With the crisp fall breeze in the air, you'll need to fire up your home heating system before you know it. That also means you should have your furnace or boiler serviced before you turn it on for the winter. But there's another aspect of heat and air conditioning maintenance that many people forget: the chimney for their wood stove. It's essential for the health and safety of your family to have your chimney cleaned out before you start building fires. Read on to learn why.
Preventing a Fire in Your Chimney
Wood fires are aesthetically pleasing on a cold December night, and they can play a significant role in your winter heating strategy. As with every aspect of your heat and air conditioning system, however, safety must come first. And the key to safely using a fireplace lies in keeping the chimney clean and clear of obstructions, both to protect your indoor air quality and to reduce the chances of starting a house fire.
The purpose of the chimney is to allow smoke and other dangerous gases to safely exit your home. However, all of the gases don't actually make it out of the chimney. Many of them condense on the inner wall of the chimney in a tarry residue known as creosote.
Don't Let Your Home Go Up in Smoke
When creosote starts to gunk up the chimney, there are two primary consequences. First of all, a restricted chimney isn't as efficient at allowing smoke and gases to flow through, so more of it will flow into your home and affect your family’s health. Even more alarming, the buildup itself can go up in flames when the chimney gets too hot or an unlucky spark gets sucked up. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are about 15,330 creosote fires each year, averaging four deaths and $34 million in damage.
There are a few factors that encourage extra creosote buildup. Burning wood that hasn't been seasoned long enough is one risk factor, and a chimney that is cooler than usual, brought on by extra-cold weather, can also encourage condensation. A limited air supply can also create more buildup because there's less air to help the smoke get up and out of the chimney quickly. However, at least some amount of creosote is sure to accumulate over time no matter what, so you still need to have your chimney cleaned even in ideal conditions.
Keeping Your Family Warm and Safe
Don't forget – you rely on your heat and air conditioning equipment to keep you comfortable all year round, and might take it for granted, but you can never drop your guard when it comes to safety. If you need help preparing your home and chimney for winter, or any other work on your heat and air conditioning system, contact an HVAC specialist today.