Our Current Blog Articles
September 21, 2017
Choosing an Efficient Wood Stove
There are a few things to be aware of when choosing an efficient wood stove. Chimney Sweeps of America in Denver offers this great resource so you’ll have an idea what to be on the lookout for. A wood stove is a great, efficient way to heat your home, but choosing the right unit is key.
Check the Emissions
Wood stoves have been significantly improved upon since their introduction years ago as a better alternative to indoor fireplaces. Modern wood stoves require less firewood to heat the same square footage, produce very little ash and almost no smoke.
For comparison, newer EPA certified stoves have to meet the current 4.5 grams or less of smoke per hour standard, but older stoves give off anywhere from 15-30 grams per hour. When choosing an efficient wood stove, keep in mind that the EPA is planning to lower their emissions standard to 2 grams per hour in 2020. You’ll want to consider buying a stove that meets this emissions standard, particularly if you plan to sell your home in the next few years.
Choose a Stove Type
There are two categories of wood stoves, catalytic and non-catalytic. They are both effective in meeting EPA emissions standard but have slight performance differences. Non-catalytic stoves are simpler and therefore are more common. Catalytic stoves require a stricter maintenance regimen but are favored in many of the popular high-end stoves.
How Big of a Stove?
A critical aspect when choosing an efficient wood stove is size. When talking to professionals about what size stove to get, be sure to bring not only the square footage of the space to be heated but also the type of home. Newer, more energy efficient homes (or older homes to which the relevant improvements have been made) require a smaller stove to heat the same amount of space as an older, more drafty home. Also, keep in mind our Colorado climate. With your home in a colder area, you may need a bigger wood stove to heat the same amount of space.
To give you a rough idea, smaller stoves are generally good for zone heating, warming just a portion of a larger home or a small cottage. A medium size stove is good for either a small home or an energy efficient medium sized home. The largest sizes of wood stoves are ideal for large homes with open floor plans or for older, less energy efficient homes.
You can check out the EPA’s list of certified stoves to help when you are choosing an efficient wood stove. However, no amount of research can replace the expertise offered by experienced professionals, such as the Chimney Sweeps of America. We can provide answers to questions you don’t even know to ask. If you are thinking about installing a new wood stove (or upgrading your current unit), you’re welcome to give us a call. We can help you pick out the perfect unit to meet your needs, fit your home and appease your budget.
September 7, 2017
Chimney Cleaning and Fall Fireplace Maintenance
We here at Chimney Sweeps of America in Denver, Colorado want everyone to understand the importance of chimney cleaning and fall fireplace maintenance. Each year thousands of fires occur that could have easily been prevented with the right kind of maintenance. When neglect affects things as valuable as your home, and possibly human lives, there is simply no reason to ignore it or put it off for another day.
Most people are aware that wood-burning fireplaces and their chimneys need to be regularly cleaned and maintained. Burning wood causes a buildup of creosote in the chimney which is dangerous because it can create a blockage that inhibits airflow. It’s also highly flammable and can ignite a chimney fire. Burning wood also produces poisonous gases like carbon monoxide that must be properly ventilated, or they can pose a threat to everyone living in the home.
Wood burning fireplaces, however, are not the only types of fireplaces that must be maintained. Gas fireplaces, while requiring less attention, also require proper gas fireplace maintenance to be safe for the occupants of the home.
Wood Burning Fireplaces
When the fireplace is frequently used, clean the firebox at least once a week. Also, check to ensure that there is good airflow by lighting a match and ensuring that the smoke goes up the chimney and isn’t blowing back into the room. Here are a few more chimney cleaning and fall fireplace maintenance tips:
- Regularly inspect all parts and repair chimney or fireplace damage
- While you should have a bit of ash to help insulate coals, clean it out when it builds up to more than an inch, so it doesn’t negatively affect the airflow.
- Give your wood six months to a year to dry out, and it will burn much cleaner.
- Choose hardwoods like ash, maple, and oak for a hotter burn with fewer logs.
- Burn firewood only. Burning other stuff like cardboard and even manufactured logs causes soot and creosote to build up faster.
- Have a professional chimney sweep clean and inspect the chimney at least once a year, more often if you use the fireplace a lot. A good rule of thumb is once there is ⅛ of an inch of creosote buildup.
