Our Company Blog

Carbon Monoxide Dangers

Your home is your safe place, where you and your family gather to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company. Because of this, you want to keep your home as safe and free from harm as possible. There are many dangers present inside a home, and a little due diligence, care and maintenance can help protect you and your family from harm.

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Carbon Monoxide: A Silent Killer

Carbon monoxide is a big concern for many homeowners, because they know it is something to fear but don’t necessarily understand what it is. Simply put, carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is extremely poisonous. Carbon monoxide is most commonly produced from fuels that have not been burned completely such as wood, oil, natural gas and charcoal. Appliances that use these types of fuel can leave behind carbon monoxide and should be handled with extreme care.

Carbon Monoxide And Wood-Burning Heaters

Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are of particular concern to many homeowners because they can emit carbon monoxide. This is of even greater concern during the winter months when wood-burning appliances are more frequently used to heat homes across the US. Luckily for homeowners, there are many things you can do to prevent dangerous carbon monoxide from entering your home.

Safe Wood-Burning Practices

With some simple safe practices, you can alleviate the risk of carbon monoxide. First and foremost, use your fireplace or wood stove according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and only use wood-burning heating appliances you are completely confident you know how to operate. Unsafe handling of any wood stove or fireplace is a surefire way to use it incorrectly and unsafely.

Additionally, always store your wood outdoors where it is protected from the elements because seasoned wood that is properly dried will burn hotter than other types of wood. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends a moisture content of less than twenty percent. You want to burn fires that are as hot as possible, and dry wood, as well as dry kindling is the first step to that. Never burn wood that is rotted, moldy or wet. Other safe burning practices include:

Making sure your fires are lit in a well-ventilated area.

Never burning painted, pressure-treated wood or particleboard because these will emit chemicals.

Never burn household garbage in your heating appliance.

Regularly remove ashes from the firebox.

Burn fires as hot as possible. Remember, a smoldering fire may not be a safe fire.

You also want to keep your fireplace/stove and chimney as clean as possible to allow fires to burn extremely hot. A professional chimney sweeping company like Chief Chimney Services, Inc in Suffolk County is committed to keeping your chimney clean, professionally swept and free of any harmful residue. We want your fireplace to work efficiently, but more important than that, we are passionate about keeping you and your family safe from harmful build-up and the potential threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. Take every preventative measure possible when it comes to keeping your home safe, and start with a clean, efficient fireplace or stove that your family can enjoy for years to come.

Proper Use of a Wood-Burning Appliance

Winter is closing in fast, seeing as much of the country has already experienced the first snowfall of the season. With forecasts predicting a winter just as brutal as the last, people are thinking hard about how to stay warm. Jackets, hats, scarves, and gloves will suffice for being outside, but keeping warm inside requires something different. For homeowners utilizing wood-burning appliances, like stoves, fireplaces or furnaces, now is the time to start stocking up on fuel before it becomes too scarce.

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Types of Wood to Burn

Before even considering what species of tree you should choose to burn in the fireplace, the first trait of firewood to consider is its dryness. Dry firewood has gone through a “seasoning” process, meaning it has sat inside and been allowed to dry out for a set amount of time. Some wood only needs six months to season, while denser varieties can require up to two years to fully season. If the wood you bought was stacked outside, it likely contains a high water content, and that sets you up for cool, smoky fires.

The next factor to consider is the hardness of the wood. Do hardwoods or softwoods burn better? Naturally, that depends. Hardwoods, like oak, maple, and hickory, burn very hot and for a long time. These woods also create a hot bed of coals to increase the temperature and longevity of the fire. On the downside, they do not light very easily. Softwoods, on the other hand, light quickly and make good kindling. They do not serve well for long-term fires, though, because they burn fast and at lower temperatures. In essence, a good mixture of the two types of wood should meet your wood-burning needs.

Along with good types of wood to burn, you also need to know what not to burn. As discussed, wet wood is a poor choice. Much of the fires energy goes toward boiling the water instead of producing heat, which wastes your money. Also, do not burn paper or other thin materials because they burn very fast and hot, and this can damage parts of your appliance or chimney. Of course, avoid burning synthetic materials, including plastics and foams, because they release harmful materials into the air.

