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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.

Tips for Hiring a Chimney Sweep

Lovable Bert, who forever left us with an impression of chimney sweeps as soot faced rooftop dancers, was in some ways a fitting caricature. He was, after all, a jack of all trades, selling kites one minute, cleaning chimneys the next. That can be what you get these days if you do not ask the right question when you choose a chimney sweep.

Professional Fitness for a Changing Job

It is important to remember that this profession began with less than scrupulous simple vent cleaners who were no longer a good fit for modernized chimneys. That pretty well describes some of the “chimney sweeps” who completed a quick training in the use of specialized brushes and got a business license. They may be equipped to clean a modern chimney, but they are a bad fit for modern fireplace systems and they are not really into them.

CSIA Certification - Baton Rouge LA - Basic Chimney Sweep

Bert was not the guy to handle an inspection of the chimney to assess its condition, safety, and performance. He was the type to tap dance around clearances without ever knowing they were there. You may love him, but Bert is far from a CSIA certified chimney sweep, and not the guy you want to entrust with your home safety.

One Tip Is All You Need

The ability to professionally inspect your chimney is the primary thing for which you should be looking. That is what takes years of training and ongoing education, and that is what results in chimney sweep certification. Young boys living in orphanages were quickly taught to clean chimneys, but nobody relied on them to do more than that.

The most important tip we have for you is really the only one you need…to make a good choice. Ask the sweep you called if they have proof of industry certification in addition to a license and insurance. If he is not a certified sweep, simply look elsewhere to find someone that is truly qualified to clean your chimney.

By Ronald Caillais on March 12th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Chimney Sweeping: It’s Not Just for Cold Weather

Your chimney is an important and beautiful feature of your home. Even if you don’t light a fire in it very often, most of us still think of our fireplace hearth as the “heart” of our homes. Certainly, most people don’t even think about cleaning their chimney unless the weather is really cold and you’re using the chimney often. But, what many people don’t realize is that even in climate zones (like the Southeast) that experience mild winters, it’s still important to clean the chimney—even if you don’t fire it up very often.

Basic Chimney Sweep - Even during mild winters, your chimney needs to be regularly swept

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that you have your chimney cleaned at least once a year. The reason for this is the simple science of how soot and dirt collects in your chimney. When the weather is warm, the air flowing through your chimney slows down. When the airflow is stifled, it means that the dirt, dust and creosote stay in your chimney longer. So, even if you aren’t using your chimney the way you do when the weather is really cold, the chimney is still getting dirty. Any time you have a build up of creosote in your chimney, you are at risk for a chimney fire. This build up can also cause a terrible odor in your home. If you have a leak in your chimney, the odor will worsen and the damp mix can cause mold, causing upper respiratory issues. A dirty chimney will also give off an unpleasant odor.

So, even though you live in a warmer climate and you don’t really think chimney cleaning and maintenance should be high on your priority list, you should remember that reduced airflow in warmer weather means even more buildup of creosote. It’s a good idea think about chimney maintenance all year long—for your health and safety.

By Ronald Caillais on November 13th, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

How Do I Know If I Should Hire a Chimney Sweep?

Chimneys typically look lovely and appealing, and that’s to be expected, so how do we know if we really need to hire a chimney sweep. A chimney sweep needs to be hired before your chimney actually begins deteriorating and incurring structural damage. This will save you money in the long run. It is important to keep your chimney clean and up to date. Just like any mold, dust, and mildew can be harmful to you and your family, chimneys can hold many dangers that can be hazardous to your health.

Attempting to clean your own chimney is not an easy task to try to tackle yourself, and could even cause the problems to worsen. Fires are unpredictable, and just the slightest wrong move can put your fireplace and chimney in danger of being more susceptible to a future fire.

Wood burning stoves will most likely need a professional chimney sweep to remove natural build up, especially from woods such as pine, that contain higher amounts of moisture. Most soot from wood-burning stoves will need to be removed with a wire brush and possibly even chemicals. If this is not taken care of professionally, it can cause much build-up and can be a major cause of chimney fires.

Depending on the climate you live in and the amount your stove is used, your cleaning schedule will vary. If you are using your stove often, it may need up to four cleanings throughout the winter months. But some may be fine to clean once a year, commonly in the late spring or summer. Schedule as early as possible, as a booking can take several weeks to a month.

Many problems can occur that a chimney sweep will have solutions for. Any obvious damage to the structure can be dangerous, including cracked or missing tiles or bricks, and even deteriorating mortar. The smallest crack can be dangerous, allowing water or even flames to escape. Flames or chunks escaping out of your chimney can set your house on fire. Animals, including birds and their nests, squirrels, and snakes can take shelter in your chimney during the off season. There are chimney caps available if this is a problem in your area. The cap can keep out animals and even moisture from the wet and rainy seasons.

Unfortunately even prior installations may have not been done correctly, and can continue damaging your chimney if not checked regularly.

Beyond regularly cleaning out your common ashes and soot in your fireplace, there really isn’t much you can do, without professional tools and equipment. Don’t ever put yourself in harms way just to save a penny.

Fireplaces and chimneys are not to be messed with. Your family is worth the price. A chimney sweep should be scheduled yearly, at least. Feel free to ask about your options. You do not always need a repair, many times only a cleaning is needed, and can keep you from so many troubles in the future. A clean and safe chimney will always lead to happiness!

By Ronald Caillais on September 23rd, 2012 | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment
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