My furnace chimney looks fine on the outside. What is the problem?
Many chimneys that vent for gas or oil furnaces may appear to be in fine condition on the outside. However, on the inside, it could be a completely different situation. Yesterday's chimneys were not designed for venting today's more energy efficient furnaces.
A look at the inside of your chimney would show how acid-laden residue from the furnace has attacked the flue. More than likely, the original clay liner has eroded away and pieces of it are missing. Old chimneys might not even have a liner. Mortar and bricks are loose and falling, and moisture has leeched through to your home's interior walls. With continued use, more erosion will take place, possibly leading to leaks in the flue, complete flue blockage, or possibly even carbon monoxide poisoning of the home's occupants.
Are chimney problems serious?
Chimney problems can cause illness and even loss of lives. Illness and even death from carbon monoxide or sulfur dioxide poisoning has happened thousands of times.
With deterioration of the flue, the deadly gases can find their way into your home through even the smallest cracks. In severe cases, the chimney erosion will lead to partial or complete internal collapse, blocking the flue and sending these poisonous gases into the home. Fortunately, the problems of a deteriorating gas or oil furnace flue can be corrected without completely rebuilding your chimney.
How are fireplaces and chimneys constructed?
These are generally constructed of brick or stone. The firebox may be metal but is most often built of firebrick. The chimney is usually lined with a terra cotta liner. Masonry is strong and durable and adds an air of structural soundness to the house. Brick and stone impart feelings of permanence and stability while adding a quiet beauty both inside and out. These range in price from $2,000 and up.
What are prefabricated chimneys?
These are generally factory preassembled units that are specially designed so as to allow placement in close proximity to combustible materials; hence the name "zero-clearance" has been given to them. These fireplaces are coming into wide use as an economical alternative to more expensive masonry fireplaces. They are usually attached to a factory made metal chimney. The fireplace and chimney generally range in price from $1,500-$2,500 installed. Freestanding fireplaces would also fall in this category.
How do chimney caps work?
An Open Chimney Is Serious Business.
• A Cap Keeps Out The Rain
If this were the only reason for installing a cap it would be enough. I have seldom seen an uncapped chimney over five years old that was not suffering from some kind of water damage. Go over to your fireplace right now and look at the back firewall near the base. Take a screwdriver or coin and run it across the mortar in the bricks. Seem a little crumbly? Or maybe it's obvious just looking at it. Rain puddles upon the smoke shelf, mixes with creosote in the chimney and turns into a highly corrosive acid. It then seeps down and attacks the mortar joints on the back wall of the fireplace. It becomes weak and presto, the bricks on that wall come loose. Besides that:
• Rain soaks into the mortar joints in the flue. When it freezes it expands eroding and weakening the mortar bands and, thus, the whole chimney. Such a chimney becomes very weak with time.
• Rain can set off a bad smell in the chimney. This will happen in warm weather, especially if the chimney is dirty or has bird droppings on the shelf.
What is it like to have a chimney fire?
It's no picnic. Chances are it will only scare the daylights out of you. However, it can damage the house considerably if allowed to get out of control. A chimney fire burns so hot (sometimes in excess of 2,000°) that it can crack the flue tiles and spread to other parts of the house. The brickwork itself can radiate enough heat to ignite paneling or surrounding woodwork. The fire can melt mortar from the chimney joints and send it flying into the air like a roman candle with red hot pieces falling on your roof and that of your neighbors. Add to that the embarassment of having three firetrucks parked in your driveway, and you can begin to get the picture.
How often should a chimney be cleaned?
I'm probably asked this question more than any other and the most solid answer I can give is a lawyer's answer - it all depends.
1. How often you use the chimney.
2. How your fireplace and chimney are constructed.
3. How well you manage your fire.
4. What type of wood you burn.
5. How well seasoned it is.
6. How often you let the fire smolder itself out.
7. What the weather is like.
What to do in case of a chimney fire?
1. Call the Fire Department. Hopefully the fire will be out before they get there, but you will want them to inspect the structure and make sure there is no latent damage or hazard.
2. If you have one, use a chemical flare type chimney fire extinguisher. If you don't have one go to the next step. After the excitement is over, go buy one.
3. If you have a stove, close off the air inlets. If you have a fireplace with glass doors, close the doors and the vents. If you have an open fireplace, go to the next step. Do not close the damper.
4. Go outside and hose down the roof surrounding the chimney. Do not hose the chimney itself or try to put water down the flue. Not only will it make a mess of your house where the water comes out the other end, but it will very likely damage the flue tiles.
5. After the firemen leave call a chimney sweep and get your chimney cleaned. Chances are the firemen will condemn the chimney until you do. One of the most dangerous myths I know is that a chimney fire will leave the chimney clean. The truth is that the fire will compound the problem by causing the creosote present to expand and honeycomb, preparing a better surface for more to collect on and one much more likely to ignite again with much less provocation.
6. Sit down and write your own version of what it's like to have a chimney fire.
There are 16,700 dryer vent fires a year.
What problems can dryer vents cause?
And the number continues to rise. Why? Most people don't know their dryer vents need to be cleaned. They clean out their filter now and then and think that's it. But the dryer vent duct is where lint can really build up and get clogged. And lint is highly flammable, accounting for most dryer vent fires.In addition to lint buildups, improper installation of your dryer vent system can also pose a serious danger to you. A dryer vent cleaning professional will detect potential hazards such as the presence of flammable vinyl duct or a duct run that is improperly routed. So ensure your family's safety with professional inspection.Lint buildup takes more energy (and money) to dry your clothes
If your dryer isn't drying your clothes like it used to, you may not need a new dryer! A dryer vent clogged with lint reduces airflow so your dryer doesn't dry as efficiently as it used to. An inefficient dryer also uses more energy, thereby costing you more money.The Solution.
Have your dryer vent system cleaned and inspected yearly by a dryer vent cleaning professional. A standard cleaning will involve unhooking the dryer, cleaning the vent duct with special tools, and checking connections. A professional can also service all venting situations, including today's extremely long vent ducts. These ducts are especially susceptible to lint buildups.So don't take a chance - put your family's safety in the hands of a professional. It will protect them against potential fire and save you money as well - two great reasons why you should think about your dryer vent.