Tips for Massachusetts Homeowners – Alternate Heat Sources and Home Insurance

As temperatures in Massachusetts continue to drop, some homeowners turn to alternative heating sources to heat their homes and therefore it is important to know how they may affect your home insurance.  According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, renewed interest in wood pellet stoves, fireplaces, space heaters and other devices can be expected again this winter. You should always consult your home insurance agent as your heat source can affect the value of your home or even put your home at higher risk, both of which will affect your home insurance premium.

Properly tested and rated stoves and heating sources will have a safety label, installation manual, placement and clearance specifications, usage guidelines, etc. which must be followed in addition to the code and manufacturer specifications. Following are some general guidelines and additional tips to consider.

Always use Caution! Only the fuel for which a stove is designed should be used. And remember… Before using any heating device, install carbon monoxide detectors in several locations and never use a kerosene heater indoors.

Pellet Stoves operate through an automated fuel-delivery process. In most designs a fan delivers air to the fire and blows exhaust by-products out the vent pipe while a second fan blows air through the heat exchangers and then out into the home.

  • Should be professionally installed
  • Be sure to check with your fire department and insurance agency for insurance company and town specific conditions
  • Have your chimney inspected prior to installation as relining may be required and is an added expense
  • Note that for houses with tight construction, or strong bath, kitchen or other exhaust fans, an outside air source may be required
  • Regular maintenance is critical to ensure safe operation
  • Frequency of cleaning will depend on the fuel type, grade and content
  • Inspect all components daily
  • Be sure to keep the stove clear of all combustible materials (ie: furniture, curtains, wall coverings, etc)

Wood Stoves are traditional heat sources which remain popular in homes throughout Massachusetts but have been linked to an increase in home and chimney fires.

  • Should be professionally installed
  • Be sure to check with your fire department and insurance agency for insurance company and town specific conditions
  • Look for a stove that has been tested by UL (Underwriters Laboratories)
  • The specifications and location of the stove pipe have strict requirements
  • Whether masonry or metal, the chimney will have extension specifications
  • Keep the chimney flue and stove pipe clean and free of all obstructions
  • Inspect all components daily
  • Be sure to keep the stove clear of all combustible materials (ie: curtains, clothing, toys, etc)

Electric Space Heaters are affordable appliances for heating a small space, but they are also the leading source of home fires during the winter months.

  • Look for products tested by UL
  • Look for products which have an automatic shutoff feature and heat element guards
  • Do not leave the space heater unattended
  • Check the cord for fraying, cracks or broken wires
  • Look for signs of overheating
  • Avoid extension cords. If necessary use only No. 14 gauge or larger extension wire. If the heater plug has a grounding prong, use only a grounding (three wire) extension cord
  • Never run the heater cord, or any cord, under rugs or carpets
  • Inspect all components daily
  • Be sure to keep the heater clear of all combustible materials (ie: bedding, curtains, clothing, etc)

Fireplaces are a popular heat source found in many homes throughout Massachusetts but require proper maintenance and caution to ensure safe operation.

  • Annual inspections by a professional chimney to keep the fireplace free of obstructions and creosote
  • Install a removable cap at the top of the chimney to keep out debris and animals
  • Install a spark arrestor
  • Be sure the damper is open BEFORE lighting a fire
  • Do not leave a fire unattended
  • Always close the screen when in use
  • Keep glass doors open during the fire
  • Use a fireplace grate and approved fireplace tools
  • Never burn garbage, plastic, rolled newspaper, charcoal etc. in the fireplace
  • Never use gasoline or other liquid accelerant
  • Make sure the fire is completely out before closing the damper
  • Clean out ashes between uses, once cooled, and store in a noncombustible container with a tight lid OUTSIDE  and away from the home
  • Gas fireplaces require specific maintenance, for example:
    • Adjusting the milli-volt output
    • Keeping the glowing embers and logs clean
    • Inspecting and cleaning the air circulation passages and fan
    • Cleaning the glass as needed
    • Also, be sure NOT to obstruct the vents
  • Inspect all components daily
  • Once again… Be sure to keep the fireplace clear of all combustible materials (ie: curtains, clothing, books, magazines, etc)

Heating equipment is the second-leading cause of home structure fires in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association, behind only cooking fires. With the average home insurance claim in a home fire exceeding $33,000, it is evident that home insurance providers pay close attention to your heating source.

Guard Insurance Agency is a Trusted Choice independent insurance agency, representing multiple companies to get you the best price, offer individual attention in order to qualify you for all the discounts available, and of course, provide excellent service, voted Best of 2013, BestofSurveys.com.  www.guardinsure.com

Guard Insurance Agency is a Trusted Choice independent insurance agency, representing multiple companies to get you the best price, offer individual attention in order to qualify you for all the discounts available, and of course, provide excellent service, voted Best of 2013, BestofSurveys.
Please be advised that insurance coverage cannot be bound or changed via submission of this online form/application, e-mail, voice mail or facsimile. No binder, insurance policy, change, addition, and/or deletion to insurance coverage goes into effect unless and until confirmed directly with a licensed agent.

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