Uncertainty with regard to the cost of heating oil in Maine and across the Nation in recent years has been putting upward pressure on the demand for wood and pellet stoves and other alternative heating appliances. It’s being reported that the demand on pellet stoves and seasoned wood appear to have already exceeded supply in some areas of Maine. In addition to the obvious financial concerns associated with the cost of fuel, there are other issues for the public safety community and the public to consider carefully.
In looking at the national fire experience from the latter 1970s into the 1980s, a period in which we experienced an “energy crisis,” there was a surge in residential heating related fires. Heating actually surpassed cooking at one point as the number one cause of fires in residential dwellings corresponding with the increased use of alternative heating appliances such as wood stoves and space heaters. Data from that period showed that where the source of heat causing the ignition was attributed to central or water heating based systems the count of fires actually remained steady. In contrast, fires attributed to alternative heating appliances showed an increase.
We certainly learned a lot about conservation from the "energy crisis" of the latter 1970s and we also learned a lot about heating safety. Here are some simple yet key points to remember:
- Read carefully about any appliance you are going to consider purchasing before you purchase it. You want to be sure it will save you money and that you have the appropriate space in which to utilize the appliance.
- Install or place your appliance as directed by the manufacturer. If you don't feel confident about this, seek consultation from a professional.
- Understand and plan the required maintenance of your appliance. Develop a schedule as suggested by the manufacturer and stick with it.
- Operate your appliance in accordance with manufacturer's guidelines.
- Even if you are not purchasing a new alternative heating appliance this winter remember to operate and maintain your existing system as directed by the manufacturer and have your chimney and furnace cleaned and inspected annually by a certified chimney sweep or furnace professional.
For more on home heating safety for the coming winter months refer to the items on the left for additional information.
For information on saving money through energy conservation and alternative heating sources go to Efficiency Maine's web page by selecting this link: https://www.efficiencymaine.com.
Remember, you can heat your home safely and save money. If you have any additional questions concerning home heating safety don't hesitate to call your local fire department or the Fire Marshal's Office.
Richard McCarthy, Maine Fire Marshal