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Practice Fireplace Safety This Winter

A fireplace can pose many dangers. Burning embers can pop out and ignite nearby furniture or rugs. Children or pets who unknowingly get too close can suffer severe burns. A dirty or blocked chimney can ignite or cause carbon monoxide to build up within your home.

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By practicing some simple fireplace safety tips, you can enjoy your fireplace safely this winter.

Here are our top fireplace safety tips:

Only burn the fireplace’s intended fuel.

Burn properly seasoned firewood in a wood-burning fireplace. Don’t put other flammables, such as wrapping paper or cardboard, atop gas logs. Use pellets only in your pellet stoves. The wrong fuel in your fireplace can cause flare ups that are too hot for your chimney to handle. This leads to a dangerous chimney fire. Do not burn other items, such as colored paper, cardboard, plastics or charcoal. Consequently, these can fill your home with toxic fumes or carbon monoxide.

Create a “safe zone” around the fireplace.

One of the best ways to keep your fireplace safe is to establish a “safety zone” around it. Make sure any flammable objects, including furniture, books and décor, are kept at least two feet away from your fireplace. Also, beware of décor that hangs from the mantel. These can ignite if they get too close to the fireplace. Warn children about staying clear of the fireplace when it’s in use. Do you have small children or pets? You may want to consider a heart gate to keep them out of the “safety zone” and safe from burns.

Use a fireplace screen.

Fireplace screen help to keep embers from popping out of the fireplace. In addition, they can help to keep shifting logs in place. Is your fireplace not equipped with a built-in mesh curtain? Consider using a freestanding mesh screen to cover your fireplace opening. If you have ceramic or tempered glass doors, they can be closed while the fireplace is in use. This will keep the fire and embers safely within the firebox. Are your fireplace doors the type that aren’t meant to be closed while the fire is burning? Then remember, they should be fully open while the fireplace is in use. Otherwise, they can burst from the heat and pressure of the fire.

Safely clear away ashes.

The embers in your fireplace can burn hot enough to ignite for up to three days after you lit your fire. This makes it’s crucial to clear away fireplace waste safely. Once the ashes and embers have had adequate time to cool, use a metal fireplace shovel to scoop up ash. Afterwards, place it in a metal bucket with a tight-sealing lid. Never store an open container of ashes in a living space, as carbon monoxide can be emitted from smoldering embers. Once the ashes are completely cooled, they can be bagged and thrown in the garbage can or used as compost.

Have your fireplace cleaned and inspected.

Each year, before you light a fire, have your fireplace cleaned and inspected to make sure it is safe to use for the season. If you want to make sure your fireplace is safe this season, call A to Z to schedule a sweeping and inspection today!

It’s never too late to have your chimney cleaned

The winter months are drawing to a close, and spring soon will be upon us. If you have failed to have your chimney cleaned and inspected, you may assume that it’s too late, now that the fire-burning season is drawing to a close. However, it’s never too late to have your chimney cleaned!

In fact, the end of the burning season can be the perfect time for your annual and inspection! A spring chimney cleaning can reduce your risk of a chimney fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, and chimney damage.Have Your Chimney Cleaned Image - Sacramento CA - A to Z Chimney Services

Reduce your risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning

A spring chimney sweeping will clear out any of the creosote from this year’s fires. A buildup of highly flammable creosote is the leading cause of chimney fires, meaning that cleaning it out of your chimney drastically reduces your risk of a chimney fire. Blockages in your chimney, whether from creosote, animal nests or other debris, also can prevent carbon monoxide from exiting your fireplace, putting your family at risk from a deadly buildup of the gas within your home.

Additionally, the soot and creosote left in your chimney is highly corrosive. If you wait until the fall to have your chimney cleaned after the previous burning season, you’re allowing those corrosive materials to break down the inner walls of your chimney. A buildup of creosote also can have intrusive side effects — creosote can leave an unpleasant smell in your house during the warm, humid summer months. A cleaning and inspection at the end of the burning season is especially important if you have a pellet-burning appliance: Trapped pellets can swell in summer’s humidity, causing damage to your stove or fireplace.

Identify and address chimney damage

A spring chimney sweeping and inspection also identifies any water or fire damage your chimney endured during the fire burning season, giving you the opportunity to address it before it becomes a major issue. If you have your chimney inspected now and damage is found, that gives you plenty of time to determine the best way to approach repairs and have those repairs performed before you’re ready to use it again next fall.