- Clean the glass on both sides regularly to remove flammable substances and ensure that it is properly fitted and not leaking carbon monoxide.
- Inspect the connections for any small tears or other damage.
- Ensure that the vents are clear at all times.
- Bring in gas fireplace repair service professionals if you notice any issues.
We hope these chimney cleaning and fall fireplace maintenance tips have been helpful to you. As always, when it is time for a professional cleaning, be sure to give us a call here at Chimney Sweeps of America for all your professional fireplace maintenance needs. Our high level of customer service and more than three decades of experience makes us the right people for the job! Fireplaces, chimneys – even gas fireplaces and wood stove repair – we do it all.
August 9, 2017
Chimney Sweeps Q&A, Part 2
As promised, we present: Chimney Sweeps Q&A, Part 2 provided by the experts at Chimney Sweeps of America in Denver. Here we answer some common questions that we have heard from our customers about chimney care and maintenance. If you missed it, be sure to check out the first part of this Q&A for even more answers to common questions.
Can a Chimney Sweep Improve my Home’s Safety?
Absolutely. House fires or carbon monoxide poisoning can be devastating and even deadly, and the number one way to avoid both of those events is by keeping your chimney maintained properly. Attention from expert chimney sweeps not only lowers the chances of a tragedy happening by cleaning out the flammable material and blockages that can cause it, but also helps to reduce the risk of future problems by careful inspection of the chimney’s components to detect potential problems early.
Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning really a Big Deal?
You should be concerned about carbon monoxide poisoning, as many people die each year as a result of this dangerous gas. Anytime you burn anything, one of the byproducts is carbon monoxide. If the chimney is properly venting the gas outside of your home, you have nothing to worry about! However, undetected blockages or defects can cause the gas to start accumulating in your home, and it may eventually reach dangerous levels.
The gas is virtually impossible to detect as it has no color or smell, so it’s a good idea to have carbon monoxide detectors in your home to warn you. But don’t rely solely on the detectors. Also, as a great preventative measure, have a professional thoroughly inspect your chimney for blockages or other problems. If you or a family member is beginning to experience headaches, nausea, and fatigue, everyone should go outside immediately as this could be an indication of the beginning stages of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Is a Chimney Liner Necessary?
Virtually all modern chimneys are built with some type of liner that helps ensure that all sparks, heat, and gases travel up the chimney and exit the home. Older structures should be inspected to ensure that they have chimney liners and or that the existing liner is still in good shape. Often clay tile liners (which is a popular liner material in older chimneys) can begin to crack and break over time and heat exposure and fail to perform their function correctly.
Is a Chimney Cap Necessary?
Chimney caps are extremely useful in passively maintaining your chimney and making it safer. They prevent lots of rainwater from getting down inside the chimney and wreaking havoc. Plus, utilizing the mesh screens, they prevent small animals and birds from getting down inside the chimney and building their nests. These nests and the animals themselves can cause severe blockages that can lead to serious issues. They also help to keep out any tree waste or other debris that could cause blockages.
Can Fireplace Inserts be Repaired or Replaced?
Yes, they can, and they should be. Fireplace inserts in modern homes are built to last an average of 20 to 30 years. If you start to notice gaps or cracks in the firebox wall, you should immediately have the system inspected and fireplace repaired if needed. New inserts require a great deal of remodeling and carpentry work, but a professional should be able to replace the insert quickly and efficiently if it is determined that one is needed.
Why does my Chimney Stink, even when I’m Not Using it?
The smell that comes from your chimney radiates from a buildup of creosote. Creosote is one of those inevitable and unwelcome byproducts of burning. It is smelly, unfortunately very flammable, and can build up to dangerous levels inside your chimney when not properly cleaned and maintained. Humidity and heat tend to augment the smell, which is why you may notice it more in summer. Of course, the best method of fixing this problem is to clean the chimney, but if there is still some residual odor afterward, you can try using kitty litter or baking soda to freshen things up a bit more.
What if I See Water Leaking Around My Fireplace or Staining the Ceiling?
