WETT Inspection For Stoves And Fireplaces
by Roger Frost

Wood heating is practiced on a small scale, the fuel is usually harvested from a local resource, and the users gain a more complete understanding of their impacts on the environment than users of other energy sources. As environmentalists have suggested, these are some of the very features needed for economic and environmental sustainability. Families who heat their homes with wood responsibly should be recognized for their contribution to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a sustainable energy future.

There was a tendency during the development of the first round of EPA’s wood stove emissions regulations in the 1980s to rely exclusively on science and technology to reduce emissions from wood heaters. This made perfect sense at the time because most wood stoves were crude boxes with virtually no emission control technologies. Unfortunately, a repeat of this approach appears to be reflected in much of the recent commentary surrounding the EPA New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) review process. Unfortunate because this repeat of the reliance entirely on technology can result in appliances that burn cleanly under laboratory conditions through increased technological complexity but which do not meet user needs. This could produce disappointing emission reduction results in actual use.

Energy is actively debated on several fronts these days. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill, drilling in the arctic, and the Alberta tar sands spark debate about the environmental wisdom of continued oil exploitation. Climate change is caused mainly by the combustion of fossil fuels, something that goes on at a spectacular rate around the world. Peak oil – meaning the maximum possible global production rate of conventional oil – has entered the mainstream discussion after a decade of lurking in the shadows.

The term fireplace was traditionally used to describe a wood burning device built into the structure of a living area and in which the fire can be viewed while it burns. However, the distinction between wood stoves and fireplaces is no longer as clear as it once was. For example, virtually all advanced wood stoves have glass panels in their doors and incorporate a technology that sweeps combustion air behind the glass to keep it clear for effective fire viewing. Also, some fireplaces now have advanced combustion technologies that permit them to meet EPA emission limits and can have heat ducts connected for use as central heating systems. As well, some masonry heaters look like fireplaces but have the efficiency and low emissions of advanced wood stoves. Therefore, the term fireplace must be used with some caution. It is used here to mean a device that is not free-standing but is built into the wall of a living space. The term does not refer to strictly decorative appliances.

A standard home inspection includes a visual assessment of the components of the fireplace, hearth and chimney. However, depending on your area and the property insurance you choose, a WETT inspection may be required.

Practice responsible wood burning habits (such as building small hot fires, using seasoned wood or manufactured non-wax firelogs) and using low emission wood-burning hearth products (such as wood-burning stoves and fireplace inserts certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and new state-of-the-art clean-burning fireplaces). Burning wood responsibly is about doing the right thing for you, your family, and your neighbors, while protecting your ability to burn wood well into the future.

The Barrie Home Inspector is a WETT Certified Professional Home Inspector for the Barrie, Alliston and Orillia area of Simcoe County. The experience and knowledge from over 4,000 inspections allows us to guarantee the best possible WETT and Home Inspection. The Barrie Home Inspector is also a Certified Building Code Official with the Ontario Building Officials Association.

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