Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What's Inside a Chimney?

Have you ever wondered what a chimney looks like on the inside? Check out the image below to find out what's what:

Courtesy of  Chimney Safety Institute of America           
  1. Chimney Cap (also known as a crown, wash or splay): keeps water and animals from getting in

  2. Flute: refers to the open space inside the chimney where air can flow

  3. Chimney Chase: the portion above the roof line

  4. Flue: lined with metal to reduce the risk of fire

  5. Smoke Chamber: open space where smoke rises through the damper

  6. Smoke Shelf: open space where smoke rises through the damper

  7. Damper: used to open and close access to the flue

  8. Mantel

  9. Fireplace Face

  10. Lintel: horizontal metal plate supporting the bricks above the firebox opening

  11. Throat: the space leading to the damper opening

  12. Firebrick: lines the firebox

  13. Firebox

  14. Outer Hearth: usually brick

  15. Inner Hearth: usually cement

  16. Ash Dump Door: metal trap door used to sweep ash through an opening to the basement level

  17. Ash Dump Door

  18. Clean-out Door: open to the outdoors

  19. Ash Pit: must be cleaned out periodically if the ash dump door is used

  20. Foundation

  21. Footing

Friday, December 20, 2013

Essential Tips for Fireplace & Chimney Care

Now that winter is in full swing, your fireplace probably is too. To continue enjoying the warmth and coziness of having a fire roaring in your home safely throughout the season, it's essential to keep the following in mind:

Have your chimney cleaned and inspected regularly

To remove the soot and creosote that slowly builds-up every time you use your fireplace, make sure to include chimney cleaning as part of your regular home upkeep. If your fireplace is used often (2 or more times a week on average during the cold months), we recommend a cleaning at least once every 2 years.

Don't count on chimney-cleaning log products alone

Although there are plenty of products available on the market that are designed to reduce creosote build-up on flue tiles, they do not physically remove creosote from your chimney.

Get your fireplace inspected if you've had a chimney fire

If you've had (or think you've had) a chimney fire, you should have a technician inspect and clean your flue liner before you decide to use your fireplace again. This is important because fires in your chimney often cause the flue tiles to break or even collapse. Continued usage causes heat and smoke to enter the compromised internal chimney structure, which could produce a structural fire.

Determine the cause if your chimney starts smoking

There are three main reasons why your fireplace may start smoking:
  • Negative air pressure from within the home
  • External smoke cross-over from a second flue
  • Internal smoke cross-over from flue tile deterioration
The most common cause of smoke generation is due to an air pressure mismatch. For proper operation, air needs to be replaced after it's been drawn out of the house through the chimney. Normally, this "make-up" air is pulled in through small leaks and cracks around your doors and windows. If you've recently had your doors or windows replaced, you've most likely sealed up those places where the air was originally pulled in, essentially stifling your chimney's air supply.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Air Duct Cleaning: How It Works

As a homeowner, you know that the quality of the air inside your home is incredibly important. You don’t want your family or visiting friends to breathe in poor quality air, as over time it can cause health problems in the lungs and throat. 

A major factor in how clean your home’s air is depends on how clean the air ducts in your air conditioning and heating system are. Over time, dust, dirt and sometimes even mold build up in your air ducts and can get blown right into your home.

Because of these issues, homeowners are urged to have their air ducts cleaned by a professional on a regular basis, but do you ever wonder what the process exactly entails? We understand that you like to be informed, so this video shows you exactly what we do when you call us out for a cleaning! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

How to Use and Maintain Wood Burning Fireplace

Colder nights are upon us, and that means it’s time to cuddle up with a cup of cocoa and get cozy by the crackling fire. Few things are more comforting in the winter, but before you strike your first match of the season, make sure you know how to clean, maintain, and use your wood-burning fireplace properly. 

If you are new to using a wood-burning fireplace, or don’t know how to properly maintain one, we have some helpful tips that will keep it burning bright and clean all winter long.