Water is a nightmare for your chimney. It can creep in and cause corrosion and cracking, making the state of your chimney unsafe. At the first sign of water damage, call the experts to remedy the issue as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that the cost of an inspection is far less than the cost of repairs due to extensive water damage.
Why is Smoke Entering my Home?
There are several potential causes for a fireplace to spit smoke back into the room. Obviously, your chimney is not venting properly, and there are a few things that could cause that. The liner may be damaged, or an improperly fitted chimney liner was installed, a closed or malfunctioning damper may be to blame, or your home may simply be buttoned up too tight. With modern advances in energy efficiency, some homes are so airtight that fresh air can’t enter freely and keep the chimney venting out the top properly. If cracking a window stops the smoke then you can assume this is the issue.
What is That Whitish Stuff on the Outside of My Chimney?
If you ever notice a whitish discoloration on the outside of your chimney, you should call the professionals immediately. This substance is called efflorescence and is caused by gases leaking through a damaged chimney liner and leaving salt deposits on the outside of the masonry. This is an indication of serious issues with the liner and probably water damage as well.
We hope that this overview, Chimney Sweeps Q&A, Part 2 has been helpful to you! Fireplaces are a great addition to any home, adding warmth and atmosphere, being delightful. However, they can also be extremely dangerous if not properly cared for. That’s why the experts here at Chimney Sweeps of America in Denver are here to help. We understand the ins and outs of chimney safety and maintenance so that you don’t have to, and yet can still enjoy a cheery blaze crackling away inside your home.
July 13, 2017
Chimney Sweeps Q&A, Part 1
Today, Chimney Sweeps of America would like to present Chimney Sweeps Q&A, Part 1. Here we answer a few questions that we often get from customers and pass this valuable information along to you. With our help, there’s no need to be a chimney expert. We have all the expertise you need.
Is it Necessary to Have My Chimney Inspected?
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys be cleaned or at least inspected once a year. A good time for this is summer or at the latest early fall so that you know that your chimney is in good shape for the coming winter.
Your chimney performs an important function and malfunctions can spell disaster in the form of expensive repairs or even house fires. Most homeowners are not experts in chimney function and will not catch the potential problems that an expert chimney sweep will. Often with chimneys, early detection can end up saving you a lot of money, so it pays off in the end.
How are Chimneys Cleaned? Is it Messy?
You should always look for CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) certified chimney sweeps when contracting a professional sweep. Of course, our staff here at Chimney Sweeps of America are all certified and maintain a high level of professionalism while working on your chimney.
It’s true that chimney cleaning is messy work but good sweeps will ensure that they don’t leave a mess behind. Special equipment keeps any ash or dust from blowing back into your home, and clean floor coverings protect your floors during the cleaning process.
What is Creosote? Where Does it Come From? And Why is it Dangerous?
Soot is a natural byproduct of burning anything, whether it be wood or gas. It gets carried up the chimney with the smoke as it rises, but some of it is deposited on the chimney walls leaving behind a sticky tar-like substance, creosote. This stuff is pretty flammable which can make it quite dangerous.
The CSIA recommends that you have your chimney cleaned when there is as little as ¼ inch buildup present. Depending on how often you use the chimney, this might mean you’ll have to have it cleaned a couple of times a year. Burning as little as one cord of wood can leave enough creosote to start becoming dangerous depending on the efficiency of your system. And don’t think that you can escape because your system burns gas. Burning anything will leave buildup.
How Often is it Necessary to Have my Chimney Cleaned?
This is highly dependent on the frequency of use and what type of fuel you use. The age of your chimney and its condition also have an effect--even the weather can affect how quickly it gets dirty. Mild winters are actually worse for chimneys than cold ones.
For wood-burning fireplaces and chimneys, plan to have it cleaned once or twice a year, but if you burn green wood or burn a lot (more than two cords of wood in a year), you should have it cleaned even more frequently. Natural gas is, of course, cleaner burning but it still causes its own set of problems and should usually be checked once a year.
How Long Can I Expect a Chimney Cleaning to Take?
The time required to clean a chimney will vary depending on what services you have requested. A simple cleaning usually takes about an hour whereas cleaning plus inspection will naturally take longer. It also depends on the type and size of your chimney, of course.
With a Gas Furnace Does the Flue Need to be Cleaned?
