Does Every Kind of Chimney Flue Need Regular Cleaning?
Chimney flues, as well as vent pipes on heating stoves and gas fireplaces, serve a critical function: they allow smoke and toxins to exit into the outside air, thereby preventing them from backing up into the home. That said, there are some differences among vent systems that you should know about when answering the question, “How often does my system need cleaning?”
Wood fireplaces and stoves
If you operate a wood-burning fireplace or stove, you’re sending large amounts of smoke into the chimney flue or vent pipe. Most of that smoke rises into the outside air, but while it’s in the vent system, it deposits a smoke byproduct known as creosote on the vent’s inner lining.
It doesn’t take long for a sufficient amount of creosote to build up before a chimney fire is very possible. Creosote is highly flammable and is responsible for the majority of all chimney fires in the U.S. each year.
Along with the potential for fire, a large creosote buildup creates an obstruction to air-flow. With enough of an obstruction, smoke can back up into the house, as can dangerous carbon monoxide, which is invisible, odorless and highly toxic.
Every fire-safety agency recommends that vent systems used with wood-burning appliances be inspected and cleaned annually by a trained professional. If you haven’t had a thorough cleaning in years, don’t light another fire until this is accomplished.
Gas heating appliances
Gas burns considerably cleaner than wood, so you won’t get the same level of buildup in your chimney flue or vent pipe. Still, some residuals from burning gas do attach to vent systems, so occasional inspection and cleaning is a smart idea.
One of the main reasons for flue and pipe inspections with gas-burning appliances is to check for outside matter that can create obstructions. Many unwanted things can get into a chimney or vent pipe, and once there, toxic exhaust fumes can seep back into the home. What kind of obstructions are we talking about?
- Leaves and twigs from nearby trees that blow in the wind
- Dust and small-particle debris that’s always blowing in the wind
- Nests made by birds, squirrels and other wildlife
- Dead small animals – yes, animals regularly die in chimneys and create serious air-flow obstructions
Another element of inspection – and this goes for all chimney flues and vent pipes – is focused on detecting the presence of water. If there’s a compromise anywhere in the system, rainwater and water from melting snow can get in and begin doing serious damage. Water inspections are very important because the average homeowner will never know that water is seeping into the system until potentially catastrophic damage is done. If you find the leak early, it can be repaired simply, saving you a lot of money and preventing big damage.
If it’s time to have your chimney flue or vent pipe professionally inspected and cleaned, call the experts at Burlington Fireplace in Burlington, WI. We have the tools and the training to ensure that your heating appliance is running safely and at the highest efficiency. Arrange an appointment, or get your questions answered at (262) 763-3522.