Remember, any chimney damage, from water leaks to crumbing masonry, should be addressed as soon as it is identified. If minor damage is ignored, it can lead to major, expensive repairs in the future. And failing a failing chimney also can put your home at risk of a chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you live around Sacramento, CA, and you’re overdue for your chimney sweeping and inspection, or if you prefer to have your chimney swept at the end of the fire-burning season, give the certified chimney sweeps at A to Z Chimney Services a call to schedule an appointment. It’s never too late for your annual chimney cleaning!

About Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

How A to Z Chimney Services Handles Carbon Monoxide (CO)

At A to Z Window Screen, Chimney Sweep & Dryer Vent Cleaning a big part of the reason we love doing the work we do is that we enjoy the sense of purpose we get from protecting our customers from grave dangers like house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Not only are we helping our customers in and around Lincoln, California, have cleaner, more efficient, more enjoyable heating appliances, but we also are able to guard and educate our customers. For instance, many of our customers are surprised to find that the clothes dryer duct is a common source of carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Two of the dangers we most often look for and help our customers prevent are house/chimney fires and carbon monoxide intrusion, which can be almost impossible to detect. Various problems within both the clothes dryer and the chimney may cause carbon monoxide to vent inside your home instead of outside it. Chimneys, fireplaces, and furnaces can become dangerous if their flue (or vent) is improperly sized, blocked, disconnected, leaking, or back drafting. Sometimes we find that homeowners simply don’t know how to operate their heating appliance properly—for instance, not understanding how or when to open and close the damper. These types of venting problems are responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries in the United States each year. We take pride in knowing that we help our customers live more safely and confidently, knowing that they can enjoy their fireplace or furnace without worry.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

While carbon monoxide detectors do a great job of alerting homeowners to the presence of carbon monoxide, we firmly believe that prevention is far more ideal. Annual inspections of your chimney, fireplace, and dryer duct will go a long way toward protecting you from the potential for carbon monoxide to accumulate in your home.

Why do you want to prevent carbon monoxide from being in your home? Simply put, it is deadly—all the more so because it’s impossible to smell, smell, or taste. Furthermore its symptoms can be deceptively flu-like, so that many people suffering from low-level exposure are misdiagnosed with the flu, or even seasonal depression. Two notable differences between flu sufferers and those sickened by carbon monoxide: the absence of a fever and glandular swelling. To better understand what happens to the body when exposed to carbon monoxide, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s FAQs page on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

Only a pro will be able to alert you to potential dangers, but you may see some signs that your chimney or dryer vent is not venting correctly. With regard to your chimney, its important to pay attention to draft issues as a chimney that is “back drafting” may very well pull carbon monoxide, as well as smoke and soot, into your home. And if you’ve noticed that your dryer is taking longer than usual to dry clothes, it may very well be clogged by dust and dirt, which poses a fire hazard and prevents it from venting properly. Professional cleanings and tune-ups of both your chimney and dryer duct can generally alleviate any concerns about the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Common Causes of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in the Home

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, chimneys and dryers are but two of the sources of carbon monoxide leaks in the home. Homes with gas stoves and ranges may be particularly vulnerable, as average levels of carbon monoxide in homes without gas stoves vary from 0.5 to 5 parts per million (ppm). Meanwhile, levels near properly adjusted gas stoves are often 5 to 15 ppm, while those near poorly adjusted stoves may be 30 ppm or higher. Other carbon monoxide poisoning culprits include:

  • Unvented kerosene and gas space heaters
  • Back-drafting from gas water heaters and gas stoves
  • Generators and other gasoline powered equipment inside the home or garage
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Incomplete oxidation during combustion in gas ranges
  • Unvented gas or kerosene heaters
  • Worn or poorly adjusted boilers and furnaces
  • Auto, truck, or bus exhaust from attached garages, nearby roads, or parking areas

If you suspect that your chimney or clothes dryer is not venting correctly, please contact us today. One of our certified technicians will get out to your home as soon as possible to inspect it for the presence of carbon monoxide or assess any problems within your vents.

The Air You Breathe

Why should I worry about air?

