Pozzi Chimney Sweep Blog

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Build-Up

Those cool nights of autumn, the freezing storms of winter, and the chilly evenings of spring. All of these are made so cozy by sitting in front of a crackling fire. Getting together with family members or just playing games for a quiet evening in, you gather around the fireplace. However, inside that warm scene lurks a hidden danger: carbon monoxide. It’s important to understand this dangerous gas and the precautions you can take to avoid a tragic situation.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Build-Up Image - Aurora IL - Pozzi Chimney SweepWhat is Carbon Monoxide

When you burn a fire in your fireplace, carbon monoxide is formed. This gas is colorless and odorless, which makes it virtually impossible to detect until symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning occur. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states that carbon monoxide is formed when any type of fuel is burned. Whether in your car, furnace, or even your fireplace. If carbon monoxide is allowed to build up in your house, it can cause illness and even death.

How Does Carbon Monoxide Invade Your Home

Today’s homes are built tight. This is great when it comes to paying your energy bill, because a tight home will be more energy efficient. For people who use their fireplace, however, this can be a problem. The carbon monoxide that’s formed when a fire is burning needs a place to escape, which in older homes is not a problem because there are some chinks that give this gas a place to sneak out. With today’s energy efficient homes, that doesn’t happen. If you have a new home, one simple solution is to crack a window slightly when you are enjoying a fire in your fireplace. It is also important that you have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home, do monthly battery checks, and replace the batteries every six months.

Symptoms To Be Aware Of

Whether you take these precautions or not, you can still experience a carbon monoxide build-up. That’s why it’s important to know and take notice of symptoms that can occur if a build-up is present. The Mayo Clinic website lists some of the following symptoms that may indicate you have a problem:

  • shortness of breath
  • confusion
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • dull headache
  • blurry vision

Pets can display these symptoms as well, so if you and/or other living creatures in your home are exhibiting these symptoms, be sure to have them checked out immediately. Be aware that a loss of consciousness can take place in extreme situations; do not let it get to that point because death will occur if not removed from the premises.

What To Do

The best thing to do to avoid a carbon monoxide build-up is to install carbon monoxide detectors and have your chimney cleaned and inspected on a yearly basis by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney sweep company like Pozzi Chimney Sweep. We are educated on the latest regulations and chimney cleaning and inspection techniques, and we are dedicated to giving their customers the best service possible. Now that spring is here, it’s the perfect time to schedule your annual inspection and cleaning!

Frequently Asked Questions About Chimneys and Carbon Monoxide

A big part of the role that Pozzi Chimney Sweep plays in our community—and where we derive much of our purpose—is keeping Illinois homeowners and their families safe. By thoroughly inspecting and cleaning chimneys and dryer vents, we keep people safe from potential fires, but we also keep them protected from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide, known as “the silent killer,” is often the last thing on a homeowner’s mind when they get their fire lit for the first time each year or when they turn on their clothes dryer, but if a chimney or dyer is blocked or its draft is impeded in some other way, it may not be able to vent properly.

Pozzi Chimney Sweep offers the full gamut of chimney services, including chimney sweeping, inspection, and repair, along with dryer ventilation cleaning.

Pozzi Chimney Sweep offers the full gamut of chimney services, including chimney sweeping, inspection, and repair, along with dryer ventilation cleaning.

Why is carbon monoxide so dangerous?

The Chimney Safety Institute of America reports that more than 200 people die each year because of venting problems that lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. An additional 10,000 carbon monoxide-related injuries are reported annually. Simply put, too much CO in your blood will kill you, and our bodies will mistakenly choose carbon monoxide over oxygen when exposed to both. To make matters worse, this is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless gas.

Experts will tell you that the symptoms of prolonged, low-level carbon monoxide poisoning mimic flu symptoms so closely that people sometimes don’t discover the real culprit until it’s too late and permanent damage has already been done to the brain or organs. Common CO poisoning symptoms include: headaches, nausea, dizziness, exhaustion, even depression.

How can my chimney create carbon monoxide?

Because houses today are more tightly sealed, saving us energy dollars, they do not naturally vent toxic gases, which are the byproducts of combustion, so well as they once did. Furthermore, new high-efficiency heating appliances, when paired with an existing chimney flue or improperly installed, may not function correctly and can cause CO to build up in the home. Chimneys that are blocked by birds’ nests or creosote build-up may also prevent toxic gases from filtering as they should.

