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Homeowners insurance covers fires that are started accidentally by alternative heating sources; however, you should speak with your insurer regarding any alternative heating source you plan to use.

Alternative heating sources, such as kerosene heaters or stoves for burning wood, pellets, corn or coal, can save money on heating, but they’re also fire hazards, especially if they’re not installed or used properly. Negligence on your part can lead to a denied claim.

Home insurance companies often charge higher rates for homes that have a higher risk of a damaging event like a fire, and it’s important that the company know about any such risk in your home, including heat sources. You may also have a claim denied if you didn’t disclose the use of alternative heating sources.

Key Takeaways

  • Using a wood or pellet stove to heat your home can save on heating costs; however, it may cause you to pay more for home insurance.
  • Alternative heating sources are fire hazards if they are not installed and used properly.
  • Insurance companies may ask to inspect the heater or wood stove to make sure it has the proper clearance and permits.

Does homeowners insurance cover alternative heating sources?

Generally, damage caused by an alternative heater will be covered by your home insurance because fire is a covered peril. That means if your heating source combusts something nearby or explodes, you’re covered.

There are limitations; for example, most companies won’t pay for fire damage if your alternative heating system was installed without the proper permits and/or inspection.

Most insurance companies ask new customers if they have heaters like wood stoves when they apply for policies. Failure to disclose the heater can result in your insurance policy being canceled or a claim denied.

Alternative heating claims: Common hazards

Wood-burning stoves and other alternative heating sources come with a lot of risks and fires can start in a number of ways.

“People think it’s always the open flame, but a lot of claims occur after the fire has been put out and people go to bed thinking they’re safe,” says Terry McConnell, manager of Personal Lines Underwriting for Erie Insurance Co.. He says the problem is what’s not visible: material behind the wall or in the chimney lining that has heated to the point of combustion.

“And you see the odd things,” says McConnell. “People put ashes in garbage in the garage but they smolder and start the garage on fire. Or people vacuum the ashes and the nozzle blows out hot ashes, or you fill up a sweeper bag and you’ve got coals inside that are smoldering.”

Whether or not you’ll pay additional premiums due to your alternative heating depends on your insurer and the type of heater.

Tips for heating your home safely

Have your alternative heating system installed by a licensed contractor to ensure it’s installed safely, and follow these guidelines:

    • Place a pellet stove to allow access to proper venting and electrical sources and meet minimum required clearances.
    • Choose a stove that has been tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
    • Maintain at least 36″ of clearance between a wood stove and combustible materials, or use fire-resistant materials.
    • Make sure the wood-stove pipe doesn’t pass through a floor, closet, concealed space or enter the chimney in the attic.
    • Have your fireplace inspected annually by a professional.
    • Install a cap at the top of your chimney to keep out debris and animals.
    • Never burn garbage, rolled newspapers, charcoal or plastic in a fireplace and never use an accelerant.
    • Make sure a fire in the fireplace is completely extinguished before closing the damper.

    author image
    Ashlee Tilford


    Ashlee, a former managing editor, insurance, at QuinStreet, is a journalist and business professional. She earned an MBA in 2014 with a concentration in finance. She has more than 15 years of hands-on experience in the finance industry.