Why a Chimney Needs Inspected

Before you light the first fire of the season, your chimney needs inspected.

See why your chimney needs inspected before you strike a match and light the first fireplace fire of the season. Learn how your fireplace, a focal point for warm, happy family gatherings, can, without care, pose deadly hazards.

The two most serious hazards are chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.  All you have to do to beat these two hazards is to keep your chimney clean and free of obstructions.

#One Reason Your Chimney Needs Inspected before You Light the First Fire of the Season: Chimney Fires

Your chimney needs inspected, and possibly cleaned, to prevent a chimney fire.

Chimney fires start when creosote deposited on the inside of the chimney flue catches fire.  All types of wood produce creosote when they burn.  Creosote build-up is minimized when fires burn hot with a good draft.  It’s worst when wet, uncured wood burns at a low temperature with lots of steam.  Softwoods don’t necessarily produce more creosote than hardwoods.  The important factor is the temperature of the fire.

Chimney fires sometimes smolder for several days, out of sight and out of mind until they penetrate to the wooden structure of the home, causing a house fire.  Or, chimney fires can create a super draft up the chimney producing a roar like a jet plane.

Here’s how to prevent a chimney fire:

  1. Have your chimney inspected annually, in the fall, before you light your first fire.  A licensed, insured chimney sweep can remove virtually all of the creosote that has built up.  Chimney sweeps do much more than inspect and clean your flue.  They are trained to care for the total health of your fireplace and chimney including leaky flues, unsealed connections, and mortar deterioration. But avoid chimney sweep scams.
  2. During the winter season while you are using the fireplace, inspect the chimney about monthly yourself.  Use a flashlight to look for creosote deposits above the firebox and, if possible, down the flue from the roof.
  3. Creosote can look sooty, bumpy, or shiny.   Using a screwdriver, scrape off a bit of the creosote so you can estimate its thickness.  If the deposit is 1/8” thick it poses a distinct hazard and must be cleaned.  If it’s ¼” thick, you should not use the fireplace until it has been cleaned.  Shiny or glazed creosote must be professionally removed.

# Two Reason Your Chimney Needs Inspected before You Light the First Fire of the Season: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Anything that burns produces carbon monoxide, and odorless gas that is potentially deadly.  People who breathe carbon monoxide can become unconscious and die.  Fireplaces can send carbon monoxide into the room if there is an obstruction, like a raccoon nest for example, inside the chimney.  Carbon monoxide can also come from a fireplace with a poor draft.  If your fireplace sends smoke into the room instead of up through the chimney, carbon monoxide is present.

Here’s how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  1. Install a plugin or battery powered carbon monoxide detector. If it requires a battery, replace it twice a year, when the time changes to and from Daylight Savings Time.Your chimney needs inspected to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  2. Inspect the inside of your chimney.  The best way is to have someone shine a flashlight up the chimney while you look down the chimney.  If you see anything that obstructs the chimney, it must be removed before you use the fireplace.
  3. If your fire is not burning briskly, especially if any smoke is coming out into the room, open a window.

 

So play it safe: Have your chimney inspected and cleaned if needed, and install a carbon monoxide detector before you light the first fire of the season.

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Posted in Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance, Safety Tagged with: ,

Build a Fire: What to Do, Not to Do

Build a Fire in Your Fireplace: Do's and Don'ts

A dozen tips on what to do and what to avoid doing to build a fire easily and safely in your fireplace:

  • Do have a chimney sweep inspect and clean your flue annually.
  • Do take the time to ‘stack’ your fire correctly to build a fire that will light easily and remain lit:
   3-4 balled-up sheets of newspaper under the grate, then
   a handful of tinder: slivers of pine or fatwood, then
   4-5 pieces of kindling : 1 inch square sticks of firewood.
   Add firewood only after the kindling is burning.

  • Do warm your flue before lighting the fire: Make a “torch” by twisting together 2-3 sheets of newspaper, lighting it, and holding it near the opening of the flue, near the top of your firebox.
To build a fire, use dry, split hardwood that has seasoned at least 6 months.
  • Don’t use salt-treated or painted wood in your fireplace.
    (Fumes from salt-treated or painted wood may be toxic.)Do not use painted wood to build a fire.
  • Don’t burn more pine or other softwood than necessary to get the fire started.
(Burning softwood deposits creosote in your flue, increasing the chance of a chimney fire.)

 

  • Don’t burn newspaper or magazine pages with colored print or gift wrapping paper.
(The fumes may be toxic.)

 

  • Don’t ever use gasoline or kerosene to start a fire in your fireplace.
(An explosion is a real possibility.)
When you build a fire in your fireplace, woodstove or fire pit, follow these tips to have a fire that will easily light and remain lit.
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Posted in Safety, Using Your Fireplace Tagged with:

Fire Prevention Week 2014

National Fire Prevention Week 2014

Over 85 percent of homes in America have at least one smoke alarm. But one in three smoke alarms is not functioning! The goal of Fire Prevention Week 2014 (October 5-11) is to make it easy to remember to test your smoke alarms each month.

Simply download the Test Your Smoke Alarm Every Month Calendar. Cut it out; tape it somewhere convenient; and check off each month on the calendar when you test your smoke alarms.

Download the NFPA's Test-Your-Smoke-Alarm Calendar

 

National Fire Prevention Week Monthly Smoke Alarm Test Calendar

Download the National Fire Prevention Week 2014 Monthly “Test Your Smoke Alarm Every Month” Calendar. Every month when you test your smoke alarms, check that month off on the Calendar.

