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The days of dinner and backyard parties are here again as people are planning to welcome friends and families back into their homes after more than two years of social distancing. According to a recent survey, 46% of Americans are excited to entertain guests in their home, and almost 80% said that their first meal together with loved ones will not be in a restaurant, but in their own home. If you're thinking about having people over more often this year, it may be the best time to revamp your outdoor space and turn it into the ultimate place for a backyard party. With a bit of time and effort, you can have a safe place for get togethers that will impress all your guests.   

Divide Your Backyard Into Zones

To create a modern, beautiful, and functional entertainment area, you'll need to divide your backyard into zones. For instance, you can have a cooking and grilling station in one area, a dining area, and a place to chill and relax. For your meal prep and cooking station, think about having an outdoor gas grill, such as the American Outdoor Grill which has a large cooking surface and an analog thermometer to ensure that your meats and veggies are cooked perfectly every single time. You could also include a refrigerator for drinks, and a small table to do prep work.

The dining area can be set up a few feet away from the grill. Consider having a long wooden table with benches upholstered in weatherproof fabric, or set up folding tables and chairs if you don't want to have large scale furniture in your yard. Meanwhile, you can set up the patio with comfy outdoor furniture to encourage guests to chat and relax over drinks and appetizers. Add a firepit, such as the Napoleon 30" Linear Patioflame Burner Kit. This kit enables you to install a working, gas-powered fire pit in a custom base to enhance the ambiance and add warmth to your outdoor lounge area. Don't forget to place mosquito repellent devices or pots of citronella plants in each zone to prevent these bugs from biting, since mosquitoes are most likely to attack at nighttime, especially during the summer months. 

Let There be Light

Good lighting can create a wonderful ambiance for your party, so don't forget this important element when revamping your backyard. Place a few LED landscape torches or lanterns on the ground for drama, then hang up some paper lanterns over the dining area. Add some candles on the tables, and light the fire pit for added illumination and warmth. Finish by stringing low voltage fairy lights on a few trees or plants to give your backyard a festive feel. 

Turn Up the Music

A party needs good music, so make sure to have a few devices that will enable your guests to enjoy some tunes in your backyard. It can be anything from a sound bar connected via Bluetooth to your Spotify playlist, or a proper sound system setup in the patio, but make sure that it's protected from the elements in case of a sudden downpour. Do a test run to ensure that your music can be heard in all of the zones, but it shouldn't be too loud since it can cause a disturbance in your neighborhood. 

The days of virtual get togethers are over, so get ready to welcome your loved ones back into your home. Consider these tips to create an amazing outdoor space for backyard parties, and enjoy entertaining family and friends at home. 

Americans are spending more time at home and indoors than ever before due to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. When the pandemic hit, not only did the unemployment rate skyrocket to its worst level since the Great Depression, but those who were able to work remotely started doing so in record numbers. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a stunning 31% of workersswitched to working from home by early April 2020. Schools and universities quickly shut down, sending millions of students home to take classes online. With businesses from hotels to restaurants to gyms shuttering seemingly overnight, even recreation was suddenly restricted to people’s own backyards.

As of August 2020, all states are in some phase of reopening, but life is not back to normal. With many businesses still closed and safety protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing in place, those who are able to stay home are mostly still choosing to do so.

All this staying home means a lower risk for contracting COVID-19, but it also means more potential exposure to indoor air pollution. While outdoor air pollutionlevels are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor levels are not. So it’s up to you to make sure the air your family is breathing is as healthy as possible. Fortunately, this can be a win-win, as many of the measures that reduce indoor air pollution can also result in significant discounts on your homeowners insurance.

In this article:

What is Indoor Air Pollution?

Indoor air pollutionrefers to contaminants in the air you breathe inside a building — in this case, your home. Indoor air pollution can cause immediate health effects, such as irritation of the eyes and throat, fatigue, headaches, and dizziness. It can also worsen existing conditions such as asthma. In addition, some indoor pollutants can cause long-term health problems such as heart disease and even cancer. Here’s an overview of some common indoor pollutants.

