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Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair Blog

The Science of Combustion

Are you constantly worried about creosote buildup, carbon monoxide poisoning, and house fires? Well, if you know the basics in the combustion process, you wouldn’t have to.

Maximizing the heating potential of your fireplace or heating system can save you energy dollars as well as keep your whole household safe.

Maximizing the heating potential of your fireplace or heating system can save you energy dollars as well as keep your whole household safe.

By Ronald Caillais on February 10th, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Science of Combustion

The Chimney and Carbon Monoxide Dangers

A chimney’s job is to exhaust combustion gases from your home. However, when a chimney gets excessively dirty or clogged (by any number of things—debris and animal nests are common culprits), when your chimney damper is closed, or a part of your chimney is broken that prevents carbon monoxide and other combustion byproducts from venting, then you and your family may become at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. When carbon monoxide can’t access the outside of your home through your chimney it will “backdraft” into your home.

Carbon monoxide can put you and your family in harm's way. Be sure to have your chimneys inspected and swept to avoid such accidents.

Carbon monoxide can put you and your family in harm’s way. Be sure to have your chimneys inspected and swept to avoid such accidents.

In high levels, carbon monoxide can become deadly within a matter of minutes, while low-level does can sicken people with flu-like symptoms. (Unlike the flu, carbon monoxide poisoning won’t cause a fever or glandular swelling.) Carbon monoxide poisoning is even sometimes mistaken as seasonal depression. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, [link to ] over 200 Americans die each year and 10,000 injuries are diagnosed—all from carbon monoxide poisoning related to venting problems with their heating systems.

The best way to prevent chimney-related carbon monoxide poisoning is to have your chimney inspected and swept annually. This is a recommendation shared by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, as well as most all other national fire safety organizations. A professional chimney cleaning can have many other benefits as well, including providing you with a safer, more efficient heating appliance that’s less likely to smoke in your home and create unpleasant odors. Beyond prevention, installing a carbon monoxide detector inside your home will be able to alert you to the presence of the deadly gas inside your home. Those of us at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair are happy to inspect and clean your chimney so you can rest easy knowing you and your family are safe.

How Can I Tell If My Chimney Is Allowing Carbon Monoxide in My House?

Only a professional will be able to truly determine—via an inspection and/or cleaning —whether or not your chimney is allowing CO to vent into your home. Although many causes of chimney-related carbon monoxide poisoning are tucked away from view, there are sometimes visible signs that something may be amiss with your chimney, including:

  • Rust or water streaks on your vent or chimney
  • Loose chimney masonry
  • A loose or missing furnace panel
  • Loose or disconnected vent or chimney connections
  • Debris or soot inside your home or falling from your chimney, fireplace, or appliance
  • Moisture inside your windows
  • Internal appliance damage or malfunctioning components
  • Improper burner adjustment
  • Hidden blockage or damage in chimney

If you’ve noticed any of these issues with your heating appliance, call us right away to schedule an inspection.

Physical Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The trickiest part about this sometimes-deadly gas is that it can be very hard to detect, as it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. This is why the call it “the silent killer.” Unfortunately, when our bodies are given the choice between carbon monoxide and oxygen, our blood protein hemoglobin will choose carbon monoxide over oxygen, replacing oxygen in our blood stream with carbon monoxide. Too much carbon monoxide in the blood will kill us.

Below are some of the physical symptoms that accompany low-level carbon monoxide poisoning. These are especially important to pay attention to during the colder months when you’re using your heating appliance:

  • Red coloration of the skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or loss of consciousness
  • Fatigue or weakness, including muscle fatigue
  • Chest pain

It is important to note that CO poisoning symptoms manifest differently for each person.

Other Causes of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Did you know that your clothes dryer can also cause carbon monoxide to leak into the home? The best way to prevent this problem is to have your dryer vent professionally inspected and cleaned. This is a service we at Basic Chimney Sweep & Repair are happy to provide to our customers. A dryer vent cleaning will also help your clothes to dry quicker, which will cost you less energy dollars and may even prevent a dryer fire, as lint tends to get clogged in dryer ducts, especially when your dryer is located in the center of your home and the duct has to travel a long distance to vent outdoors.

Contact us today to schedule an inspection of your chimney and/or your dryer duct. Keep your family safe and put your mind at ease, all while helping your appliances run more efficiently.

By Ronald Caillais on January 21st, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Chimney and Carbon Monoxide Dangers

Dryer Vents and When to Clean

Properly maintained dryer vents are as crucial to home safety as properly maintained chimneys. When to clean them also depends on a myriad of variables such as amount of use, what is going through them, and other house-specific circumstances. The best advice anyone can offer is to consult a professional about the frequency of safety cleanings given your individual situation.

Clean Dryer Vents - Baton Rouge LA - Basic Chimney Sweep

Important Variables

That said, variables of critical importance are:

  •  length
  • number of turns and jointed corners
  • shared venting with other appliances
  • exterior caps
  • what you put in the dryer

The last is why spring always brings a reminder from venting professionals to include dryer vents in your seasonal house cleaning. Considerably more bedding is typically put in dryers, along with sweaters being packed away until fall. That means more lint is going into the vent, if it is functioning properly to begin with, and that lint is dangerous.

A Seasonal Reminder

We believe no home owner is unaware at this point that dryer vents are the source of many house fires. You would literally need to live under a rock to remain oblivious to the constant news reports and public service messages in this regard. We also believe that every homeowner has a lot going on in spring and forgetting to clean the dryer vent is completely understandable.

So we remind you now: If you do not have short straight dryer venting — unshared with other appliances — that you can access completely, call a pro. If you do not have an exterior cap on venting you know to be clean and in good condition, cap it.

