Fireplace Preparedness – Are You Ready for Cooler Weather?
The chill of winter is already with us some evenings, so it’s just a matter of time before the serious cold moves in and fireplaces get cranked up once again. Before the heavy-use season for wood and gas fireplaces is in full gear, it’s a smart idea to make sure your appliance is ready for winter. You can do some of the suggested annual fireplace maintenance tasks yourself; for other tasks, it’s wise to seek professional help.
Fireplace preparedness: what you can do
If your fireplace is equipped with glass doors and they weren’t cleaned during the down-season, they probably need some attention. You can purchase liquid cleaners designed for fireplaces, or use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. While cleaning, notice if an unusual amount of soot has coated the glass – this could point to a drafting problem.
Some fireplaces have front grilles that help to keep air circulating. These should be cleaned at least once a year to remove whatever buildup might occur as air is pulled into the firebox. Cleaning solution and an appropriately sized brush will do the trick.
For gas fireplaces that are non-vented, you can use compressed air to clean the pilot orifice. Units made within the last 20 or so years include an oxygen depletion sensor pilot, which will keep shutting down the system if it gets too dirty or blocked. Also smell for leaking gas.
With electric fireplaces, the only “maintenance” activity you might need to do is replacing a few burned out lights. At any time of year, if you notice what appears to be shorting or flickering of lights or sluggish operation, shut it down and have a professional take a look at the system.
When selecting firewood, make sure to get wood that is seasoned (dry) and store it in a place that’s away from rain and melting snow. Wet wood will exude huge amounts of smoke and burn unevenly.
Finally, follow the instructions in your unit’s owner’s manual for other recommended maintenance tips that might be specific to your fireplace.
When to call a professional
For the bigger jobs, such as chimney cleaning, schedule an appointment with a certified chimney sweep once a year. Homeowners commonly have this done just before the burning season. This is especially important for wood fireplaces as they create more smoke and toxins that latch onto the inside of the firebox and chimney.
It’s also a good idea to have your entire system inspected annually. This includes the chimney cap, the interior and exterior chimney materials, the chimney liner, the crown, and all moving parts. “Prevention is the best cure” definitely applies to fireplaces and chimneys.
If you’d like help getting your wood or gas fireplace prepared for winter, call Burlington Fireplace & Solar. We’ll perform a thorough cleaning and inspection and can make any necessary repairs so that once the cold weather hits, you’re ready to crank up the heat in safety. Call (262) 763-3522, or visit us at 857 Milwaukee Ave. in Burlington, Wis.