How can a chimney sweep company prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

The most important thing to do is to have your fireplace, chimney, and your heating system inspected annually. This is a recommendation shared by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fire Protection Association, and the American Lung Association. During an inspection, your Pozzi Chimney Sweep technician will be able to alert you to any areas of concern in your chimney or heating appliance. We also recommend having a certified technician inspect your clothes dryer vent to search for any blockages.

If you live in or around Hinckley, Illinois, we hope you will schedule your chimney inspection and/or dryer vent inspection with Pozzi Chimney Sweep today.

Dangers of a Dirty Chimney

Don't allow your family to be in harm's way just because of a dirty chimney.

Don’t allow your family to be in harm’s way just because of a dirty chimney.

For good reasons, the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends you have your chimney swept and inspected annually. Of course, your chimney gets dirty from soot throughout the year whenever you burn a fire in your fireplace and should be cleaned; however, one of the main reasons for this maintenance recommendation is to protect you from the dangers of a dirty chimney. A CSIA-certified company, Pozzi Chimney Sweep offers superior service in chimney sweeping and inspecting and will help you prevent the leading causes of these two deadly dangers of a dirty chimney.

chimney fires

The CSIA stresses that dirty chimneys can cause chimney fires, both dramatic, flame-shooting fires and slow-burning, quiet fires. Luckily, this danger can be easily prevented by having your chimney swept annually by Pozzi Chimney Sweep. Yearly inspections are equally important to check to see if any fire hazards are remaining in your chimney after its cleaning. The reason a chimney cleaning is so essential is to remove creosote build-up, the leading cause of chimney fires. Creosote is formed naturally during the wood-burning process. When the by-products of combustion (smoke, gases, vapors, tar fog, unburned wood particles, etc.) exit your fireplace through your cooler upper chimney, condensation occurs, and the remaining residue that sticks to your chimney walls is creosote. Black or brown in color, the appearance of creosote can vary from shiny and hardened, crusty and cracked, or gummy and sticky, but no matter what it looks like, creosote is highly combustible and a dangerous fire hazard, especially if the build-up is significant and your internal flue reaches a certain temperature. This is why it is so important to schedule a chimney sweep to clean out all of the built-up creosote deposits in your chimney. The CSIA-certified chimney sweeps at Pozzi Chimney Sweep even use a “Chim-Scan” video camera attached to a long pole to record the exterior of your chimney walls up close to be sure all creosote is removed after they finish sweeping.

carbon monoxide poisoning

The second deadly danger of a dirty chimney, carbon monoxide poisoning claims the lives of thousands of Americans every year as well as causes around 10,000 cases of illnesses, according to the CSIA. Carbon monoxide, another by-product of combustion, enters your home from your chimney when you have a damaged or deteriorated flue liner, debris clogging the flue, soot and creosote build-up, or animals or nests obstructing the passageway of your chimney. Restricted air flow also contributes to carbon monoxide leaking into your house because not enough air flowing does not allow the combustion by-products to exit, forcing them back into your living space. When you breathe carbon monoxide, the protein hemoglobin in your blood latches on to it rather than live-giving oxygen. Low-level exposure to carbon monoxide can result in permanent brain and organ damage and death. Preventing carbon monoxide leaks is simple: schedule a chimney sweeping and inspection from Pozzi Chimney Sweep to clean out soot, creosote, and debris and to check the condition of your flue liner.

To protect you, your family, and your home from the deadly dangers of a dirty chimney, schedule an appointment today for your annual chimney sweep and inspection from Pozzi Chimney Sweep. We will ensure no chimney fires or carbon monoxide poisoning will endanger you and your family.

All About Chimney Liners

The flue and flue liner of your chimney system is one of the most critical components.  According to the CSIA, problems in your chimney’s flue can present serious risks to your home and family, as it’s no longer able to perform its primary function: to safely contain and vent the byproducts of combustion to the outside of your home.

Every chimney needs a working liner to usher the deadly byproducts of the combustion process out of your home.

Every chimney needs a working liner to usher the deadly byproducts of the combustion process out of your home.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Are you experiencing constant headaches and sneezing? Do you feel dizzy and eventually want to throw up? Do you only feel that way when you are at home and it miraculously goes away once you’re outside? These are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning – if you are concerned, please see a health professional. Here is some more information about this silent danger.