If your venting does meet those requirements, please exercise care appropriate to the venting material. Flexible aluminum venting is more easily damaged, but even metal vents can sustain damage if cleaned improperly. Remember, too, that more baby animals are looking for a nice hiding place in spring, so do not leave your vents open to the great outdoors.

By Ronald Caillais on May 12th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Comments Off on Dryer Vents and When to Clean

Living In an Apartment or Condo? Better Get Your Dryer Vent Cleaned

Because less square footage is available for appliances, washers and dryers in apartments and condominiums are often the small, stackable variety. Unfortunately, these are inefficient blowers to begin with and are usually connected to complicated venting systems. Lacking the force to expel heated air through these long vents making right-angle turns, these stacked appliances have no hope of performing efficiently.

Dryer vents in apartments and condos

Clear signs that there are blockages in the system are clothes that take excessively long to dry, moisture in the laundry closet, dryers that feel too hot, and lint screens that are always clean. Beyond the waste of energy required to run the dryer again and again in order to dry your clothes, the lint that is likely to account for the blockage is cause for concern. Highly flammable, lint that has built up in the elbows joining vent ducts is easily set on fire.

The bottom line is that, if you are living in an apartment or a condominium, your dryer vent needs to be checked and cleaned by a professional. This should be done on a regular basis and will include a check of the vent pipe inside the dryer as well. Since it is unlikely that it will be possible to re-route the vent ducts, it will be necessary for these to be properly cleaned.

That requires special brushes and equipment and the knowledge of how best to sweep out the lint that has accumulated in the vent ducts. This explains why the job is often done by professional chimney sweeps, whose history would suggest another environment altogether. The important thing is that someone whose training and skill are certified be scheduled to perform the cleaning.

Trained to clean vent ducts without damaging them, as often happens when homeowners try to tackle the job themselves, professionals leave you with clean vents and peace of mind. Especially where flexible aluminum ducting is present, the ability to clean it without causing small tears in it is essential. If the aluminum is torn, at least that section of the vent duct has to be replaced, which is far more expensive than a routine cleaning.

By Ronald Caillais on January 26th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , | Comments Off on Living In an Apartment or Condo? Better Get Your Dryer Vent Cleaned

Safety Tips for Your Clothes Dryer

Did you know that clothes dryers are one of the leading causes of home fires? Did you know that one of the main culprits for these fires is simply that the vents are not properly cleaned? Here are some basic tips to help keep your home and family safe.

Basic Chimney Sweep - Safely Operating Your Clothes Dryer

  • Clean the lint filter – make it a habit of cleaning the lint filter after each use. If the kids are doing laundry, make sure you show them how to properly remove the filter, clean it, and replace it before using the dryer.
  • Clean the dryer vent – cleaning the dryer vent on a regular basis should become habit. In addition, you should also have it professionally cleaned throughout the year. This is especially important for homes that have significant venting for their dryer. A regular household vacuum simply does not have the power required to completely clean out a lengthy dryer vent system.
  • Proper Installation – if you are purchasing a new dryer, make sure it is installed by a professional. Most stores will offer this service as part of the purchase. Even if there is small fee for the installation, you are better safe than sorry. A professional can check all electrical connections as well as make sure the ventilation system is properly hooked up.
  • Regular Maintenance – your should perform regular preventative maintenance on the dryer to keep it in good working order at all times. Manuals will provide a trouble-shooting guide for the owner but if you come across something that is beyond your expertise, you should call in a professional. If the dryer is still under warranty, the service call may actually be covered and not cost you a penny.
  • Do not overload the dryer – this is self-explanatory. Putting too many clothes in the dryer is not only unsafe, it is a waste of energy as it will take longer for the clothes to dry.
  • Never run the dryer unattended – it can be tempting to run the dryer right before bed or when you are heading out the door for errands or to go to work. However, if there is a problem, who will be there to recognize and address it? Be safe, only run it when you are awake and in the home.
By Ronald Caillais on November 21st, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Safety Tips for Your Clothes Dryer

Don’t Forget To Have Your Dryer Vents Cleaned

One household task that gets routinely forgotten is dryer vent cleaning. This can be a very dangerous situation, because the lint that collects in the dryer vent is extremely flammable. All it would take is a single spark for disaster to strike. It is important to remember, though, that this is not a job that can easily be done without the proper tools. Keep in mind, you’ll need to clean more than the ends of the vent. There will be plenty of lint in the middle portion of the vent pipe.

Besides the obvious fire hazard, a clogged dryer vent will run less efficiently. This causes your clothes to dry more slowly, and your utility bill to go up more rapidly. Also, the dryer itself is likely to have a shorter life because it has to work so much harder. You will find that your overall costs to clean your clothes goes up exponentially by failing to properly maintain your dryer vent system. Of course, money savings aren’t the only consideration regarding dryer duct cleaning.

Statistically, there are around 15,000 dryer vent fires every year. Besides a professional cleaning, be sure to clean out the lint trap after each use. Also, never leave the dryer running when you leave your home. You never know when you might have a problem. The worst part is this is a preventable disaster. With some simple maintenance, you can avoid dryer vent hazards. There aren’t many disasters that are this simple to prevent.

Be aware of the potential dangers you face with your dryer, furnace, chimney, and other home appliances that involve fire. Proper care and awareness will keep you and your family safe from completely preventable disasters. That makes the cost of a cleaning well worth the cost, because your family and your home are priceless.

By Ronald Caillais on August 7th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , | Comments Off on Don’t Forget To Have Your Dryer Vents Cleaned
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