caused by improperly maintained fireplaces and chimneys.

Firefighters responded to two chimney fires on Saturday night in the 1900 block of South 65th street and the 1900 block of South 16th street in Kansas City, Kansas. In both cases smoke detectors alerted the residents, who were able to escape unharmed. An unconscious dog was rescued from the 16th Street fire but firefighters were able to revive it.

An early morning fire in the 11900 block of West 66th Street in Shawnee, Kansas caused about $130,000 in damages. The fires started in a lower-level fireplace. One resident saw smoke and alerted the family, who escaped uninjured.

An unattended fire in a fireplace caused a house fire in the 2400 block of Stewart Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas on Friday night.

Also on Friday night the Lee's Summit fire department extinguished a chimney fire in the 1300 block of Southwest Crossing Drive. The residents escaped the home uninjured.

Over the weekend temperatures dropped to one degree in the Kansas City area, which may have prompted residents to have fires in their fireplaces.

The Midwest Chimney Safety Council reminds homeowners not to use their fireplaces as heating appliances. MCSC Vice President Gene Padgitt said “Fireplaces actually take more heat from the home than they put in due to the need for combustion air. Open fireplaces are designed to be used for ambient fires only.” Padgitt recommends the use of a high-efficiency wood stove insert instead in order to produce supplemental heat and have emergency heating available. Fireplaces are 0 percent efficient, while high-efficiency inserts are 75 percent efficient.

Gene Padgitt said “If a chimney fire occurs, call the fire department, get out of the house, then have a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep inspect the chimney before using it again. In most cases, the chimney will be damaged during a chimney fire, making it unsafe for continued use. Signs a chimney fire is occurring are loud roaring sound, popping or cracking sounds, flames coming out the top of the chimney, and smoke backing up into the house.”

The Midwest Chimney Safety Council offers tips for homeowners:

  • Never leave fires unattended. Be sure the fire is out before leaving the house
  • Have the chimney inspected and swept to remove flammable creosote before the wood-burning season by a professional CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep
  • Never burn dry pine or gift wrap in a fireplace as they are an extreme fire hazard
  • To improve efficiency of a masonry fireplace, have an insert installed by a professional installer. Never install an insert in a manufactured fireplace
  • Keep combustible materials, including firewood and furniture at least 36” away from an open fireplace
  • Keep the screen or glass doors closed during operation of the fireplace
  • Be sure to have working smoke detectors on each level of the home

Chimney Fire in Somerset County, NJ with photo

It's rare to see a photo of a chimney fire in progress so I'm posting this link to a recent fire in New Jersey so my readers can see what it looks like:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Woodstock Soapstone takes first prize at Wood Stove Decathlon

The best of the best takes the grand prize at the Wood Stove Decathlon

Tom Morrissey has been designing and building soapstone wood-burning stoves since 1978, so when John Ackerly, Founder and President of the Alliance for Green Heat asked him to design a new stove a year ago he decided that Woodstock Soapstone Company was up to the challenge. He assembled his design team members Jason Guimaraes, Lorin Day, Harold Garabedian, Larry Young, Ken Blum, Lewis Thibodeau, Dan Batchelder and Kristie Haupt and got to work on a brand new stove to enter in the November 2013 Wood Stove Decathlon, which was held in Washington, D.C. This week.

The new Ideal Steel Hybrid stove is something completely new to the company, who has specialized in soapstone products for 35 years. The new stove is, however, lined with soapstone bricks in order to take advantage of the stone's heat-retention and long heat-release properties.

What makes this design so different from other wood stoves on the market are several factors. The design team incorporated a secondary air chamber and a catalytic combustor, while most manufacturers do only one or the other. Then the team added a tertiary air supply so as the stove gets hotter more air is fed directly to the catalytic combustor so it does not get oxygen deprived. This allows the combustor to work more effectively, while bringing emission levels down even further. The team also found that a fan is not necessary for the combustion air supply, and the passive system works very well.

Tom said “We are essentially making a gasification stove,” he said, “If you look at this thing when it’s burning, the fire does not look like what you would think of as a wood fire. The whole top of firebox is like an inverted gas burner; there are 120 holes with a tube of flame coming out of each one.”

Instead, they will employ a remote Woodstove Monitor. It will provide real-time feedback on burn rate, BTU output, efficiency, emissions, and stove temperatures.

“Burning wood without this information is like driving a car without a speedometer and gas gauge,” said Morrissey. Knowing this information will help stove owners use their stoves more responsibly and effectively. “Ten years ago, you could never imagine having a little computer on the stove. If you were in a small industry like ours, you couldn’t dream of having a graphic-user- interface, but now it’s available and affordable,” Morrissey said. The Union Hybrid stove, with its twenty-first century technology and efficiency and emissions capabilities, is certainly a far cry from a six-sided box with a fire in it.

Testing in the lab and at the design challenge resulted in only 1.03 grams in emissions. That is extremely low, especially compared to older model stoves. The firebox size is 3.2 cu ft. emissions are an adjusted level of 1.04 grams.

One of the highlights of the Ideal Steel Hybrid stove is the custom work. Woodstock Soapstone has a water jet cutter that enables the company to customize their stove by adding medallions on the side, attach a mitten warmer or large artistic design pieces to the back via slots just above the back legs, custom cut the andirons, and add a custom-cut cook top. These elements can be changed out easily when the customer wishes to change the look of the stove.

And if that isn't enough, an optional LED lamp on a swing arm, powered by heat from the stove is available. If the power goes out the owner would have not only provide heat, but a place to cook on three burners at different heights and temperature variations, and lighting for cooking or reading.

The stove should be available by June of 2014 and it is factory-direct to the consumer only. Woodstock does not have dealers.

The Wood Stove Challenge was open to any company, university, or individual from any country except for accredited woos stove labs. The grand prize winner received a $25,000 cash prize which was donated to two teams who did not have funding. The two second place prizes went to Travis Industries and Wittus, who shared a $10,000 cash pot.

Sharing third place were Inter-Continental, Tile Stove and HWAM. Fourth place went to Tulikivi; fifth went to Intensi-Fire and Mulciber; sixth to Walker Stoves, Seventh to Smart Stove, and eighth place was awarded to Kimberly.

The goal of the Challenge was to get design team's creative juices flowing and make higher efficiency, affordable wood-burning stoves that produce little emissions. The expert judging panel with representatives from different agencies and organizations scored each stove on innovation, market appeal and ease of use, affordability, emissions, and efficiency.

The primary funders of the Wood Stove Decathlon are NYSERDA, the Osprey Foundation, the District of Columbia Urban Forestry Administration, the US Forest Service, the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund and the Arbolito Foundation.

Congratulations to Woodstock Soapstone and the other finalists who scored high marks by the judges. The next generation of wood stoves is here.