Pozzi Chimney Sweep Blog

Why Can’t I Get A Fire Started???

Now that we are well into the winter season, the nights are getting longer and cooler. There’s nothing more relaxing after a hard day’s work than sitting in front of a cozy fire with a warm cup of cider. When you’re ready to unwind, you certainly don’t want to have trouble getting that fire started.

Drafting

Why Can't I Get a Fire Started Image - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney SweepOne of the most common problems when starting a fire is drafting. So, what does drafting mean? To properly explain this concept, it’s important to understand how your chimney works. According to The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), when a fire burns, the warm air that is produced is less dense than the cold air outside of the chimney. This causes the warm air to rise. The cool air in the room will then move into the firebox, which fans the fire and keeps it burning. This is a normal burn cycle.

A draft effect strong enough to overpower the normal burn cycle can occur if your home is leaking in air. If this is happening in your home, a quick fix is to seal things up as much as you can. You can keep windows closed and covered in plastic, and be sure your attic access door is tightly closed.

Other Reasons

CSIA also cites that fires need large amounts of air to burn correctly. The air replacing the drafted air leaving through the chimney has to come from somewhere. There will be little air that can replace the warm air being drawn up through the chimney if your home has been insulated or weather-stripped.  This can lead to a fire that burns low and sluggishly. One solution to this problem is to slightly open some windows on the windy side of the house. Be aware that carbon monoxide may build up in a tightly sealed home. Be sure to use the window opening as a very temporary fix and have experts in to help suggest permanent solutions.

Another problem similar to the drafting issue relates to the use of your chimney’s dampers. According to hearth.com, a damper is used when your fireplace isn’t burning to stop the cold air from reverse drafting. When you are building a fire, make sure that you have opened the damper so that the path is open for warm air and smoke to leave your home through the chimney.

Ask the Experts

Whatever the reasons for problems with your fire, there’s never a question of who can help out. The experts at Pozzi Chimney Sweep are qualified to answer any questions you may have. The awarded technicians have been recognized for the quality services they provide for a number of years. Give them a call for a great service experience, and answers to all your fire-burning questions.

Carbon Monoxide and Your Fireplace

Pretty much everyone knows that carbon monoxide is dangerous.  A lot of us have carbon monoxide alarms already installed in our homes, right next to our smoke detectors. Carbon monoxide is one of those unseen enemies, which makes it even more frightening than the prospect of sleeping through a rogue fire in the home. The effects of carbon monoxide aren’t just deadly—there often isn’t a way to determine what’s happening before it’s too late. Mild poisoning can include symptoms of fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headache and shortness of breath. Severe poisoning, however, can hit quickly and cause loss of muscle control or consciousness, as well as vomiting. If not treated immediately, severe cases usually end with fatality.

Carbon monoxide can be produced by any kind of fuel-burning appliance, including fireplaces, heating systems, stoves and space heaters that burn fuels such as wood, coal, propane, kerosene, oils or natural gas. If any of these appliances aren’t burning completely, carbon monoxide is a result. Without a working exhaust, that carbon monoxide can fill the home and cause poisoning.

Anytime you burn something in your fireplace, what remains is a source of carbon monoxide.

Anytime you burn something in your fireplace, what remains is a source of carbon monoxide.

While it’s good to be cautious and careful about the use of any appliance that burns fuel, there are steps you can take to ensure that you can burn wood in your fireplace or stove successfully and safely. The CSPC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) directs consumers to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by having appliances “installed by qualified professionals”. Certified chimney sweeps must follow strict guidelines during installation, inspections and cleanings to adhere to safety regulations. You’ll gain confidence in knowing that the job was well done and your fireplace or stove, whether gas or wood, is properly exhausted so your air is clean and safe.

In addition to professional installation of your appliances, here are three things you can do to reduce carbon monoxide emissions while using your fireplace:

  1. First and foremost, have your fireplace or stove inspected and cleaned annually.
  2. Burn only dry, seasoned wood and keep your fire hot by stoking it frequently. This feeds the fire with oxygen and helps the heat stay high. Hotter temperatures equal complete and successful fuel combustion.
  3. If you haven’t already done so, install carbon monoxide detectors. The NFPA recommends placing them outside all sleeping areas and on every level of your home.

