Understanding your fireplace and chimney is the first step to safety and efficiency. The fireplace chimney is the one element that takes most of the use and abuse. After all, the chimney is where the heat is escaping, along with smoke and for gas fireplaces, the exhausts. Taking proper care of your chimney is crucial, as you will see from the information listed below:
Cleaning your chimney Your fireplace chimney should be cleaned at least once a year, by a professional. This will ensure deposits of creosote are cleaned and that any other forms of debris removed. Of course, if you burn your fireplace every day, then you should consider having it cleaned more often. A good rule to follow is that if there is one-quarter inch of buildup, then you need to have the freplace chimney cleaned.
Smoking fireplaces If you notice your fireplace is smoky it could be that you have a tight house, which is very common with modern homes. Since the fireplace when in use will exhaust air in the home until negative, pressure is created. When the home is tight, it means there is not enough air. The easiest way to fix this problem is to create air in the room. Let us say you have two fireplaces, one upstairs and one downstairs. In this case, you would want to create the air through the unused fireplace chimney.
Then, as the air is drawn down through the unused flue, smoke exiting nearby from the fireplace that is in use is delivered into the room. To resolve this problem, you need to provide air in the home so that the negative pressure is gone. Not only is the problem of smoke eliminated but also the potential for deadly carbon monoxide. Another solution is to have a top mount damper installed on the fireplace used the least often.
Smelly fireplaces Sometimes, a fireplace will have an unpleasant odor, especially during the summer months. The reason for this is that your chimney has a buildup of creosote. The reason the odor is worse in the summer is that as heat and humidity build, and then the air conditioner is turned on, the air from the chimney is pushed out into the room.
To fix this problem, you will need to have a professional clean the chimney. You have probably heard of a chimney sweep, which is the person that would do the work. While you could use commercial products, baking soda, or kitty litter placed inside the fireplace to help, the real problem is that this creates a fire hazard so while you can cover the odor up, you really need the chimney to be cleaned.
Gas fireplace If you have a gas-burning fireplace, then you still need to have your chimney checked once a year to ensure no animals have set up home inside. Many times, birds, raccoons, and squirrels will crawl down into the chimney and build a nest. Then when the winter months come and a fire is started, the debris catches fire. Additionally, if your fireplace is older, you might consider having the flue checked and perhaps updated to a more modern style.