Fireplaces and chimneys caused an average 24,300 house fires annually between 2009 and 2011, according to the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission. While our goal isn’t to deter you from a cozy fire, there are several maintenance precautions we encourage you to take before lighting your fireplace this fall and winter. By following Wyckoff’s few simple tips, you can ensure your fireplace will not only be up and running efficiently, but that it is operating safely.
Clean the Chimney and Fireplace
If you own a wood burning fireplace, it’s imperative to have your chimney cleaned once every year, or once every other year for gas fireplaces. Wood burning fireplaces can accumulate soot which serves as a potential fire hazard. Regular cleaning is a good idea even for families who don’t utilize their chimney often, as animals may build nests in the flue or deterioration could make the chimney unsafe.
Additional benefits to cleaning is up to a 70 percent savings on the cost of running the fireplace and improved air quality. Be sure to utilize cleaning services from certified professionals, like those at Wyckoff Heating & Cooling. Remember, the investment ensures effective cleaning that could save you in the long run.
Seal and insulate
Make sure your chimney is covered with a wire mesh covering to protect the interior from animals, rain and debris. Check that your chimney has a cap and that it is functioning properly. At this time you should also look for cracks, deteriorated lining, loose bricks or any signs of damage. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, chimney cracks can allow smoke in your home or expose components to high temps that result in a fire. Follow-up by sealing and insulating cracks and crevices in your home to improve indoor temperatures and save energy.
Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home to provide adequate warning in case of a fire. Consider investing in a fire extinguisher to minimize the risk of a small fire getting out of hand.
Wood Burning Specific Tips:
Check the blower and damper
Blowers on most wood burning fireplaces do not automatically filter impurities from the air. This debris can accumulate within the blower and create a fire hazard. Be sure to clean out the blower and inspect the flue damper to confirm it is opening and closing properly. Keep in mind that a damper that does not seal well will allow heat to escape from the home when the fireplace is not in use.
Use the correct wood
When burning a wood fire, use dense wood that has been stored in a dry area for an extended period of time, approximately six months. Softer woods create more creosote in the chimney. Remember to store firewood a minimum of 30 feet away from your home. Never us flammable liquids to start fires, and never burn cardboard, trash or debris in your fireplace.
Gas Specific Tips:
Test the igniter
Turn off the gas at the shut-off valve and test the igniter to ensure it’s producing a spark by pressing it several times. You should see a small spark. If your igniter is not functioning properly, contact a certified professional to ensure your fireplace is up and running when you need it.
Inspect glass coverings and doors
Look over all coverings for cracks or latch issues. Keep doors open when the fire is burning and closed when the fire is out. You should utilize the fire screen to prevent sparks from leaving the fireplace and flying into your room.
Check for clogged burner holes
If burner holes become clogged, the fireplace will not be allowed the proper air to mix with the gas as it flows into the gas log. This in turn, creates an incomplete combustion and will inhibit the fireplace from functioning properly. Obstructions can often be removed with a needle or pin.