As we mentioned earlier, of course, gas is a cleaner burning fuel, but that doesn’t mean it leaves no buildup, it just comes with a different type of issue. As gas burns water vapor and other gases from the air and burning process condense together to form hydrochloric acid that begins to build up inside the flue. This acid is, as you may imagine, corrosive and can start to eat away at the interior of the flue if allowed to build up too much.
Another common issue with these types of flues is small animals or birds getting into your chimney and building nests. These blockages don’t allow for the air to flow as freely as it should and gases can get trapped inside and start creating dangerous conditions.
Are All Chimney Sweeps Basically the Same?
That’s a resounding no! Just like car mechanics or virtually any other field of service some companies have knowledgeable employees offering top notch service, and others do not. The government does not have a hand in regulating this industry, but there are industry standards regulated by the CSIA that we’ve mentioned previously and also the National Chimney Safety Guild or NCSG.
Always be sure that the individual who comes to your home has these certifications to ensure a high quality of service. It just makes sense, when you consider the considerable danger you and your family members can be in if something goes amiss with your chimney. Keep in mind that sometimes companies will have one or two certified employees and advertise themselves as certified, but the individual that they send to your home is not personally certified. Reputable companies will be sure to send out their employees with the proper certification and proof to show you, so it’s a good idea to ask for it.
Chimney Sweeps of America has been operating in the Denver area for over 33 years, and our reputation within the community is strong. We have the proper certifications and are dedicated to providing a level of service that fully satisfies our customers and keeps them using our services year after year. We hold an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and we are actually the only company in the Denver area with a Master Hearth Professional.
We hope that this Chimney Sweeps Q&A, Part 1 has been helpful to you. We can’t stress enough the importance of regularly cleaning, inspecting, and if needed, repairing your chimney to ensure that your home is safe from fire and poisonous gases. Be sure to be on the lookout for the Q&A, Part 2 to get even more answers to common questions.
June 26, 2017
More Reasons Why You Can't Get A Fire Going
Today, Chimney Sweeps of America offers even more reasons why you can’t get a fire going in your fireplace. If you were unable to find the source of your trouble with the suggestions offered in the last article, then perhaps one of these tips will help you out.
Cold Air in the Chimney
This is more of an issue for a chimney located outside the wall of the house. Cold air sinks and could be weighing down the draft just enough to prevent the smoke from rising. To combat this, you can ignite a piece of newspaper and hold it up near the damper to heat a bit of the air in the chimney. Do this extremely carefully.
Not Enough Chimney Draft
Fires need oxygen, and if there isn’t enough of a draft coming down your chimney, it will be nearly impossible to get a blaze going. If the problem is a recent one, it could be that an animal built their home inside your chimney or branches are blocking the opening. Both problems can be fixed with the help of our animal removal and chimney cleaning services.
If you notice that you’ve always had this trouble, it could be that your chimney is too short and you could have it enlarged. To give you an idea, a chimney stack should overall be at least 10 feet tall, rise at least 3 feet above the roof and be at least 2 feet higher than any objects within 10 feet of it.
Your Home is Buttoned up Too Tight
In these modern days of energy efficiency, it is possible to go a little too far with buttoning up our homes. Fires need a source of air and if your home is too tightly sealed there is not enough airflow for the fire to draw and send up the chimney. This can be dangerous too with carbon monoxide poisoning. Try opening a window to see if this is the problem. If that works, consider more permanent options.
Wrong Size Flue
Problems with wrong flue size generally occur when installing wood-burning stoves and connecting them improperly to a chimney. Help from a knowledgeable professional during installation will prevent this problem before it even starts.
Especially if it has been over a year since the last time you had your chimney cleaned, it could just simply be that the chimney is dirty. Over time soot builds up in the chimney and begins to create blockages and problems with the airflow. The only way to fix this is to get the chimney cleaned out to allow for proper airflow and chimney stack function.
Well, that’s it for more reasons why you can’t get a fire going in your fireplace. From all of us here at Chimney Sweeps of America, we hope that these lists have been helpful. Of course, these issues can easily be detected by one of our professionals during a routine inspection and cleaning visit so you can always just set up an appointment with us and we’ll get your chimney in tip-top shape in no time!