At Pozzi, we serve the Northern Illinois area, so don’t hesitate to give us a call to address your concerns about any aspect of your fireplace functioning. We have certified technicians and chimney sweeps that work hard to give you the confidence you need to enjoy your fireplace or stove.

Do You Have a Draft Problem?

Do you often have trouble getting a fire started or wonder why your house smells like smoke majority of the time?  If you have these problems, or anything similar, your chimney may be to blame.  This is when weary homeowners should call Young’s Chimney Service.

If your fire is slow to start or produces a lot of smoke, you may have a draft problem.

If your fire is slow to start or produces a lot of smoke, you may have a draft problem.

Chimneys have two main factors that affect how they work, their draft and their capacity.  The term draft is the force of airflow, and capacity is how much draft one chimney can withstand.  Ideally, there should be a positive correlation between the two.  There are some chimney problems that can be easily fixed.  Creosotes, fallen parts of chimneys, and leaves and birds nests are common blockage problems for chimneys.  This is always one of the first things you should check into because not only could it help to fix the current problem, but also it is recommended that having a chimney sweep be a routine activity for fireplace owners.  Also, have your chimney inspection  for leaks, as any leak in the lower half can affect overall draft problems.

Aside from general maintenance, there may be other problems that homeowners may not think of.  Your house could be causing the problem.  If your house is small and well sealed, it may be too tight to allow proper airflow, and opening a window can be a simple fix.  If your chimney is too small you may have a high draft, but professionals would say that it is doubtful, unless you have a large wood-burning heater.  However, your chimney could also be too big.  The appropriate measure should be no more than twice the cross-sectional area to the flue outlet on the appliance.  Extra chimney area and cool flue gases can cause reduction in draft.  Your chimney may also be too short, but can be extended.  Just doubling a chimney’s height can increase draft by 41 percent.  If none of these tips work for you, you may need to look into installing an outside combustion-air system.  Unfortunately, if none of this works, you may have to consider getting a new chimney.

Cleaning Your Wood Stove

Cleaning your Wood Stove

Recently in the United States there has been a surge of wood stoves being installed in homes as an alternative to traditional heating methods. While these rustic heating appliances have an aesthetic appeal they also have economic advantages. Having a wood burning stove greatly reduces the heating costs associated with central heat and air. As with any fireplace however, wood stoves do require a certain amount of upkeep to maintain a safe and energy efficient system. One absolute necessity is scheduling an annual chimney inspection.

The first step to cleaning a wood burning stove is to locate the stove’s catalytic combustor between the fire and the stovepipes. The catalytic combustor acts similarly to a filter. Heat activates the catalyst on the grid that the smoke passes through and converts the ash, particulates, and gases to carbon dioxide and water vapor which harmlessly escapes through the chimney and into the atmosphere. To clean the catalytic combustor you need to use a wire brush to remove any ash that has collected on and inside the combustor. This should be done every 2 months or so.

Did you know you can use cooled ash in your compost pile or garden?

Did you know you can use cooled ash in your compost pile or garden?

Next remove the ashes from the stove using a fireplace shovel or similar tool. These ashes should be kept in an air-tight non-combustible container until they have cooled. Once this has happened they can be disposed of or used in gardens or in compost piles. If you decide to use the ashes in the garden it pays to do a soil test first. The main result of using wood ash in the garden is to raise the pH of the soil. If your soil is has a pH of 7 or higher then you should not use the wood ash. Also be aware of the plants you have and if they thrive in high-acidic soil. Examples of these plants would include potatoes and blueberries.

The next step to cleaning your wood stove is to remove any debris from the outside of the stovepipe. Use a wire brush to scrape the outside and clean all the creosote out of the inside. Creosote is flammable and can cause serious problems if left in your stovepipe. You can identify creosote as a yellowish oily compound. If you can’t identify it by sight you should be able to identify the bad smell. Creosote is created when gases in the stovepipe cool and turn to liquid. Make sure to shovel out any debris that may have fallen while you were cleaning the stovepipe. Always double check your work to make sure all the ash and creosote have been removed.

The last step is to clean the window. This is usually done with fine steel wool. If you chose to use a chemical based cleaning product be sure to let it dry completely before use as it can be a fire hazard and can cause dirt and soot to cake onto the window defeating the purpose of cleaning it in the first place. Of course if all of this seems like more work than you care to take on you can always call your local chimney sweep!