Outdoor wood boilers have become quite common in the north country in recent years. With wood, people save a lot of money over a traditional heat source, and by locating their wood burner outside, they reduce fire danger and the mess associated with an indoor wood stove.
If you are considering installing an outdoor wood boiler, you may be wondering if and how it might affect your Homeowners insurance. The answer is actually that there is not one simple answer. Different insurance companies view outdoor wood boilers quite differently. Some insurance companies may not continue your insurance if you install one. Others may allow the boiler but increase your rates and/or provide certain guidelines that your system must meet. Still other carriers may not care at all that you installed the unit.
Given all the differences on wood boilers from one insurance company to the next, one of the advantages we have as an independent agency is having multiple insurance carriers available to find the right fit for our client's situation.
As I mentioned, some insurance companies may not allow your wood boiler irregardless of your setup and others might not care at all about the system, but I have put together a list of tips that may make it easier to insure your wood boiler, also enhancing the safety of your system at the same time:
Clearance is definitely going to be the biggest concern with many insurance carriers. While clearance requirements may not always be this stringent with every company, many carriers may require that your wood boiler be situated at least fifty feet away from your home, your outbuildings and any other flammables. Some carriers may also want to see a safe clearance from the location that you store the wood for the boiler.
Many insurance companies may want to make sure that your boiler has been tested to be safe by a testing laboratory, UL being the most common. Ask your wood boiler dealer if the unit is UL approved, or look for the UL circle or testing number on the unit's information plate.
Some insurance companies will be concerned about a "do it yourself" job to connect the water pipes in your house, bury and freeze-proof your water lines, etc. While this may not be a deal breaker with every carrier, the best thing you can do is have your new system professionally installed.
While you may have situated your wood boiler away from your buildings, there could still be a danger of a spark exiting the chimney and starting a grassfire, which could still threaten your structures. You can reduce this risk by installing a small device at the top of your chimney called a spark arrester. A spark arrester might cost between $15 and $50 and may be purchased from your wood boiler dealer, from a local supply store or online from popular retailers.
Some insurance companies require that your unit be situated on a solid concrete slab and may also require a concrete apron extend several feet to the front of your boiler.
If you are installing a new wood boiler system and have insurance questions, I'd enjoy hearing from you. Or perhaps you already have an existing wood boiler system and are having insurance issues. Either way, I invite you to contact me to discuss further.
Here in the North Country, ice dams are something that should be on your radar. An ice dam typically forms when water from melting snow on warmer areas of your roof flows down to the much colder eaves, where it then refreezes. The resulting blockage forces subsequent snowmelt to back up, which may possibly damage shingles. In the worst case, that damage leads to roof leaks, allowing water to cause potentially serious damage to your home’s interior. Prevention is the key.
• Cleaning your gutters and downspouts before the first snow hits to maximize your drainage.
• Keeping your roof and eaves as close to the same temperature as possible – proper attic insulation is the key. Use weatherstripping at attic access points.
• If practical, removing snow buildup from your roof with a snow rake or similar tool to minimize the runoff.
If you plan to be gone during the winter months, remember to ask a family member or friend to check on your home during your absence. Early identification of an ice dam can lead to intervention that prevents extensive damage, such as ceiling collapses.
Includes content reprinted by permission, The Mines Press, Inc. November 2014
Ken Cobb is owner of Pine Country Insurance and has been active in the insurance industry for over 15 years. Meet Ken.
Coverage descriptions found in this blog are summaries provided for general educational purposes and cannot fully detail the terms, conditions, limitations or exclusions of a specific insurance policy. Please read your policy carefully.