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Chimney Health Hazards You Should Know About

Many homeowners understand how a dirty chimney affects their fireplace. However, few realize it can also have an impact on your overall health. Creosote buildup, animal entry, and more are all chimney hazards. These hazards can affect the health and safety of your family and friends, as well as negatively affect your chimney system!

Chimney Health Hazards

Fireplaces are meant to be enjoyed, but when not properly maintained they can pose a risk to our health.

The following are four of the most common chimney health hazards, their causes, and how to prevent them:

  1.  Creosote exposure.
    Creosote is a black, tarry substance that is created naturally as a byproduct of fuel burning fires. While present in small amounts in most fireplaces, flammable creosote becomes dangerous if allowed to accumulate without regular sweepings. In addition to increasing the risk of chimney fire, creosote can negatively affect your health. Skin and eye irritation, as well as respiratory issues, can be caused by exposure to creosote. While creosote may be present in the flue, exposure is often caused by homeowners attempting to improperly remove creosote themselves.
  2. Smoke and soot inhalation.
    Smoke and soot are a part of every fire. However, what happens if your chimney is not drafting properly? These byproducts of combustion can wind up affecting your home’s air supply. Smoke and soot inhalation can cause respiratory problems such as bronchitis, as well as aggravate long-term conditions such as asthma and allergies.
  3. Carbon monoxide.
    Carbon monoxide poisoning is a rare but serious health hazard that can occur from all fuel-burning appliances – not just fireplaces or stoves! If the venting system is damaged or the flue is blocked, poisoning carbon monoxide gas can back up into the home. It’s known as the “silent killer” because it is colorless, tasteless, and odorless. Unfortunately, the presence of carbon monoxide gas can only be detected using special equipment. All homes should have carbon monoxide detectors on every floor, as well as outside sleeping areas. Exposure to carbon monoxide often mimics flu-like symptoms. These can include headaches, nausea, and fatigue. Consequently, prolonged or repeated exposure can lead to organ damage, coma, and even death.
  4. Animal entry.
    Birds, raccoons, squirrels, and other small animals love to take refuge in chimneys. In addition to causing damage to the chimney system, these wild animals also carry disease! The droppings of chimney swifts, for example, are known to cause histoplasmosis. Created by a fungus found in the droppings, histoplasmosis can cause chronic cough, chest pain, fever, loss of appetite, and more.

We Can Help Keep You Safe

While the health hazards that can occur with using your chimney should not be ignored, they should not stop you from enjoying your fireplace. Instead, regular cleaning and maintenance can keep your chimney system burning safely and efficiently for years to come. For more information on chimney health hazards, or to schedule your next fireplace maintenance, contact Clean Sweeps of Michigan today!

Does Your Chimney Liner Need Replacing?

Your chimney is made up of a number of different parts and components that work together to keep your fireplace burning safely and efficiently. However, many parts of the chimney are completely hidden from view; because of this, it can be difficult to know when they need maintenance.

One hidden – but extremely important – part of your chimney is the chimney liner. Chimney liners protect the building materials surrounding the chimney from smoke and heat; however, because of their location many homeowners do not know when their chimneys need to be relined.

Does Your Chimney Liner Need Replacing - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps of MI

What is a chimney liner?

The Chimney Safety Institute of America defines a chimney liner is defined as “A clay, ceramic, or metal conduit installed inside of a chimney, intended to contain the combustion products, direct them to the outside atmosphere, and protect the chimney walls from heat and corrosion.”

The inside of your chimney structure isn’t open; instead, a metal pipe called a flue connects the firebox to the top of the chimney. This narrow pipe helps smoke and gas vent up and out of your home. However, in order to protect the rest of your home from the heat and gas that passes up the flue, a chimney liner is needed.

Does my chimney need to be replaced?

Because the flue is hidden inside your chimney structure, it can be difficult to know if or when your chimney needs to be relined. Oftentimes, damage to a chimney liner is uncovered during an annual chimney inspection; because changes in effectiveness or efficiency may be hard for homeowners to notice, your chimney sweep may be the first to recognize a problem with the liner. To fully evaluate the damage to a chimney’s flue liner, technology such as closed circuit cameras may be used in order for the chimney sweep to look at the entire length of the flue.

Long term use, over exposure to heat, damage from animals, or lack of being swept can all cause chimney liners to chip or crack. When damaged, chimney liners expose the surrounding building materials to heat and gas; not only can this let gasses like carbon monoxide into your home’s air supply, but in some cases it can also lead to accidental house fires.

Chimneys also may need to be relined if a new insert or fireplace has been installed. Because different fireplaces have different venting requirements, the old flue may not be the right size for the new fireplace. Likewise, switching fuel sources may require your chimney to be relined. Burning different fuel sources creates different byproducts of combustion; while a wood burning fireplace may require a thicker liner in order to handle creosote accumulation, a gas burning fireplace needs a high efficiency liner that is resistant to acidic condensation.

Replacing your chimney’s liner can improve your fireplace efficiency – as well as safety. For more information on relining your chimney, contact the chimney experts at Clean Sweeps of Michigan today!

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