Air Pollutant Description Impact on Home
Mold Mold is a naturally occurring organic substance that breaks down dead material such as fallen leaves. Indoors, though, it can pose health risks. There are many types of molds, some more dangerous than others, but all need moisture to survive. Some molds cause irritation or allergic reactions, while others contain toxic compounds known as mycotoxins. Watch for symptoms such as runny nose, red or watery eyes, sneezing and skin rashes. Mold can also cause extensive damage to your home.
Carbon monoxide Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas. In the home, it generally comes from leaking or poorly maintained gas appliances, wood stoves or fireplaces. Health impacts range from fatigue and chest pain at low concentrations to flu-like symptoms and brain fog at moderate concentrations to acute illness or even death at high concentrations.
Lead Lead is a naturally occurring element that was once added to many household products, including paint, dishes and water pipes. Although it is no longer used, it may still be present in homes built before 1978. Children and pregnant women are at highest risk from lead exposure. Premature birth, low birth weight, behavioral problems, hyperactivity and anemia are common. In adults, lead can cause reproductive problems, cardiovascular disease and reduced kidney function.
Nitrogen dioxide Nitrogen dioxide is a toxic, corrosive gas that is typically associated with defective gas appliances such as stoves or heaters. Nitrogen dioxide is a respiratory tract irritant. It can cause allergy-like symptoms, worsen asthma, contribute to the development of bronchitis and raise the risk of respiratory infections in children.
Stoves, heaters, fireplaces and chimneys Stoves, heaters, fireplaces and chimneys can be vehicles for some of the pollutants mentioned above. To guard against exposure, make sure they are properly cleaned and maintained. Impacts vary depending on which specific pollutants are involved.
Pet dander Pet dander, or the skin cells that flake off pets with fur or feather, is a common irritant in many homes. Pet dander is generally not a concern for those without pet allergies or asthma. In sensitive individuals, irritation of the eyes and nose, coughing, and wheezing are typical symptoms.
Tobacco smoke Tobacco smoke contains hundreds of chemicals known to be hazardous. Indoor smoking does not allow these toxins to escape, creating a buildup in the air and on surfaces. Tobacco smoke can cause respiratory tract irritation, including coughing and watery eyes. Over time, exposure is also linked to lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

Preventing Coronavirus Cases With Better Air Quality

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in addition to the larger droplets expelled by coughing or sneezing, the coronavirus is easily spreadthrough the aerosols generated by talking, singing, or even breathing. These aerosols disperse fairly quickly outdoors but can hang in the air for hours indoors. 

“We really do think that being indoors is where most of the transmission is occurring,” Shelly Miller, professor of environmental engineering who studies indoor air quality at the University of Colorado at Boulder, told WBUR. “And it’s pretty rare now to see anything related to outbreaks from outdoor conditions.”

Asymptomatic people (those who are infected but have no symptoms) can easily transmit the virus indoors. Therefore, maintaining indoor air quality can help combat the spread.

How coronavirus could enter your home

Of course, COVID-19 can’t spread in your home unless it finds an entry point. There are several ways in which the virus could enter your home:

External transmission— Family members who work or socialize outside the home may be exposed by co-workers, customers, friends, or even strangers. They could then unknowingly bring the virus home.

Hosting get-togethers— Hosting gatherings at home, even when socially distanced, increases the risk of introducing the virus. Remember, you can’t guarantee that your friends or even your family members have been following all safety protocols.

Face coverings and other surfaces— Though they are even more effective at stopping you from infecting others, new research shows that wearing a face-covering or mask can cut your riskof contracting the coronavirus by up to 65%. However, the virus can live on face coverings, like all surfaces. Therefore, it’s important to carefully handle your mask when you remove it, and then dispose of it or wash it immediately. It’s also a good idea to wipe down groceries and packages when you bring them inside and leave your shoes at the door. Also, wash your hands after touching anything potentially contaminated.

What if someone tests positive?

If someone in your home does contract the coronavirus despite your best efforts, indoor air quality measures can help reduce (though not eliminate) the risk of in-home transmission. Note that boosting air quality alone can’t get rid of the virus, but it can be an effective part of a cohesive overall risk reduction plan. Here are some things you can do:

Boost natural ventilation Open windows and doors on opposite sides and floors of your home. Use fans to move the air, taking care not to point them in such a way as to blow air directly from one person to another.