Schedule Yearly Inspection

Before you even think about using your fireplace this fall or winter, call a professional chimney sweep service for a yearly inspection. They’ll clean your fireplace and chimney, getting rid of soot and dangerous creosote buildup that your family definitely does not want to breathe in. They can also check for blockages in your chimney like debris (leaves, branches, etc.) or nests that animals have built in your fireplace’s dormant summer months. Even more, they can fix any structural damage like cracks and loose bricks that may have been caused by animals or severe weather. 

While you can clean and inspect your fireplace and chimney on your own, there is no substitute for having a professional come out for a yearly inspection. Their training and experience allows them to spot things that you might miss, things that could potentially cause harm to you and your family as you begin to use your fireplace for the winter. 

Wood Burning Rules 

Once you have your initial cleaning and inspection out of the way, it’s time to light the first fire of the season! Use only dry or seasoned wood for burning. Dry wood is more efficient to burn and will produce a lot less smoke, which can irritate your eyes and lungs. A dry wood will also cause less soot buildup. A soft wood like fir is preferable for many people because it dries more quickly, which makes it more readily available. 

Another tip for burning wood in your fireplace is to ensure that your fire always stays hot. Even with the right kind of wood, a smoldering fire will cause excess smoke and will cause creosote buildup in your chimney, which is dangerous to breathe in. A well-burning fire should give off just a little bit of white smoke from your chimney. If you feel that your fire is beginning to smolder, adjust the damper to let in more air.

After you’ve finished using your fireplace, close the damper. This will ensure that no residual soot or creosote floats up into your chimney, and will also keep heat from escaping through your fireplace. A damper that has been left open when not in use can cost you hundreds of dollars in heating costs per year, so when you’re finished burning wood, don’t forget to close it up!

Keep Everything Clean 

If you’re using your fireplace on a regular basis throughout the winter, a cleaning schedule is necessary to keep the soot and debris from building up too much. When cleaning out the firebox, open the damper. A lot of soot and dust will be flying everywhere, and you’ll want it to float up and out of the chimney instead of down and back into your home, where it’s inventible that you will breathe it in. Use a sturdy brush and a dustpan, never a vacuum. Coals can stay hot for days after your fire has been extinguished, which can ruin your vacuum cleaner. 

Tip: Surprisingly, you want to avoid completely cleaning the firebox after each burn. It’s a good idea to leave about an inch of ash on the bottom throughout the winter season for insulation. In warmer months, remove all ash and debris from the firebox. 

We hope these tips have made you more confident in using and maintaining your wood-burning fireplace. Don’t let it sit dormant all winter; make cozy fires a part of your holiday season!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hazards of a Dirty Chimney

In one of our previous blog posts, we stressed the urgency of having your chimney regularly cleaned and maintained for health and safety purposes. If you haven’t been convinced on the importance of the matter, we thought it might be a good idea to take you deeper into the hazards you might face if you don’t take care of your fireplace and chimney.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a hazardous gas that can work its way into your home after you’ve been burning a fire. This is such a dangerous gas because it has no odor, color or taste, so it’s almost completely impossible to detect on your own. If you’re breathing in small amounts of carbon monoxide, your body could present itself with flu-like symptoms which include nausea, confusion, headaches, chills, etc. Larger amounts, however, can be extremely detrimental to your health. Breathing in carbon monoxide over an extended period of time can lead to heart and brain problems, and even death. 

To help combat the potential issue of a buildup in your home, have a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home. It looks just like a regular smoke detector; many homes these days are even being built with them from the start.

Soot Inhalation

Soot is probably one of the most obvious reasons people will feel like they need to get their chimneys cleaned. Soot is a powdery dust that sticks to your chimney when you burn wood, and if inhaled can be bad for your health. 

Since soot is so light and fine, it has a tendency to fly into the air, out of your chimney and into your home, where you could breathe it right in. Breathing in soot can irritate your lung and even cause lung disease in the long run. Along the same lines, breathing the dust in can also create respiratory infections, making it hard to breathe. 

The good thing about soot in your fireplace/chimney growth is that you can see it as it’s happening, so if you notice a buildup, you know it’s time to call in a professional for a cleaning.

Exposure to Creosote

As we mentioned in our last chimney cleaning post, creosote is a substance that can build up in your chimney flue if wood doesn’t burn exactly the way it’s supposed to. It’s a black, oily consistency, and something you definitely don’t want to breathe into your body. 

