CBC MARKETPLACE: YOUR HOME »
Heating your home the old way
Broadcast: December 5, 2000
| Producer: George Prodanou; Reseacher: James Dunne
The cost of home heating in Canada is going
through the roof. Gas, heating oil and electricity prices have
Many Canadians are going back to wood to heat their homes
That's prompted people to look for ways to save
money. Many Canadians are going back to wood. They're installing
wood stoves to supplement the furnace and keep heating costs
You may be tempted to do the job yourself, to
save a few more dollars. But the installation of a modern
wood stove is no longer a do-it-yourself job.
Once, fireplaces and wood stoves were smoky,
dusty things that produced foul air. But many of them were
replaced by sleek gas and propane burners with almost-real
That was good enough for most Canadians - until
two years ago, when the ice storm hit much of the eastern
part of the country.
"It's amazing how
many stove installations have resulted in house fires,"
says Brian Maltby, chief of fire prevention, Brampton,
For weeks, there was no electricity and no oil-fired heat.
In parts of eastern Canada, life was as it had been a century
earlier and wood heat was again a vital winter survival tool.
Since the, wood stove and fireplace sales have been growing
by 25 per cent a year. Many of the new stoves are being installed
by do-it-yourself-ers keen to save a few dollars.
Brian Maltby, the chief of fire prevention in Brampton, northwest
of Toronto, says it's amazing how many stove installations
have resulted in house fires.
"I've seen people actually hanging clothing on the chimney
as a clothes dryer," Maltby told us. "That's exceptionally
Maltby stresses that house fires caused by improper installation
of a wood burner need not happen.
"We think if it's to be installed as safe as it can,
it should be installed by a professional and up to code,"
Maltby said. "It's money well spent, it's like insurance."
"It can be done
simply, but that's not the way to get it done safely,"
says John Gulland, expert on wood burning appliances
Installing a wood stove requires a municipal building permit
in most parts of the country. Hiring a qualified installer
to make sure your stove is save might add $350 to $500 to
the cost of your wood stove.
John Gulland developed the reference manuals that became
the basis of a national system for training inspectors and
installers of wood burning appliances.
"What I hear a lot these days, is I've got a spare flue
where my oil furnace used to be now that I've converted to
gas," Gulland told Marketplace. "Can I just hook
up a wood stove to that open chimney? For several reasons
that's a bad idea. People often think of wood burning as a
kind of folk technology. Well it can be done simply, but that's
not the way to get it done safely."
Recently, wood stove manufacturers have spent millions of
dollars developing combustion systems that burn wood more
completely and cleanly.
Chimney systems have also improved. That's lead to stoves
and fireplaces that produce one-tenth the smoke that older
fireplaces did. That means less of the creosote that causes
No law prevents you from installing a stove yourself. But
experts recommend installation by a Wood Energy Technical
Training (WETT) certified installer.
Jan Herland, a director
with WETT, says it's important to incorporate a wood burning
stove in your living area, not in the basement
We asked Jan Herald, a director with WETT
(Wood Energy Technology Training) what to watch for in wood
stove installation. She brought the Marketplace cameras to
a bungalow being built near Shelburne, Ontario. A WETT certified
contractor is installing a wood stove.
Herald told us the ideal location for a wood stove in this
particular house is the living room.
"It's totally open," she pointed out. "We
couldn't have a better location for the chimney. In order
for this stove to perform at its best we want to keep the
chimney as warm and as straight as we can."
The stovepipe, Herald notes, is critical. A do-it-yourself-er might neglect to
use a double-walled stovepipe, opting for a cheaper single walled pipe.
"Galvanized stove pipe is a very common thing and galvanized
stove pipe is a dangerous thing to use," Herald cautioned.
"It's commonly available in hardware stores and people
who don't know what they're looking for will see it as stovepipe
and take the wrong one."
Herald says in the old days, people thought it was a good
idea to put the wood stove in the basement. Now, she says,
they're installed in the living space.
a wood burning stove, you should use a double walled chimney, not
a single walled
galvanized steel one
"We use a smaller stove, we burn less wood," Herald
explained. "But we also found the stove works much better.
We can put the chimney in through the centre of the house
rather than outside and it drafts better. The stove doesn't
Stoves like the one installed in the house in Shelburne
will cut a family's heating bill in half. Herald says they're
safety certified as well as clean burn certified. Another
factor to consider is
"People have to live in this room and live around it
and this has to become furniture," Herald said. "So
this particular stove is heat-shielded to the extent that
given the installation we can get corners close to the wall.
Three inches from a wooden wall."
Installed properly, Herald stresses, a wood stove is as safe
as any other source of heating.
and smokers' articles - like matches, lighters and cigarettes
- cause more home fires than any other source.
Still, home heating equipment - the furnace, fireplace,
gas stove, wood stove - is the source of thousands of
fires across Canada every year.
In 1997, the last year for which national statistics
are available, there were almost 3,900 fires caused
by home heating equipment. That means nearly one in
five of all residential fires in 1997 started because
of heating equipment.
In Ontario, 802 fires were related to home heating
equipment in 1998. Of those, 542 were related to wood
fuel. Many of those fires took place in the chimney
connected to a fireplace or a wood-burning stove.