Upgrade your HVAC filters — Better filtration may increase the amount of virus that is removed from the air. Consider upgrading to high-efficiency filters, but check your owner’s manual to determine the maximum filtration your HVAC system can tolerate.

Use a portable air purifier — In tandem with other precautions, a portable air purifier can help to remove more coronavirus from the indoor air. Consider placing a portable purifier in the room where you spend the most time, taking care not to blow the air directly from one person to another.

Other stepsto take include isolating the ill person in one room with a separate bathroom, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing inside your home, and not sharing food or utensils. Be sure to frequently disinfect all commonly touched surfaces, such as light switches and doorknobs.

Tips for Improving Your Indoor Air While Saving on Your Home Insurance

There are a few things you can do to improve your indoor air quality that may also help you save money on your homeowners insurance. Every insurance company and policy is different, so check with your insurer for details. In general, though, these tips may bring you a discount:

• Install protective devices for your indoor air like gas leak detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and smoke detectors. These devices can also save lives, since a gas leak or a fire could quickly turn deadly.

• Update your wood or gas stove to an electric stove. Chefs may prefer gas stoves, but both wood and gas can emit harmful chemicals if not carefully maintained. By switching to an electric stove, you can save on homeowners insurance.

• Stop smoking or vaping, at least indoors. It’s best, of course, to kick the habit. But if you’re not ready to quit, consider setting up a smoking area in your backyard. This will allow smoke, and the hazardous chemicals it contains, to dissipate rather than building up.

• See if your roof needs replacing. An updated roof can prevent excess moisture from collecting in your attic, which is a common cause of mold buildup.

• Consider investing in a dehumidifier. Toxic black mold is common in humid climates, and insurance carriers may not pay to have it removed if you don’t try to mitigate the situation.

• Replace lead pipes and repaint walls that may have lead paint. Lead is most dangerous when it starts peeling or chalking, but it can still cause problems even in relatively good condition. A good coat of modern latex paint will seal the lead paint underneath.

• It’s true that so-called “aggressive” dog breeds are unfairly maligned, but if you’re looking for a new dog, your insurance company may prefer that you choose a “non-aggressive” breed. Regardless, a short-haired, low dander breed is a better choice for indoor air quality.

What Can I Do Right Now?

Some improvements, such as upgrading your roof, take time. But there are some easy things you can do right now to boost your home’s indoor air quality. Here are a few tips:

• Open windows to promote natural airflow and boost ventilation. If possible, choose windows at opposite ends of the house and use fans to push air back and forth.

• Use a doormat to prevent additional biological contaminants from being tracked inside. In addition, there is some evidencethat the coronavirus can live on the soles of shoes, so you may want to get in the habit of removing your shoes at the door.

• Dust and vacuum your house. Dust is a prevalent allergen, and dusting and vacuuming will also eliminate pet dander and other common irritants.

• Pick up new filters at your local hardware store — but not just the obvious ones! In addition to upgraded HVAC filters, also grab new filters for your vacuum cleaner and kitchen vent. Thoroughly clean your clothes dryer’s lint filter. Also, make sure you have enough face masks — and filters, if your masks have a filter pocket.

Some bad news for plant lovers: Despite popular wisdom, it turns out that house plants won’t do muchto clean your indoor air. Research shows that the number of plants you would need to cleanse the air in an average drafty, cluttered home would be virtually impossible to achieve. There are certainly benefits to fresh plants, but you’ll need to choose other methods to boost your air quality.

Putting It All Together

Indoor air quality is always important, but never more so than when people spend an extended amount of time inside. With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping people home from work, school, and recreation, combined with the fact that it spreads most easily indoors, now is the time to do what you can to boost the quality of your indoor air. Fortunately, some of the same techniques that can help reduce the risk of spreading the virus through the air in your home will also lower the levels of common pollutants in your home. You may even become eligible for homeowners insurance discounts along the way.

Your goals should be to improve ventilation, boost filtration, and lower the number of contaminants in your home. From opening windows to upgrading your HVAC filters to regular vacuuming, these easy-to-follow strategies won’t guarantee that your family won’t get sick, but they can form an important part of your overall risk management plan.

