How Wood Burning Stoves May Affect Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

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If you live in an area that experiences four seasons, you might be thinking of adding an old, yet comforting addition to your home: a wood or pellet-burning stove. Both can provide a very cost-effective source of quality heat.  And in these tough economic times, many surveys have revealed that more Americans are using these burning stoves to offset the rising costs to heat their homes.

Unfortunately, tragedy can and has been the result when precautions weren't taken in order to ensure that stoves were being installed and maintained correctly - or your second hand stove wasn't working properly. What's worse, there are many records of rejected insurance claims for house fires due to the non-disclosure of burning stove installation.

How Burning Stoves Affect Your Homeowners Insurance

The unfortunate truth is that you will pay higher premiums if you have a wood or pellet stove in your home. This is because many insurance companies see these additions as a risk for house fires. However, the cost of higher insurance may be far less than the money you will save by not using electricity or gas to heat your home.

But it is not enough to simply disclose to your insurance company that you have a wood or pellet stove; you must also provide proof to your insurance company in order to maintain your coverage.

Installation and Codes

Before you install any stove, check with your insurance company to see what kind of installation they cover. Some companies will only approve stoves installed by a professional. This is because professional installers must follow fire codes. However, it's important to ensure that the installer you choose has credentials that can be confirmed.

If you're installing the stove yourself and your insurance company allows this, then you will need to meet your area's fire codes. You can check your local fire department web site for code requirements, or enquire at your city hall.

Purchasing the Proper Stove

Buying a burning stove may sound simple, but there are actually regulations which detail the type of stove to purchase.

Any stove that has been made of cast iron or steel is a secure buy, according to the Insurance Information Institute.  Looking for certification by the UL, or Underwriters Laboratories is also a good idea.

If you are buying a used stove, you will have to look closely at all louvers, legs, hinges and grates as well as the stove body to ensure there are no defects such as cracks or holes. The same check should be performed if you are bringing an old stove out of storage for burning duty after a number of years.

Maintaining Your Stove

Installation and approval by your insurance company is only the first step. Regular maintenance will be crucial to ensure that your burning stove operates for as many seasons as possible. Whether you are burning wood or pellets, keep in mind that you will be starting fires regularly in your home. This means that having working smoke detectors as well as carbon monoxide detectors in all areas and on all floors of your home will be necessary. Having a fire extinguisher in the same area, but not too close to your stove can be another help should things get out of control.

As well, you will need to either perform regular maintenance on your stove yourself, or call a professional each year prior to when you plan to use your stove for the season. Stoves and fireplaces will need cleaning, as will your chimney.

Respecting the fact that fire is dangerous enough to destroy your home and everything in it is good to consider when using your burning stove. The more precautions you take, the lower your risk of losing what's precious to you in a potentially-devastating house fire.

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Guest author Carly Jorge writes on a variety of topics.  She is a regular contributor at The Home Protection Geek.