Not only will it cause lung damage like soot does, but creosote can cause seizures and confusion if inhaled over a long period of time. And unlike soot, which is harmless to the touch, physical contact with creosote is dangerous and can cause major skin rashes and burn your eyes.

None of these things are factors that we want to expose ourselves or our families to, so make sure you take your annual fireplace and chimney cleaning seriously. And don’t be fooled; cleaning your chimney isn’t like cleaning the rest of your house. As professionals, we are prepared to clean your chimney and fireplace in the most effective and safe way possible.

If you have a hard time remembering if you’ve gotten your yearly inspection, schedule it for the same time each year, like the beginning of fall, when the summer months are ending and you’re gearing up to light some cozy fires for the holidays. 

Call us if you have any questions or to schedule your annual inspection/cleaning today!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lint Alert Helps Prevent Dryer Lint Buildup

We’ve discussed in the past how important it is to make sure your dryer is always as clear and lint-free as possible. And you might think you’re doing a great job maintaining it, but the truth is that lint builds up in your dryer no matter how much you clean it out.

Lint builds up in the hardest to reach places in your dryer, most of them you won’t even notice until it because an incredibly dangerous fire hazard. So how are you supposed to detect lint buildup in your dryer if you can’t even see it?

We’ve discovered a great gadget that all homeowners with dryer units should use. It’s called Lint Alert, a small device that continually checks the performance and status of your dryer and tells you when there is lint buildup occurring.

Being informed of lint build up is one of the easiest and best ways to avoid a major problem with your dryer unit. Lint Alert works as a preventative method by informing you that there are clogs and blockages in your dryer vent using a lighted scale. When it lights up about halfway through the scale, you know it's time to get your dryer vent cleaned out by a professional.

Not only will Lint Alert keep your home safe, but an inefficient dryer takes more energy (and in turn, more money) to get your clothing dry. Lint Alert can prevent dryer fires while actually monitoring the efficiency of your unit, and that’s a win/win in our book!

Are you interested in Lint Alert? Give yourself peace of mind knowing you’re preventing dryer fire and other hazards in your home, give us a call today at (623)203-4698.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

When to Change Your Air Filters

Air conditioner filters are a great way to, well, filter out contaminates from swirling around your home along with your cool air. They ensure your family is breathing the cleanest and healthiest air possible. With all the work these filters do on a daily basis, they need changing on a regular basis. It’s a detail homeowners often forget, but shouldn’t.  

It’s been said that homeowners should change their dirty air filters out for fresh ones every 3-6 months. However, there are a lot of factors both inside and outside your home that can demand a change even sooner than that.

The most obvious way to determine how often you should change your filter is by paying attention to what goes on in your home on a daily basis. Do you have pets? Pet hair is one of the most common filter clogs when it comes to your air conditioning unit. Dogs and cats have a tendency to shed, and if you have more than one pet, you can bet that your filters will be working overtime to clean the air of the fur.

Also keep your family’s allergies in mind. Sensitivities to dust, pet hair or any other household allergens can be another important reason to change your air filters more often, perhaps every 2-3 months. 

Sometimes you can't tell how dirty your filter is until you hold it up next to a clean one, yikes!
When it comes to what’s outside your house, keep in mind the area in which you live. Do you reside in a densely populated area, like a city? Is there pollution due to cars or factories nearby? This air gets brought into your house through open windows and doors, and your air conditioner filters out all these contaminates on a daily basis as well. 

These tips to determine when you should change your filter also work at the other end of the spectrum as well. If you have no pets and live in an area with fresh air and little pollution, you may not have to change your filters as often; sometimes 6 months to even once a year can be sufficient. 

If you wait too long to replace your air filters, they’ll become incredibly dirty and will need a lot more energy to work as efficiently, which will surely drive up your energy bills. While they work overtime, they’ll become weaker and can actually end up pushing dirt and debris back into your home. 

If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your filters, it’s been too long. Once you do replace your air filters with fresh, new ones, mark your calendar so you don’t forget when it’s time for the next change. This is a simple way to remind yourself to help keep your air as fresh and healthy for you and your family as possible.