Wood stoves are becoming increasingly popular in the USA, with more than 10 million homes using them regularly, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Anyone investing in a new wood stove needs to take many factors into consideration before parting with their money. This is particularly true for seniors who need to make sure that the stove they choose is not only easy to use, but safe and practical as well. Following a few simple tips will make it a lot easier to find the most senior-suitable wood stove on the market.

Size does matter

One of the most important considerations when choosing a wood stove is its size. When choosing a wood stove for a senior it is important to determine what exactly it will be used for. Will its primary purpose be to heat the home, prepare food on, or to create ambiance? If the senior is living in a relatively small home, there is no need for an over-sized oven. In fact, installing a wood stove that is too big will waste fuel, pollute the air, and even result in a severe fire hazard thanks to a creosote build-up.  It is always best to pick the smallest stove that can heat the required space efficiently as this will allow you to burn a clean, hot fire without overheating your living area and posing a threat to your health and well-being.

There is no need to break the bank

While there are undoubtedly woodstoves on the market that carry a very hefty price tag, there are also plenty of more affordable and equally as effective stoves available. Many seniors are already faced with several budgeting challenges and investing in an overpriced stove will just exacerbate the concern. Draw up a budget and stick to it. Do not be cajoled into spending extra money on fitting and features you do not need. A top-of-the-range ultra-modern wood stove may look nice but at the end of the day it will, more than likely, not warm your room or boil your water any better than a much more affordable model.

Don’t disregard aesthetics completely

Although a wood stove’s overall performance is of greater importance than its design, aesthetics should not be disregarded completely as they can be linked to distinct benefits for senior owners. Stoves typically either stand on legs or a pedestal. Some stoves even have adjustable legs which are ideal for wheelchair users. Wood stoves generally boast a single door, a double door, or a side door.  A glass door allows you to keep an eye on your wood levels inside without causing a disruption to the combustion process. Stoves with flat tops are easier to cook on and pose less of a burn hazard than those with removable burners.

There are many benefits to owning a wood stove. As long as proper research is conducted before making a purchase, a senior can safely enjoy the wonderful warmth emitted by a cozy wood-burning stove. 

1.9 percent of US households still use wood for their heating needs  as opposed to electricity or utility gas, according to a report by the US Census Bureau. Many people still rely on wood not only since it's usually cheaper than the other alternatives but also since it is better for the environment. While woodburning stoves are mostly installed in the living room or kitchen, you can find them anywhere in a home including in a bedroom, home office, or even your mancave. If you are lucky enough to have a mancave, adding a woodburning stove is a surefire way to make it so much better than it already is, especially if you live in an area that gets cold from time to time. However, being an addition that could potentially be dangerous, you must be careful to ensure that you install it correctly. 

Choosing an ideal spot for your woodstove 

You must make the decision of where you're going to be putting your stove in your mancave long before going out to buy one. Since a wood stove is a space heater, you want to have it installed in a central position where it can heat every corner of your mancave. To maximize its efficiency, pick a spot with good insulation so that the heat from the woodstove is not lost through windows or walls. You also want to install it in a spot where it won't cause your TV, gaming console, or other electrical appliances in your mancave to overheat. Keep in mind that your woodstove will require a chimney, which ideally should be vertical and with as few bends as possible.

Make it multifunctional

One of the things that people love most about mancaves is that they give you a safe spot where you can hide away from the rest of the world and be alone for as long as you want. To further cement this feeling in your mancave, you can choose a woodstove that allows you to cook on it. There are various wood stove options that are specifically designed to allow people to cook while still performing their primary function of heating, but any with a flat surface on top that's large enough to hold a cooking pot will do. This addition can transform your mancave from a place you hang out in from time to time to a prepper's dream space where you can live, eat, have fun, and stay warm for as long as you need to, even when there are power outages. 

Choosing a wood stove 

After identifying an ideal spot in your mancave to install your woodstove, the next step is to choose one. Modern wood stoves come in various sizes, designs, and finishes and not all of them will be a good fit for your mancave. The first thing to consider is the size of your woodstove which will depend on how much space you have in your mancave and your heating needs. You want a stove that is big enough to meet your heating needs but not too big that it makes your mancave uncomfortably warm or takes up too much room. Another thing to consider is the stove's clearance rating, which is the minimum distance you should maintain between the stove and nearby walls, furniture, and appliances. You must also consider the design of the woodstove and how it fits in with the overall design or theme of your mancave. Whatever you end up choosing, make sure that it is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

A woodstove could be the thing that is missing in your mancave to take it to the next level. Not only will it make your mancave warm and cozy but it can also add to the aesthetic appeal and make it feel more homely. But, to be on the safe side, make sure your installation is done by certified professionals who'll follow safety guidelines to the letter. 

Pest such as cockroaches, rodents, and ants can make their way into your home from many sources, and it is important to keep your home sealed against them to avoid health consequences and discomfort. Pest types vary according to state and some years are worse than others - for instance, 2018 year saw flies, ants, and mosquitoes plague people in 41 states, with around 34% of people seeking professional solutions. Proper installation of fireplaces will help reduce the risk of pests entering your home in warm and cold seasons alike but you can take additional steps to keep your home 100% pest-free. 

Installing a Fireplace Door

A fireplace door that is resistant to heat can be completely shut when your fire isn’t burning. This is key during winter, since small animals and rodents can seek warmth in homes, making an entryway though your chimney. Installing a door will make your home considerably less interesting, and you can keep rodents completely out by shutting the chimney once the embers are no longer aflame.

Organize Your Firewood

If you have a large storage space for your firewood, ensure that the logs are organized according to the date of acquisition. Make sure to burn the oldest logs first, since insects have a greater likelihood of producing a sizable colony in old wood. Be particularly strict with log use if you live with people with allergies and respiratory conditions. Toxic pests can trigger asthma and other allergies. In fact, around one third of people with other allergies are also allergic to cockroaches. Symptoms of exposure include everything from chest pain to wheezing. To keep these issues at bay, ensure that logs are neatly and clearly stored so that everyone in the family knows where they should be taking wood from when they wish to start a fire.

Buy Recently Cut Wood

Unless you cut wood yourself, buy wood cut in the recent months to ensure it is fresh and pest-free. If supply of fresh wood is low, consider contacting local logging companies, tree services, and professionals in the reclaimed lumber industry. Check wood before you bring it indoors, ensuring that beetles, carpenter ants, and termites are absent. Bring wood in at the moment you will be burning it, to avoid insects infesting other items of furniture in your home. 

Store Wood Optimally

You should store wood far from the fireplace; ideally, all wood should be stored outdoors. Aim to store wood off the ground, to reduce the amount of moisture buildup in the wood. To achieve this goal, consider storing wood atop a makeshift table made of bricks or concrete blocks. To ensure bringing logs to and fro is easy, invest in a log trolley. These are available for $30 or less and can be considered a small investment in your back health. Free reclaimed wood is sometimes available from excavating companies, owners of old barns, remodelling contractors and the like. 

Insects and rodents can make their way into your fireplace either through old logs or through the chimney. Fireplace doors and chimney flues will keep rodents out, while using new wood and storing logs outside will ensure insects do not infest your home. Pests can have a big effect on your family’s health and this is especially true for those with asthma and other allergies. The good news is that being vigilant and organized will reduce the chances of a home infestation to zero.

More than 50% of homes in America have a mold problem, according to This Old House. While it’s common for bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms to develop a mold problem, homeowners rarely consider looking for it in their chimney and fireplace. However, moldy chimneys and fireplaces are more common than you think, and could be the reason for the musty smell in your home, so it’s crucial you get rid of it once and for all.

Getting to the root cause

There are several different parts of your chimney that could be to blame for mold growth. As a general rule, it could be one of four things causing the mold:

  • A lack of ventilation
  • A damaged chimney crown
  • The brick and mortar
  • A damaged chimney cap

Mold occurs in damp and cold places, so when there’s poor ventilation, any damp that does get in has nowhere to go and causes mold. If the chimney crown or chimney cap fail, this can add to the amount of moisture that gets into your chimney, thus worsening the problem. Meanwhile failing to waterproof the brick and mortar that sits within the chimney allows an increasing amount of water to build up, and will quickly lead to mold growth.

