Earlier this morning, NBC's Today Show aired a segment featuring an undercover investigation on chimney sweeps. The Today Show "sting" operation took place at a home in the Northeast, where chimney sweeps were called in for a routine chimney sweeping.
Firewood is an area where you can have great influence over how well your system performs and how enjoyable your experience will be. Quality, well seasoned firewood will help your wood stove or fireplace burn cleaner and more efficiently, while green or wet wood can cause smoking problems, odor problems, rapid creosote buildup and possibly even dangerous chimney fires.
A few minutes spent understanding firewood will be time well spent, so please read on for general background information, as well as how to buy wood and store wood.
Anatomy of Your Fireplace
When most people think of chimneys, they think of fireplaces. Memories of cold winter evenings, relaxed and cozy in front of a crackling fire are hard to beat, and the ability of an open fire to soothe the wild beast within us all is legendary. Since the dawn of time, humans have gathered around the open fire for a sense of safety and community, and the fireplace is still the focus of family living in many homes, especially around the holidays.
The scope of work performed in the inspection or evaluation of a fireplace, stove or other venting system had previously been left to the discretion of the chimney service technician. On January 13, 2000, the National Fire Protection Association adopted these levels of inspection into code NFPA 211 (Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents and Solid Fuel Burning Appliances) that remove much of that "discretion". Inspections are now clearly defined as Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3.
Throughout history, fire has been crucial to human existence. Primitive people relied on fire to cook their food, to keep them warm and to provide light. Although we no longer depend on fire in quite the same way, images of children around campfires and holiday gatherings around an open fireplace abound. Our use of fire has changed over the centuries, so too have fireplaces and heating appliances that contain the fire and make it useful. Classical Greek and Roman homes contained simple fire pits. In Medieval Europe, simple masonry fireplaces were developed.
The chimney is one of the most taken-for-granted parts of a home. Typically it tends to receive neither the attention nor the concern usually accorded other household service systems. The fact that chimneys may do their job reasonably well, even when abused or neglected, contributes to this atmosphere of indifference. Chimneys are far from the passive black holes that most people assume them to be. They perform several vital functions, and their simple appearance misrepresents their complex construction and performance requirements.
“Chimneys really decorate the roofline of a home… and they’re maintenance–free. Right?” Your chimney–and the flue that lines it–adds architectural interest to your home, but its’ real function is to carry dangerous flue gases from your fireplace, wood stove or furnace safely out of your home. A chimney helps your household air stay breathable…just as your windows and your bathroom, attic and kitchen vents do. Unlike those other exhaust points in your home, however, fireplace and wood stove chimneys need a special kind of care.
Lint and additional debris can build up in your clothes dryer vent and may cause your dryer to exhaust at less than optimum efficiency. This creates potentially hazardous conditions including carbon monoxide intrusion and the possibility for exhaust fires. If a gas clothes dryer is improperly vented or the exhaust duct itself is blocked by lint or debris, carbon monoxide can be forced back into your living space. When a certified technician inspects and cleans a dryer vent, they also verify that the correct type of duct is in use.
The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that people take a few steps when considering which chimney sweep will perform an annual inspection or related service on their chimney or vent. Because proper care and attention to service can help protect people from unnecessary fires and carbon monoxide poisonings, it is important to choose the professional wisely. While the CSIA recommends that people consider a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep®, there are additional questions that should be asked to ensure that the person hired is a credible service technician:
Storks nesting in chimneys were once believed to bring good luck, according to European folklore. But, in fact, nests in chimneys - or blockages of any kind - are nothing short of bad news. They can cause smoking problems, chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. In 2005, there were 24,500 residential fires in the United States originating in chimneys, fireplaces and solid fuel appliances, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. These fires resulted in 20 deaths and $126.1 million in property damage.