Faulty Chimney Liners and Carbon Monoxide

Chimney Liner Damage and Carbon Monoxide - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney SweepWith weather experts forecasting an upcoming winter just as brutal as last year’s, everyone has started thinking about the best ways to stay warm. Some homeowners turn to their fireplaces and wood stoves as the primary heat source for the home, and even more have started using the fireplace as an added heat source to supplement the primary source. As with any type of heating, but especially those involving combustion, safety is of the essence. Part of keeping the fireplace and chimney safe is having an annual inspection done. This helps identify problems like faulty liners, which can create devastating problems.

The chimney liner covers the inside of the chimney, separating the hot gases from the chimney and home. Generally made of clay or steel, it has several jobs, including protecting combustible materials in the house from the heat of the fire, protecting the chimney structure from damage caused by the acidic smoke, and protecting the home’s inhabitants by directing toxic fumes out of the living space. When the chimney liner fails at the last job, the consequences are fast and devastating.

Clay flue liners can crack and break after too much exposure to extreme heat. Steel liners can rust after exposure to water leaking in the chimney. Either way, the chimney liner can no longer effectively do its job. Not all of the smoke and other gases escape up the chimney. Some enters the slips through the cracks and rust holes in the flue liner, which leaves the house susceptible to the gases as well. This means everyone in the home becomes a potential victim of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is a small molecule formed in high concentrations as a product of combustion. Essentially, every time something burns, carbon monoxide results as a product. Burning occurs in many appliances and machines, meaning carbon monoxide is produced in many instances, including in car exhaust, charcoal grills, gas ranges, and propane lanterns. This is why health experts discourage starting the car engine in a closed garage or barbecuing anywhere indoors. Depending on the size of the fire and the room, an enclosed space may take only minutes to fill with carbon monoxide, and you may never know. The gas has no smell, taste or color, making it impossible to detect without the aid of a specialized detector.

Once the concentration of carbon monoxide hits a certain point, the signs of poisoning can become evident very quickly. Inhaling carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from traveling around the body, which results in asphyxiation. Early signs of poisoning include dizziness, shortness of breath and nausea, but it can quickly turn into unconsciousness, organ failure and death if the victim does not move to clean, outdoor air.

When burning fires beneath faulty chimney liners, you risk your family’s safety with numerous dangers, not the least of which being carbon monoxide poisoning. To protect everyone from these dangers, have an inspection done to determine the condition of the chimney liner. If it is cracked, filled with holes, or missing completely, do not burn any more fires before having a chimney specialist address the problem. If you live in the area of Aurora, Illinois, contact Pozzi Chimney Sweep for a professional consultation.