Fire Prevention Week 2014 Theme

Every year a theme is chosen for Fire Prevention Week to focus public attention on fire safety in the home and business place.  The theme of National Fire Prevention Week 2014 (October 5-11) is “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives:  Test Yours Every Month.”

The key word there is WORKING.  Smoke alarms with dead batteries cannot keep you and your family alive. And smoke alarms older than than 8 years may no longer work properly. Have no idea how old your smoke alarms are? Their date of manufacture is printed on them. If yours has no date, then it was made before manufacturers were required to include the date  – so it has definitely expired, and it’s time to get a new smoke alarm.

How to Test a Smoke Alarm

Testing smoke alarms is really very easy:

Use a yardstick, umbrella or broom handle to push the little TEST button on each smoke alarm.  If you don’t hear a loud beep, change the battery.

Use an umbrella to reach the test button on your smoke alarm.

 

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) is the nation’s leading authority on fire prevention.

NFPA says to install smoke alarms

  • in every bedroom,
  • outside each sleeping area and
  • on every level of your home.

A working smoke alarm is the cheapest and best life insurance you can buy. So get your NFPA Test Your Smoke Alarm Every Month Calendar.

Download the NFPA's Test-Your-Smoke-Alarm Calendar

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Posted in Holidays, Safety Tagged with:

5 Ways to Save Energy This Fall

Ways to Save Energy and Lower Utility Bills

As cooler weather approaches, here are 5 ways to save energy in your home starting this Fall. Any homeowner can do these energy saving tasks, as they require no special skills. Best of all, each one is a simple, low- or no-cost way to reduce your energy bills over the winter.

Free or Low-Cost Ways to Save Energy in Cooler Months

1.      Replace Furnace Filter – Cost: $10-$50

Your furnace or heat pump has an air filter that captures dust and dirt from air going into the heating system.  The filter is usually located behind a grill in a wall or ceiling.  Open the grill, write down the model number of the existing filter and buy a replacement filter just like it.  A clean air filter saves energy and improves the quality of the air you breathe.

A clean air filter can save you 5% to 15% on your utility bill.

One of 5 Ways to Save Energy: Replace furnace filter

 

2.      Close Fireplace Damper –  Cost: FREE
Better Yet, Install Top Mount Damper: – Cost: $200

Your chimney can allow warm air, and the dollars it took to warm the air, to leave your home.  As you know, warm air rises.  The damper installed just above your fireplace can close off the upward flow of heated air.  Find it and learn how to open and close it.  Closing the damper when the fireplace is not in use can reduce energy loss by about 20 percent.

1 of 5 Ways to Save Energy: Close fireplace dampler when fireplace is not in use

A top mounted damper is installed at the top of your chimney.  These dampers close more tightly than the damper at your fireplace.  You open and close the top damper by means of a stainless steel cable that runs down the chimney to a handle in the firebox.  Open the top damper only when you want to use your fireplace.   Close it after the fire goes out. Using a top-mount damper can reduce energy loss by up to 90 percent.

One of 5 Ways to Save Energy: Install a top-mount fireplace damper

Note that certain gas fireplace models require the damper to stay open. Check the manual of your gas fireplace for complete instructions.

3.      Close the Crawl Space Foundation Vents on Your Home – Cost: FREE

Last Spring you opened the air vents in your foundation to let your crawl space breathe and dry out, right?  If you did, you’ll want to close them this Fall to prevent heat loss from the crawl space into the outer air, and to keep cold air from entering the crawl space and cooling your home.  Remember to close the crawl space vents at TURKEY TIME (Thanksgiving) and open them at TAX TIME (April 15), starting this Fall.

Keeping the foundation vents closed during cold weather helps keep your floors, the heating system ducts, and the water pipes under your home warmer.

If your vents don’t close, use an inexpensive Sytrofoam foundation vent cover.

The energy savings will depend upon your climate and how cold this winter is.

1 of 5 Ways to Save Energy: Close crawl space vents in cold weather

4.      Reverse Direction of Ceiling Fan Blades to Clockwise – Cost: FREE

Remember, heat rises.  That means that warm air is hovering near your ceiling.  Check your ceiling fans to see if their switches allow you to reverse the flow of air downwards to push warm air down into the room.  When your fan runs counterclockwise it moves air upwards, creating a cooling sensation as air rushes past your skin.  When you reverse the direction of rotation to clockwise, your fan will move warm air downwards.

If your fan does not have a reverse switch, which is located on the side of the hub, you can buy an after-market reversible switch for about $40.00.

Although 80 percent of American homes have at least one ceiling fan, only 20 percent of ceiling fan owners take advantage of the energy savings by reversing their direction for the season.

Reversing your ceiling fans in the Fall can save you up to 10% of your energy costs.

One of 5 Ways to Save Energy: Reverse the rotation of ceiling fans

 

5.      Insulate Hot Water Pipes – Cost: $10 per 12 feet of pipe

You can save energy and prevent pipes from freezing by covering them with inexpensive foam piping insulation.  The insulation is a foam tube with a hole in the middle for the pipe and a slit in the side so you can slip the pipe inside.  Insulating the pipes that carry hot water from your water heater to faucets and showers throughout the house can save you money by keeping the heat where it belongs.  Insulating any pipe, hot or cold, helps protect the water inside it from freezing in cold weather.

Insulating hot water pipes can save you about 2 percent on your energy bills.

One of 5 Ways to Save Energy: Insulate hot water pipes

 

These are just some of the ways to save energy costs during the cooler months. The advantage of these is that they are all easy, low-cost or free ways to keep your energy bills in check.

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