Hugh Cairns: Hot topic – W.E.T.T. reports

Improper installations can result in fire hazards. All wood stoves must meet combustion clearances. There are a number of standards relating distances and wall protection materials, that your WE.T.T. inspection professional can help you with.  Photo: Contributed – (Hugh Cairns)

Nothing beats a toasty fire on colder days. Wood burning inserts, wood stoves and fireplaces provide a house with warmth and ambience. It is estimated that burning wood (or pellets and other wood derivatives) as a primary or supplemental heat source accounts for about 10% of the energy used for space heating in our province. Not surprisingly, once one leaves the Lower Mainland and the lower Fraser Valley, approximately one-quarter of BC households burn wood in an appliance other than an open fireplace. The farther north you go wood burning for indoor heat increases.

There are many reasons why people enjoy wood burning. Homeowners that heat their homes with wood cite cost savings and ample supplies of wood as reasons for their preference. Others heat with wood for ambience or to rely less on energy providers. Others burn wood because it is a renewable resource.

Wood burning technology is big business here in BC. In 2008, there were four manufacturers of wood and pellet stoves operating, collectively they produced some 75,000 appliances. The BC market is significant in itself but the majority of their products are exported. Add in the cord-wood industry and pellet production, thousands of British Columbians rely on wood energy technology for their livelihoods.

Whether you are buying or selling a home, or have a wood burning appliance in use, a regular thorough “WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) report” will give you peace-of-mind regarding its safety.  Notice that I said “WETT report”. There is no such thing as a WETT inspection, nor can any appliance be WETT certified. What is issued is an inspection report by someone who is WETT certified. All too often WETT professionals are asked for a “WETT Certificate,” a “WETT Certification,” a “WETT Approval” or they asked if a wood burning appliance is a “WETT Certified installation”. All of which are incorrect. What should be issued is an inspection report, performed by a person who is WETT certified. This is a common misconception that the WETT industry is working hard to clear up.

There are no current legal requirements in Canada for a person to be WETT certified in order to perform inspections and provide reports, but many insurance companies are insisting that inspection reports, the installation and maintenance of wood-burning appliances and equipment be performed by someone who is WETT certified. Interestingly, the installation and maintenance of wood burning appliances is not regulated in Canada, so it just makes sense to seek out a WETT professional in any case.

There are a variety of reasons an WETT inspection report is requested. They include; an insurance underwriters request, pre-purchase reports for prospective homebuyers, system performance issues or signs of damage. Systems that are not functioning properly, are damaged or causing concerns such as smoke spillage, rapid creosote accumulation, require immediate W.E.T.T. inspection. If you have an existing wood appliance you know that ensuring that it is in top working order and good structural condition ensures safety.

It is reported that one-in-seven house fires is caused by a wood stove. Since there has been little regulation regarding wood stove installations their installations have been hit and miss. Many units have been installed without permits. Modifications to existing systems are often undertaken without permits or thought to what is safe and what is not.

If you’ve had the benefit of working with Kurt Patterson of Kurt’s Services here in Kelowna, you’ll know that he is one of the most reputable wood burning appliance industry professional in the Okanagan Valley. Kurt has the highest level of Wood Energy Technology Transfer (WETT) certification that puts him in the forefront of professionals that can inspect, report on and repair wood burning appliances. In addition, Kurt installs new units meeting stringent requirements.

Typically, when Kurt conducts a WETT inspection of a home’s wood burning appliances he does it through a thorough visual examination of the fireplace, wood stove, chimney, flue pipe and hearth. In addition, Kurt checks to see if appliances are installed correctly. He’ll make solid recommendations for you. He’ll also examine the positioning of the appliance to determine that it’s a safe distance from other combustible materials.

To learn more about Kurt’s Services and why his is regarded as a top notch W.E.T.T. certified inspector and installer, contact him today at 250-575-9063.