RESIDENTS looking for cheaper ways to heat their homes are being urged to clean their chimneys by a Stratford-based insurer – or face a devastating fire.
NFU Mutual, based on Tiddington Road, warns that chimney fires cost £9 million in 2021 and fear this cost could rocket even higher this year due to the cost of living crisis and people looking for alternative ways to heat their houses.
Stoves and fireplaces using wood and coal are viable alternatives to gas and electricity as the energy price cap hits £2,500 in October, but the rural insurer is warning of fire risk if these are used incorrectly.
Andy Manson, Managing Director of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services, said: “Given the current price of fuel, it is no wonder people are looking to alternative fuels to heat their homes.
“While stoves and open fires can be a safe and a viable means to keep people warm, incorrect installation, maintenance or use can have a devastating impact, from fumes escaping into the home to fire engulfing the property. This is particularly true in older properties – 90 per cent of thatch fires, for example, relate to chimneys and the use of woodburning stoves.
“To reduce the risk of a devastating and costly house or chimney fire, we recommend taking steps to ensure your stove and chimney are correctly installed and properly maintained now, before they are put into use in the autumn and winter months.”
For those looking to install a stove for this winter, NFU Mutual advises people to only buy stoves from reputable manufacturers, such as those accredited by industry organisations like HETAS, and to likewise have them fitted by reputable installers.
Chimneys should be lined and flues collared to prevent excessive heat escaping through the chimney, which could also lead to fires.
Mr Mason added: “Chimneys should be swept by a professional chimney sweep at least once a year to prevent combustible build-up of tar and soot, though this will likely need to be done more often for those burning house coal. Now is the perfect time to have this done and remove a key cause of many chimney fires.
“It’s important that people are aware of the very real dangers and take steps to mitigate them. It can be tempting to pick up wood from the garden or when you’re out and about, but if you’re not sure of the quality of the wood you can’t be sure of the fire hazards or health risks it could cause when burned.”
While the price of wood fuel has already begun to rise due to the increased demand for it.
Marcus Hoggins of Red Horse Vale, a Warwickshire company which has supplied logs, wood pellets and other fuels for over 50 years, says that the current demand for wood is unprecedented, even during the August heatwave, as businesses and homeowners prepared for winter. As a result it has pushed the price of wood fuel up compared to 2021 prices.