Maintaining Your Chimney and Flue | Chimney Sweep and Flue Cleaning

Difference between Chimney Sweeping and Flue Cleaning

Chimney sweep flue cleaningThe words “chimney” and “flue” are often used interchangeably but there is an important distinction between them. If you have a fireplace and a furnace, you should schedule an annual chimney sweeping and flue cleaning.

How is a chimney different from a flue?

A flue is an exhaust pipe or channel that smoke or gas travels through to safely vent outside. Furnaces, boilers and water heaters have flues as well as fireplaces. Usually, flue pipes or tubes run vertically through a home to the outside. In some cases, flue pipes or tubes can run horizontally through a house to the outdoors.

A chimney is a passage way for combustion byproducts to travel up that runs from a fireplace or stove up to the top of a house. It is usually made of stone or brick. Inside the chimney is a flue. In most cases, a chimney flue is made up of a steel chimney liner or ceramic chimney tiles.

What is the difference between a chimney cleaning and flue cleaning?

A chimney cleaning is technically a type of flue cleaning. It has a different name because the combustion byproducts that travel up a chimney flue are more caustic and challenging to remove. A chimney sweeping or chimney cleaning requires special equipment and expertise to remove tough soot and creosote buildup unlike a utility flue cleaning.

A utility flue cleaning does not require aggressive cleaners or specialized equipment because creosote does not build up in this type of flue since these appliances are not fueled by wood or pellets. Boilers, furnaces and water heaters are powered pneumatically by air pressure. Scale and sediment are what build up along the walls of these utility flues. This build up can be removed easily with a tentacled air whip.

The only similarity between these two cleanings is that both might require the removal of a blockage. Both chimney flues and utility flues can become clogged or blocked by an animal’s nest or lawn debris. The process for removing a blockage is the same for both. The blockage must be broken up, removed and then the flue has to be brushed out.

How often do chimney flues and utilities flues need to be cleaned?

Carbon Monoxide DetectorThe National Fire Protection Association recommends that homeowners and renters have their chimney flues and utility flues cleaned at least once a year. Blocked or clogged utility flues can be just as dangerous as a dirty chimney. If the carbon monoxide produced by your boiler or water heater is not able to vent outside through the flue, the dangerous gas will leak into your home instead.

Carbon monoxide exposure can lead to illness and, eventually, death if you have too much exposure. Children and the elderly are most susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. The best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is by having your chimney and utility flue cleaned and inspected once a year.

If you need to setup an appointment for an annual chimney sweeping and flue cleaning, give Burlington Fireplace and Solar a call! Our highly trained staff serve residents across Southeast Wisconsin.

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