I bet you never thought your chimney sweep helped improve the quality of your air. Some of us might sometimes worry about the air outside, but we have organizations in place to analyze and alert us to the quality of the air outdoors, that way we can watch our level of physical activity and reduce trips in our vehicles. But what about the air inside your home? Don’t let your fireplace be the cause of poor air quality that can affect your health and well-being.

Fireplaces and chimneys can contribute to air quality problems in a few ways:

Having annual chimney cleaning and inspection helps make sure gases are ventilating properly.

Having annual chimney cleaning and inspection helps make sure gases are ventilating properly.

Wood smoke pollution is pretty self-explanatory—it’s when you get that pesky fire that smokes up your house instead of behaving so you can sit and relax. But smoke is more than just a pest—it can cause a lot of problems:

  • Hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) that can cause cancer
  • Fine particle pollution (ash) that damages lung tissue and creates respiratory problems
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxides

Smoke spillage is produced by a number of things:

  • Incomplete combustion of fuels
  • Drafts
  • Improper exhaust.

If your fireplace or woodstove is not properly exhausted, or there is blockage in your chimney, then smoke spillage enters your home. (This applies to both wood-burning fireplaces or gas log inserts.) You can erase these problems by having a pro install your fireplace insert or wood stove to ensure correct exhaust, and by staying on top of those annual cleanings.

Mold is another menace to your air. Chimneys are the perfect place for mold to grow and reproduce if they get damp. Mold causes all kinds of health problems, like sinus and respiratory problems, coughing, headaches, and eye and throat irritation. We’ve got a couple of solutions for mold—waterproofing and installing a chimney cap.

Preventive maintenance is always the key to any issue with your fireplace:

Get that chimney inspected and cleaned annually for the best and safest performance. The Chimney Safety Institute has our backs on this one – skipping that chimney sweep can cause a lot of problems later on.  Give us a call if you’re concerned about your air quality and we’ll be on our way.

The Perfect Fire

We’ve got to have the best of everything these days. While your fire might not be something you’ll be able to brag about to your neighbor or enter into a contest, a good fire will certainly be a lot more enjoyable. It will burn without a lot of smoke, and won’t be a high maintenance hassle. So don’t pour your hot cocoa just yet—take a few moments to start the perfect fire.

For starters, you’ll need to get ready to build your fire by taking care of a couple things:

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Clean up your mess. Your mother taught you well, and now’s the time to act on it. Keep your fireplace clean by removing ash after fires, and make sure you’re starting the season right with a clean chimney. If you didn’t schedule your annual sweeping this past spring, get it done before you light that fire. The CSIA recommends annual cleaning and inspection to prevent chimney fires.

Open the damper

This one might be a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget. If the damper is closed, the only place smoke has to go is back into the home.

Deal with drafts

 Santa’s the only thing that should be coming down your chimney. If you notice a downdraft when you’ve opened the fireplace doors and the damper, you’re probably going to have a problem with negative air pressure. You’ll either need to open a window or door, or else check around the house for any appliances that might be taking air from the house. If you have doors on your fireplace, try leaving them open for about half an hour to help the firebox warm up. (This will help the smoke go the proper direction: up.)

Use only dry, seasoned wood

Make sure your logs aren’t green or damp. Hardwoods, such as oak, burn best. These create hot fires that burn clean and reduce toxic gases such as carbon monoxide.

Building the Fire:

First, you’ll need some kindling firewood. You probably don’t need to be told that sticking a match next to a log won’t result in much of anything. Stack your kindling in crisscross layers to get the best results. About 4-5 layers should do the trick. Next, you’ll want to insert your Firestarter into the center of the kindling. This can be either balled up newspaper, compressed sawdust, or some other type of tinder. Using starter logs such as Duraflame isn’t a good idea—they only create faster creosote buildup.

Now you’re ready to light your fire. Light your tinder from the top—this gives the kindling more flame-time to catch fire. Once you’ve successfully lit the fire and the kindling is burning, add a couple of logs, being careful not to place them where they will smother the kindling fire. You might need to help it along by stoking the fire under the log. Using your poker, lift the log gently and carefully to allow some oxygen to feed the fire.

Add more logs as your fire begins to burn evenly. Now, sit back and relax. And don’t forget to pour that cup of hot cocoa. Call the experts at A to Z Chimney Services in Sacramento, CA at (916) 850-2446 for more information today.