Clean up operation

When you suspect that mold has taken over your chimney and fireplace, you should cease using it and arrange for it to be cleaned. If there’s just a small amount of mold visible then you can clean it with an anti-fungal spray and a scrubbing brush. However, it’s best to call in an expert mold cleaning service, as with a chimney, you can never be sure how far the mold has spread or the true extent of the problem. To tackle mold fully, a mold remediation company will thoroughly inspect, assess, and test your chimney and fireplace. From there, they’ll treat the mold with an anti-microbial system, before checking that the mold hasn’t spread further around your home.

Solving the problem

Once the mold from your chimney and fireplace have been professionally removed, you’ll find that your home will instantly smell better. To ensure that things stay this way, you’ll need to tackle the root cause of the problem. This means replacing any faulty parts of your chimney, installing adequate ventilation, and damp-sealing all the bricks and mortar in and around the chimney. It’s also a wise idea to have your chimney professionally inspected annually. An inspection will identify any damp problems early on so that you can take action to remedy them before the mold returns and ruins the inside of the chimney, emitting that annoying musty odor.

Just like any part of your home, your chimney and fireplace are susceptible to damp and mold problems. But there’s no need to worry if you do suspect that mold is invading your chimney, as it’s simple enough to remove it. And, so long as you take preventative action to keep it at bay for good, you won’t have to deal with again.

We spend, on average, roughly 90% of our time indoors, where concentrations of pollutants can be up to five times higher than they are outdoors. For those of us burning wood indoors, this can be particularly concerning, but the good news is that by using a wood stove rather than an open fireplace, you’re already breathing in far fewer pollutants, and many of the steps you take to keep your stove eco-friendly will also help minimize the level of pollutants in your home. That said, it’s important to be aware of the effects of wood smoke and what you can do to improve your indoor air quality when you use a wood stove.

The Effects Of Burning Wood In The Home

When we breathe in wood smoke, we inhale pollutants and small particles, which can cause irritation to the lungs and eyes, and exacerbate breathing difficulties like bronchitis and asthma. Heavy exposure in the long term can lead to heart difficulties and reduced lung function, particularly in infants and older adults. 

There are a few steps you can take to reduce the amount of toxins you breathe in from wood smoke. Improving filtration and ventilation is key, as this exchanges stale air for fresh air. Air conditioning systems filter indoor air to remove airborne particles, and some also act as air purifiers - make sure you understand the parts and functions of your unit, and install air purifiers if yours doesn’t have one. Clean HEPA filters regularly, and monitor the air quality with an indoor air monitor, which will alert you if there’s a reduction of the quality of the air in your home.  

Keep Your Wood Stove Clean And Well-Maintained

Ensure that your wood stove is certified by the EPA - modern stoves are cleaner and more efficient, and this certification is required, but if you’re using a very old stove, it may be time to upgrade. Modern stoves burn less wood than older stoves, and reduce the amount of wood smoke emitted.

Ensure that any air leaks are sealed and insulated, and have your stove serviced regularly. The chimney, too, should be swept once a year to clear out creosote and pollutants. As well as keeping your air quality at its best, this will ensure the safety of your stove.

Using Your Stove For Optimum Air Quality

To keep pollutants to a minimum, burn only dry, natural wood. Damp wood doesn’t burn as easily, and will produce much more smoke, as well as generating less heat. Stack split wood off the ground for six months to a year to season it, keeping it covered with plenty of room for air flow. Cracking at the ends of the logs will show you when the wood is dry. Dry wood should also make a hollow sound when two logs are knocked against each other. You can use a moisture meter to check that the wood is dry enough - moisture content should have dropped to 15-20% before burning. 

When you’re building your fire, stack larger logs at the bottom, followed by smaller logs topped with sticks or wood chips. When you’re lighting the stove, light the top of the pile. Keep the fire hot, as this produces a cleaner fire with little visible smoke. 

Because a wood stove keeps the fire contained, it causes far less problems for indoor air quality than an open fireplace. However, in order to keep the air quality of your home as clean as possible, it’s important to keep your stove well maintained and pay attention to the moisture content of the wood you’re burning. Doing this will also reduce the stove’s environmental impact, and keep it burning at its most efficient level.