How to Burn Properly

Everyone with a fireplace has at least a general idea of how to start a fire, but many people do not know how to start a fire well and keep it going efficiently. First, you need to open your damper to allow the fumes to escape once the fire is lit. If the damper is low in the chimney, allow it to sit open for a few minutes before lighting up to let the flue warm up slightly. When starting the fire, start is small so it does not consume oxygen too quickly and extinguish itself. If the fire seems to sputter after burning for a few minutes, the oxygen concentration might be too low. Try opening a window or letting the fire shrink in size.

For more information and tips on proper use of a wood-burning fireplace, stove, or furnace, contact Chief Chimney Services, Inc.

Three Common Chimney Inspection Stories

Fred and his family have lived in the same home since it was built over 9 years ago. Every year during the cooler months, they enjoy gathering around the big pot belly stove that sits in the corner of their living room, providing warmth and comfort as it always has. Fred marks the beginning of the season with his annual order of one cord of firewood, which usually gets him through, more or less. The wood is always properly seasoned and stored, and on the day it arrives, his wife will make a big pot of chili as she always does, and the kids will help him unload the wood and stack it on the rack. Afterwards, they will all gather around in the living room and enjoy the first golden fire of the season.

The Firewood is Ready - Suffolk NY - Chief Chimney Services

The Firewood is Ready – Suffolk NY – Chief Chimney Services

But Fred has never taken this important appliance for granted. Every year, he calls out his local chimney service company to perform a Level 1 inspection, and if necessary, a cleaning. The purpose of the inspection is to make sure that the stove and venting are in good serviceable condition, and there are no leaks, combustible deposits or obstructions. Since Fred uses the stove every year, and nothing has changed in 9 years, a Level 1 inspection is all that is needed to keep a well-maintained system working like it always has.

But late last spring there was an earthquake. Nothing too big, but everyone in the area felt it, and most of his neighbors had gathered out in the street in the middle of the night, in slippers and robes, comparing notes and calming down the kids and dogs before returning to bed. Later that same year, several friends down the street had reported some cracks they had never noticed before in the masonry of their homes. It was generally agreed that these new issues were probably related to the earthquake.

So this year, Fred needed a Level 2 inspection of his chimney, just to be safe. In a Level 2 inspection, a certified and trained chimney specialist will use a video camera to inspect the inside liner of the chimney flue, looking for cracks or gaps or other damage that would prevent safe use of a fireplace or stove. The professional will also access hidden areas that intersect with the chimney system, such as basements, crawl spaces or attics, to make sure that proper clearance to combustibles is observed.

During his inspection, the technician observed no damage to the brick, mortar or liner of the chimney system. But when he was in the attic, he did find that a large, high-placed box had spilled over, probably during the earthquake, and its clothing contents had landed against the outer bricks of the chimney, causing a fire hazard. Fred was more than happy to pay for this discovery, because it meant that his family was spared any unnecessary risk that year.

Also this year, Fred has an opportunity to purchase his first rental property. It’s a real country fixer-upper, but given the price and the way the market for such properties has been going, it’s almost too good a deal to pass up.

Given the age and condition of the house, Fred made sure that his offer was contingent upon a Level 3 inspection of the two chimneys, among other things. A Level 3 inspection means that it is necessary to remove certain components of the building or chimney in order to gain the access needed to properly inspect a chimney. In this case, it meant that a small section of plaster above the location of the old stove in the kitchen needed to be removed so that the inspector could determine if repairs would be necessary before a new wood-burning kitchen stove was installed. It also was necessary to remove a chimney crown on the second chimney, which was already in bad repair. These inspections revealed what they needed to reveal, and Fred made adjustments to his offer. If all goes well, his offer will be accepted, and he will start the renovations with his oldest son before the weather gets too chilly.

Chimney inspections are required in order to ensure proper and safe operation of any vented fire appliance. These inspections must be carried out by a certified chimney professional (A CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep). If you are unsure about which inspection level is appropriate in your circumstance, please call us. We would be happy to talk about what we do and how we can help you.

By John Pilger on July 31st, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment