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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!

Don’t Be On Santa’s Dirty List!

Christmas is just around the corner. It’s only a matter of days until St. Nick himself is ready to slide down your chimney to deliver presents. This year, make sure you don’t get put on the naughty list for having a dirty chimney. Get your chimney swept before Christmas arrives!

Don't Be On Santa's Dirty List Image - Ann Arbor MI - Clean SweepsHow often should my chimney be swept?

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, or CSIA, all chimneys should be swept at least once per year. This guideline applies to all fuel-burning heating appliances. Including gas fireplace and appliances, wood and pellet stoves, and inserts. Chimney sweepings help remove any buildup of soot, ash, and creosote in the fireplace and flue. They also check for blockages in the flue and any signs of damage or deterioration to the chimney structure.

Annual chimney sweeps should still be done even if your fireplace is only rarely or infrequently used. In fact, sweepings in these situations can even be more important! If a fireplace is only used a few times per year, many of the performance problems that indicate a chimney issue may not be immediately noticed. Because of this, an annual sweep can help determine if there are any blockages, problems, or damage to the fireplace or chimney.

If your home’s fireplace or stove is used as a primary heat source it may need to be swept more often. As a general rule, a chimney should be swept any time there is 1/8th of an inch of soot accumulation in the flue. Under normal conditions this amount of buildup is caused by burning, on average, a full cord of wood. If you are using more than a cord of wood each burning season, you may need to have your chimney swept again mid-winter.

Benefits of a swept chimney:

An annual chimney sweeping is about more than just keeping Santa’s red suit clean. The following are just a few of the benefits of having a swept chimney.

  1.  Improve venting. A buildup of soot or other debris in the flue can prevent proper venting. This causes smoke, ash, and other byproducts of combustion to back up into your home.
  2. Avoid chimney fires! Creosote, a highly flammable byproduct of fuel burning fires, can accumulate in the flue over time. If not removed, it can be accidentally ignited by stray sparks or embers from the chimney, leading to a damaging chimney fire. Creosote ignition is the leading cause of chimney fire – and is entirely preventable with regular chimney sweepings.
  3. Prevent chimney damage. Creosote does more than just cause chimney fires. It can also damage your chimney liner and flue. Regularly removing creosote and soot, as well as having the exterior of the chimney structure inspected, can help prevent chimney damage. In addition, it can extend the lifespan of your fireplace system.

Don’t get on Santa’s naughty list by having a dirty chimney this year. Instead, contact Clean Sweeps of Michigan today to schedule your chimney sweep – before Christmas arrives!

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