Biomass Stove Tax Credit Extended to December 31, 2020

Tax credits are powerful incentives for potentially hesitant consumers to invest in new biomass-fueled freestanding stoves and energy conservation technology. For nearly a decade,

HPBA has worked in Washington, D.C. to maintain a tax credit for purchasers of new biomass stoves so that communities and individuals can reap the financial and environmental benefits that newer, more efficient technology provides. 

UPDATE:In late December 2019, the biomass stove tax credit was extended for qualifying purchases made before December 31, 2020. Remind consumers that they are able to claim the credit on their 2018 and 2019 returns if they made a qualifying purchase in those tax years. 

HPBA continues to fight for another extension of this important incentive for consumers to invest in cleaner, more efficient technology. 

Industry Specific FAQs

When does this tax credit go into effect and how long will it last?

This tax credit is valid only for the purchase and installation of a qualifying biomass stove made before December 31, 2020. Consumers would claim the tax credit in the year in which it was purchased.

What is the Biomass Stove Tax Credit? What products qualify?

This federal tax credit is an opportunity for the hearth industry to promote energy-conscious purchases to consumers that improve the energy efficiency of their home. It is a $300 dollar-for-dollar, non-refundable, tax credit for purchasing a qualifying biomass-burning stove before December 31, 2020. Biomass simply means the stove uses wood or pellet fuel.

Any biomass appliance that meets or exceeds an energy efficiency rating of 75 percent qualifies for this credit. This credit applies to qualifying stoves that heat the air or water. However, visit your local specialty retailer who can explain which products qualify for the tax credit. Manufacturers must provide documentation proving in some way that the appliance qualifies for the credit.

What Does the IRS Say? 

Energy-efficient building property (covered by this credit includes) a stove that uses the burning of biomass fuel to heat your home or heat water for your home that has a thermal efficiency rating of at least 75%. 

What must a manufacturer's certification statement contain?

A manufacturer's certification statement must contain the following information: 

  • The name and address of the manufacturer.
  • Identification of the class of qualified energy property (Biomass-Burning Stove) in which the property is included.
  • The make, model number and any other appropriate identifiers of the stove.
  • A statement that the product is an eligible qualified energy property.
  • A manufacturer's certification statement must contain a declaration, signed by a person currently authorized to bind the manufacturer in these matters, in the following form: "Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this certification statement, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, the facts are true, correct, and complete."

If a customer claimed this tax credit in past years, may they claim it again this year?

Yes, but only if they haven't reached the credit claim cap of $500. That said, if consumers are in your store looking to update their appliance, there may be stove accessories that you could recommend to enhance their experience (even if they aren't eligible for the tax credit).

What Does the IRS Say?

If the total of any non-business energy property credits you have taken in the previous years (after 2015) is more than $500, you generally cannot take the credit. 

Why was 75 percent efficiency selected?

The 75 percent efficiency number was originally designated by the U.S. Congress in 2008 as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act and was used again for this tax credit.

Does the stove need to be manufactured in the U.S. to qualify for the credit?

No, there is no "Buy America" component to this tax credit.

What should a retailer advise the customer retain for tax purposes?

Retailers and consumers must keep exact records of any sale or purchase. Retailers should provide a consumer with the manufacturer's certification statement for the specific product model purchased. A consumer may rely on a manufacturer's certification statement that their products are qualified energy property. A taxpayer is not required to attach the certification statement to the return on which the credit is claimed. A consumer claiming a credit for the qualified non-business energy property should retain the certification statement as part of the taxpayer's records.

Manufacturers should make this certification document available to consumers on their website, in the product packaging, or in some other easily accessible manner.

What Does the IRS Say?

For purposes of taking the credit, you can rely on a manufacturer’s certification in writing that a product is qualified residential energy property. Do not attach the certification to your return. Keep it for your records.

With 8.8 million households in the United States using wood stoves as a secondary source for heating, regular maintenance and cleaning of the appliance is a necessity for many people nationwide. However, many wood stove owners may not be familiar with the importance of cleaning their stoves, how to do it, or when to let a professional step in. Whether you’ve just installed a wood stove in preparation for winter or you’ve had one for some time, here are some of the basics about care and cleaning that you should know.

