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The Nose Knows: Don’t Ignore Odors Coming from your Fireplace

Don't let those fireplace odors get you down.

Don’t let those fireplace odors get you down.

All fireplaces have a unique smell; however, a normal working fireplace will send the smell up and out of the chimney with the draft before it ever has the chance to seep into your home. Fireplace odor problems come from a variety of different things, the most notable of which are creosote deposits inside your chimney. The odors are usually worse in the summer (especially on days when the humidity is high), on rainy days, and/or when your air conditioner is running. A visit from a CSIA-certified chimney sweep can help eradicate those problem-causing creosote deposits, allowing you to breath a little easier.

Problem 1: Creosote Deposits Penetrate Beyond the Surface

A fireplace inspection and cleaning is a good first step when a smell issue is involved, as it will remove excess creosote and rule out other common problems that may have caused the smell. It’s important to remember, however, that while a thorough cleaning and inspection are helpful, they don’t always take care of the root problem. Due to the nature of the porous masonry construction inside your chimney, creosote impregnates its smell deep beyond the surface. A chimney sweep will remove the surface buildup of creosote to limit the possibility of a chimney fire; however, the odors that have absorbed into the masonry itself are still left behind. Therefore, other actions must be taken to rid your home of the lingering smell altogether.

Problem 2: Negative Pressure Drives the Smell into your Home

Air coming down your chimney is a symptom of overall pressure problems. This negative air pressure can cause odors to enter your home, regardless of the cause. In a typical scenario, as long as the draft is working correctly and there is no negative airflow in the home, the inherent smells will remain in the chimney. In the event that your chimney has developed a drafting problem, however, the intruding air brings the chimney odors right along with it as it comes down your flue. A quick solution to the negative air pressure issue is to simply crack a window to encourage the pressure to change through the window rather than the chimney.

Problem 3: Throat-mount Dampers Don’t Always do the Trick

For a more permanent approach to keeping the smell inside your chimney and away from your nose, limiting the amount of air that’s able to come down your chimney and into your house in the first place is key. Closing your throat-mount damper is a good start, however, most don’t provide an adequate seal due to their typical cast iron construction. A top-sealing damper can help to get rid of the airflow and accompanying odor problems once and for all. In addition to minimizing the airflow problems, a top-sealing damper will help keep rainwater and moisture from coming down your chimney as well.

There’s never a bad time to make a commitment to having your chimney inspected. Chimney sweeps are available year round to inspect and clean your entire chimney system. Don’t allow your chimney’s hidden odors to become a problem in your home. Instead, contact the chimney experts at A to Z Chimney Services as soon as you first notice any unpleasant odors. We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you for years to come.

The Science of Combustion

You need three things to create a fire — oxygen, fuel and heat. If one or more of these elements is too much or too little, it can decrease your efficiency and increase risks to your health and home.

Do you know the processes happening inside your chimney? It is important to understand because of the risks associated with fire and carbon monoxide.

Do you know the processes happening inside your chimney? It is important to understand because of the risks associated with fire and carbon monoxide.

Carbon Monoxide Dangers

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a toxic gas that is colorless and odorless gas that can cause illness or death. Carbon monoxide is released during any type of combustion or fire. In and enclosed space, any type of burning or combustion, such as that from a gasoline engine, can quickly build up to toxic levels. CO is emitted from stoves, fireplaces, gas ranges, lanterns, or any type of open flame or combustion is occurring.

Causes

Carbon monoxide is emitted from stoves, fireplaces, gas ranges, lanterns, or any type of open flame or combustion is occurring. CO then enters the lungs and bonds with the blood cells, thereby preventing true oxygen, O2, from entering the bloodstream. During your annual inspection, a certified sweep will check for any obstructions in your chimney.

Symptoms

The United States Centers for Disease Control name these symptoms as possible carbon monoxide poisoning:

Carbon Monoxide poisoning can cause headaches. It is critical to have a working detector on each level of your home.

Carbon Monoxide poisoning can cause headaches. It is critical to have a working detector on each level of your home.

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest Pain
  • Confusion

Symptoms are similar to other illnesses, so it is important to be examined by a medical professional. They can perform simple tests to confirm or rule out carbon monoxide poisoning.

Prevention

The first step in prevention is Carbon Monoxide detectors. Every home needs one, even if you do not heat your home with gas or open flame. Most modern smoke detectors also have a carbon monoxide detector, but always make sure. If you are unsure about your detectors or look old, replace them with ones for sure that do. There are even separate carbon monoxide detectors that can be placed in other areas, like garages or other enclosed spaces, which will give a good sound warning when levels are reaching toxic levels.

The second step in prevention is using carbon monoxide common sense and follow these steps:

  • Have your heating system, water heater, or any other burning appliance  inspected and serviced every year
  • Ensure your chimney damper opens properly and free and your chimney system is inspected and serviced every year
  • Ensure all burning appliances are vented properly and not level. Vent pipes should move uphill and never be parallel to the ground.
  • Never patch a vent pipe with gum, tape, or other material
  • Do not use flameless chemical or catalytic heaters indoors. These release CO.

In case of a power outage, follow these steps for proper fire and carbon monoxide safety:

  • Never use a gas range or oven for room heating
  • Never use a charcoal grill indoors
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors
  • Never use a generator indoors, a basement, a garage, or near a window, door, or vent. Outside is the only safe place for a generator.
  • Always use flame type heaters in a well-ventilated area or with a properly working CO monitor.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is as dangerous to health as fire and should be treated seriously and can be prevented with these few simple steps. Visit the Center for Disease Control for more information.