Owning a stove or fire is one of life's pleasures, but as with many things, its important to make sure your appliance is installed safely and maintained well. It’s Chimney Fire Safety Week, a week created to raise awareness of the importance of caring for your chimney, so we have put together some top tips from our experts on how to best avoid damaging your chimney, how to keep safe and enjoy the colder months ahead!
Maybe one of the most important tips, is to keep your chimney swept on a regular basis. This is because chimneys need to have a clear passageway for the combustion gasses to exit your home. Anything from tar and creosote to birds nests and cobwebs can get stuck in your flue causing blockages which can be hazardous. If you do not have a fire compression system at your home and are in fear of constant fire, hire National Fire Watch Services to ensure your home is safe from fire while you get safety measures installed and your chimney cleaned.
Sweeping frequencies vary dependant on fuel type, how often your fire or stove is used, what type of chimney you have and the moisture content in the wood. Below are some rough guidelines but always check with your professional chimney sweep to make sure they give you an idea of what exactly your specific chimney requires:
We strongly recommend finding your local HETAS approved chimney sweep to carry out the cleaning as they can provide you with a certificate of sweeping, which complies with the requirements for most home insurance companies.
Sometimes little jobs like checking the carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms in your house get missed off the ‘to do’ list or get pushed until tomorrow, and tomorrow never seems to come. Testing these on a regular basis is a good habit to get into and weekly testings are recommended to make sure your house is kept safe. It has been discovered from research conducted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) that working smoke alarms increase the survival rate by 50%¹.
A campaign was launched on social media to remind homeowners to do just that. #TestItTuesday is a reminder to everyone to test their carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms in between binging on episodes on Netflix or just before bedtime. It’s a quick and painless process and you can carry it out by pressing the test button, this will then emit a loud alarm for about five seconds and LED light will flash and it’s as simple as that! If the light or sound doesn’t come on, it is a sign that the batteries need changing and this is another important job to do. Batteries in these detectors need to be changed on a yearly basis and as soon as you hear the low battery warning, they need to be replaced as soon as possible.
Only burn well-seasoned firewood. Not only will this increase the efficiency of your fire, but it will also ensure clean combustion and minimise the risk of damaging your chimney. Moisture content of logs can have negative effects on the efficiency rate of your fire or stove, but more importantly can clog up your chimney by creating tar and smoke which can be corrosive to the internal flue. According to the UK Forestry Commission, well-seasoned logs can have about twice calorific value, or CV (the amount of available heat per unit) of green logs².
We have put together some tips on buying the correct logs if you are ever in need or have any questions.
Never use your fire as an incinerator to burn anything other than well-seasoned logs. Cardboard, rubbish and waste paper, along with construction timber, chipboard or MDF can harm both your chimney and the environment. Burning materials such as the above can have unfortunate consequences in the form of corrosive and toxic chemicals which will harm your chimney.
To minimise the risk of chimney damage, make sure to only burn recommended fuels. All information regarding the appropriate fuel for your fire or stove is in the technical documents that are supplied with your appliance. To make sure that you are burning the correct fuel check your manual, if you have lost or misplaced it we have all of Stovax’s technical documents available on the website.
Always keep an eye out for your chimney terminal as from time to time it can get cluttered with overhanging tree branches. These will need to be cut back and kept at a safe distance to ensure
safe operation of your chimney when it is lit.
Other obstructions could occur during the year and anything from bird nests to rain and snow can congest your chimney – especially after long periods of not using it. Always check the chimney terminal and rain cap for any sign of these and get a professional to remove anything as soon as you notice it.
Keeping fires smaller in your heating appliance will help to reduce the risk of tar and creosote building up in the flue as these will tend to burn more completely and cleanly. The cleaner the burn, the less build up in the flue and the less likely it will be to cause an issue.
Any questions that you may have about chimney safety or what fuels to use in your home, please contact your installer or local retailer and they will be able to help.
In the meantime, be sure to contact your local HETAS approved chimney sweep to get your chimney swept, to be able to get ready to sit back and relax in front of your fire this winter.
¹ National Fire Protection Association: “Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires” report http://www.nfpa.org/news-and-research/fire-statistics-and-reports/fire-statistics/fire-safety-equipment/smoke-alarms-in-us-home-fires (September 2015)
² Forestry Commission: “Wood as fuel a guide to choosing and drying logs” report http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/eng-woodfuel-woodasfuelguide.pdf/$FILE/eng-woodfuel-woodasfuelguide.pdf (October 2009)
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Thanks for sharing all these points. I completely agree with all the tips covered in the article. A chimney is designed to draw the smoke and gases produced by a fire up and safely out of your home. This is extremely important since some of these gases are dangerous. One of the most dangerous is carbon monoxide which in large enough doses can kill. It is very crucial to have your system cleaned regularly for hazard free operation of the fireplace and chimney.