The importance of proper care

While cleaning your wood stove might sound redundant (until it becomes noticeable), it’s an important part of owning a wood stove that should never be overlooked. This is because an unclean stove — including both the chimney and flue — can not only prevent it from working properly, but can easily become a fire hazard due to the build-up of creosote, which also makes it a health hazard as well. With that said, the cleaning and proper care of your wood stove are necessary for proper efficiency and safety, as regular maintenance can help keep your stove in an ideal condition that doesn't harm anyone's health.

Cleaning your stove 

While how often your wood stove gets cleaned depends upon how often it’s used, it should still be done at least once a year. When it does need to be cleaned, always begin with the stove completely cold in order to avoid burning yourself. Then, you can scoop out the ashes with an ash shovel and wire brush and put them in a metal bucket. Next, scour the buildup and rust off with a wire brush. The exterior of the stove can easily be cleaned with a vinegar solution and rag. As for the glass, a cold piece of charcoal can easily rub away any soot, and after you wipe it with a paper towel, you’ll find that it’s clean. However, when it comes to cleaning more complicated aspects of your stove — like the chimney and flue — calling a professional can be a good idea.

When to call a professional

Calling a professional to clean your stove is never a bad idea, especially if you don’t feel comfortable with cleaning the stove yourself or don’t have the proper equipment to do so safely. Professionals can ensure that your stove is properly and safely cleaned, inspected, and safe for use. Many may use high tech equipment as well, which can be expensive to buy and hard to obtain for personal use. Thus, calling a professional can prove to be a quality and convenient service for wood stove owners, in addition to bringing peace of mind and reducing stress surrounding the issue.

While it’s definitely possible to clean your wood stove yourself, it’s necessary to be informed of the several safety precautions to take when doing so. For example, when disposing of the ashes, it’s necessary to do so properly by keeping them in a metal bucket for 24 hours (in case they contain any live coals). It’s also very important to take care when cleaning the chimney in order to prevent falling off the roof. Due to the extent of safety precautions needed, utilizing a professional is always a great idea. 

Cleaning your wood stove and keeping up with its maintenance is an absolute necessity in order to keep it working properly and safely. While many may call a professional to do so, others may choose to take care of it themselves. No matter the situation, it’s important to be aware of the safety precautions involved.

Winter is just around the corner, which means that an increasing number of Americans will start their preparations for the colder weather.  While many households make use of electric or gas heating sources, as many as 4.8 million homes use a wood stove, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Despite rendering exceptional heat and being very economical, many homeowners wonder whether wood stoves affect indoor air quality. Although excess smoke can pose a problem, there are a number of ways to ensure that your wood stove is as safe and eco-friendly as possible in its maintenance and usage.  

Use dry wood

Dry wood not only creates substantially hotter fires but less smoke as well. Where possible, collect your wood, chop it, and leave it to air dry for at least a year before using it. This will not only result in a reduction in indoor air pollution but also save you money as no heat will be wasted on evaporation. You can make your fires even more eco-friendly by collecting branches and trees that have already fallen or using wood that would otherwise have been destined for the landfill. You can even try and source offcuts from your local joiner or sawmill but take care to not use anything that has been painted or treated in any way.

Allow enough air to circulate

If you want the air inside your home to be as clean as possible you need to ensure that there is adequate ventilation. Apart from making use of a sound chimney system, you also need to make sure that there is no furniture blocking the vents. You should also consider opening a window or two a bit in order to have fresh air enter the home while letting any excess smoke and gas emissions escape. Take care not to open your windows too much, however, as you don’t want all the lovely heat your stove is generating, to escape.  

Give your stove and chimney some TLC

One of the simplest ways to make your wood stove more environmentally-friendly is to keep both the stove and your chimney well-maintained.  Remove creosote build-up from your stove on a regular basis with a special detergent and limit future build-up by only making fires with seasoned, dry wood. Your chimney is a very important component of your wood stove.  Apart from posing a fire risk, a chimney that is filled with soot and creosote can also leave the house filled with an unpleasant smoke. In order for a chimney to remain clean, it has to be thoroughly inspected and swept at least two times a year.

A wood stove can be a great addition to any home, especially during the colder months. As long as you take the necessary steps to combat any indoor air pollution as much as possible, you will be able to enjoy the wonderful heat omitted by your stove without suffering from any adverse effects. 

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