There's nothing more cozy than building a fire in the fireplace on a chilly night. Before you put the kindling in the fireplace or turn on that space heater, here are some things to consider.
We've all seen the Chimney Sweep sing on the roof tops in Mary Poppins, but when was the last time you had your chimney cleaned? Chimney fires are more common than you may think. These fires typically occur when creosote, a sticky black byproduct of wood smoke, builds up on the inside of a chimney and ignites. These fires can quickly destroy a chimney or even worse, your roof and/or your home.
However, you can still enjoy the warmth of a fire, and easily avoid chimney fires by having your chimney inspected annually. A professional can examine your flue and advise when it is necessary to clean your chimney to ensure that creosote doesn't build up. In addition to keeping your fireplace clean, an inspector can also detect any structural issues as well. You can find a licensed Chimney Sweep in the yellow pages.
If you use your wood burning fireplace regularly, you should periodically examine your flue for build up throughout the season (if you burn daily, this could be as often as twice a month). The easiest way to check is to look into the flue using a flashlight and compact mirror from the bottom of your chimney. If you see as little as 1/8 inch of creosote built up, it's time to have it cleaned!
Gas fireplaces aren't susceptible to creosote buildup, however it's still important to have a professional check your system thoroughly at the start of every heating season and whenever you suspect trouble
If you think you may have a chimney fire, immediately evacuate everyone out of the building and call 911 from your cell phone or a neighbor's house.
If you use portable space heaters in your home, be extremely careful:
- Space heaters require SPACE! Remove all combustible materials within three feet of the heater.
- Only use a space heater that is equipped with the safety feature that turns it off immediately if it tips over
- Never leave a portable heater unattended.
- Make sure the cord and plug aren't damaged in any way.
- Make sure the cord does not pose a tripping hazard.
- NEVER use an extension cord with a space heater: Generally, the current required for most space heaters is greater than most extension cords can safely handle.
You should also consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm in your home. All combustion appliances, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, propane-fired hot-water heaters, and heating and cooking stoves, produce carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is an invisible and odorless gas that can be potentially lethal if these appliances are not properly vented or has leaks.
We hope you keep these tips in mind so that you can have a safe and warm winter!