While there are few things as inviting as a roaring fire on a cold winter’s night, if not properly maintained, a fireplace and its chimney could end up causing not only serious damage to your home but adversely affecting your health as well. Therefore, regular chimney cleaning is essential to a safe and health home.
Fireplaces date as far back as the Middle Ages and were the primary means of heating residential dwellings. They weren’t the most efficient method of doing so, however, and even Benjamin Franklin pointed out that, “the strongest heat from the fire, which is upwards, goes directly up the chimney and is lost” [Source: Carlsen].
Over the course of the centuries, fireplace technology has improved greatly with today’s models providing more heat, producing less waste and safer operation. Nevertheless, fireplaces are still valued more for their decorative features rather than actual heating capabilities. This is because regardless of the improvements, they still remain one of the most inefficient methods of generating heat.
Drawbacks to chimneys and fireplaces include:
- A chimney removes by-products from a fire by creating a draft, which also pulls away air (warm or cool) from your home
- As long as there’s a temperature difference between indoors and out, there will be a chimney draft even without a fire in the fireplace.
- Smoke from the fireplace can contain harmful chemicals
- Fireplaces don’t qualify as “green” energy because they can contribute to air pollution
- There’s a real danger if not properly operated, it could set the house on fire
The importance of proper chimney cleaning cannot be overemphasized! Many toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, are produced by home heating equipment and escape via the chimney. If the chimney is blocked by soot build-up, animal nests or is damaged in any way, there’s a danger of being poisoned by these toxic gases. Furthermore, age and exposure to the elements can have a negative affect on a chimney, leading to damage or outright collapse.
The National Fire Protection Association and the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommend that homeowners carry out annual chimney inspections. Ideally, you should contact a chimney inspection company and contractor.
The Dos and Don’ts of hiring chimney companies:
- DON’T: hire a chimney inspection company that also does repairs, especially ones offering inexpensive inspections and recommending expensive repairs
- Do: check references, their record with the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Protection Agency and State Attorney General’s office
- DON’T: work with a company that doesn’t have adequate liability insurance
To find out more about how to make the best use of your fireplace, contact your local RESNET Certified Professional.