A solid fuel appliance is any heater that uses wood, wood pellets, coal or even agricultural crops - corn for instance - as a fuel. These appliances are items that most people are familiar with: wood stoves, coal stoves, wood pellet stoves, fireplaces - both masonry and factory built.
However, if not properly installed or maintained, they can be one of the nation’s leading causes of fire deaths and property loss. It is also recommended that you have your solid fuel-burning appliance inspected annually by a chimney sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).
Reasons for fire deaths and property loss related to solid fuel appliances are related to improper installation, improper maintenance, improper fueling, improper operation and arranging household contents too close to them. Creosote buildup in chimneys is cited as a leading cause of fires. Annual chimney inspections are recommend and cleaning as often as necessary.
When buying a new unit, make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing laboratory (such as U.L. or Warncock-Hershey). Make certain that a qualified technician installs it according to local codes and manufacturer's instructions.
A certified professional should inspect fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors and wood or coal stoves annually.
Maintain a 36" clearance from the heater to any combustible material unless the testing laboratory allows for closer installation. This includes, but is not limited to, furniture, wood framing and trim, sheetrock, etc.
Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms in your home.