Even experts cannot detect carbon monoxide with their senses alone - the only way to be certain is to install carbon monoxide alarms.

Even experts cannot detect carbon monoxide with their senses alone – the only way to be certain is to install carbon monoxide alarms.

Studies show that about five hundred Americans die each year due to accidental exposure to carbon monoxide. About eight to fifteen thousand people are diagnosed and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning due to non-fire causes. This survey was done by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Isn’t it scary to think of the figures? No one wants to be part of those statistics. Not to worry though, my company, Pozzi Chimney Sweep is fully equipped with the best chimney sweeps together with top-of-the-line equipment to help minimize these risks. We are here to tell you what the causes are and what you can do to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon Mono-what?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless toxic gas that is the result of incomplete combustion. It is the more evil brother of the well-known carbon dioxide. The worst part about it is that it’s hard to diagnose because we and even many doctors think that it’s just the typical flu because of the common symptoms.

It’s really not limited to your fireplace and chimneys alone. Any of the following could be a potential source:

  • Fuel-burning devices and appliances
  • Smoking
  • Things that have internal combustion engines

When there is not enough chimney draft to help in the process of lifting bad smoke out of the house, there is a chance for carbon monoxide to enter and linger in your home.

Prevention is better than Cure

To prevent this from happening in your home, make sure all your fuel-burning devices like stoves and fireplaces are properly vented, swept and cleaned regularly. Also, make sure that you are aware of the symptoms so that once you start feeling them you can go see a licensed physician right away. There are times when you’d rather ignore them—please do not. Carbon monoxide is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly.

The best way is to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed in your home. It’s budget-friendly and it can help you know whether or not your home is already filled with carbon monoxide. Our experts here at Pozzi Chimney Sweep can install that for you. We have the best CSIA-certified chimney sweeps that will guarantee a safe and secure home for you and your family.

 

Problems with Draft

Are you having trouble with a smoky fire? Maybe your fire is having difficulty igniting or staying lit. These problems indicate you may have a draft problem. The professionals at Pozzi Chimney Sweep know how to handle all of your chimney needs, whether it be your chimney sweep and inspection or something a little more serious.

If anything is blocking the process of combustion inside your chimney, your risks increase.

If anything is blocking the process of combustion inside your chimney, your risks increase.

What is a chimney draft?

When thinking about things that could go wrong inside of a chimney, draft problems is probably not the first thing that comes to your mind.  A proper chimney draft is important because that is how all of the toxic air is flushed out of the home.  As the air inside of your chimney begins to get hotter, it pulls air up and through the firebox, causing the draft.  Your chimney’s draft can be varied by increasing or decreasing fire levels and changing the temperature, or by adding or taking away the height of the chimney.

What happens to change the draft? 

There are many things that can go on with a chimney to disrupt its flow.  One of the mot common reasons is a large amount of creosote build up within the structure.  Creosote is released during the burning of a fire and clumps together inside of your chimney.  This is one reason that having your annual chimney sweep is so important.  When hiring a sweep make sure it is someone that you trust.  ‘

One way to find an experienced professional is to ask neighbors, family and friends, and internet websites.  You should also make sure that whoever you hire is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. (CSIA)  This means that they follow a set of guidelines used across the country that will leave you safe and getting the most out of your appointment.

In addition to the draft, having a chimney sweep will reduce the chance of any fires.  When having a chimney sweep, make sure that you do not burn any fires for at least 24 hours prior so the area is cooled down enough for the technicians.  Also, have all furniture and valuables pulled away from the chimney to keep them from becoming dirty or damaged.  Lastly, lock away any pets for their safety and the safety of the sweeps.  Other things that could cause draft problems include clogged dampers, dirty chimney caps, structural damage, and building issues.

What happens when the draft is changed?

With improper chimney draft, the air that has become filled with gases from the fire cannot escape the home.  Carbon monoxide, which is a colorless, odorless, gas, is so discrete that you are unable to tell when it is filling the area around you.  Unfortunately, this means for most people that they will begin to feel symptoms before they realize anything is wrong.

Symptoms can range anywhere from cold and flu-like symptoms with nausea, fatigue, and dizziness, to severe problems such as chest pains and fatality depending on how much they are exposed to.  If you feel as if the area you are in is questionable evacuate immediately and seek medical help.  When you arrive at the doctor, they will evaluate you.  If levels are high enough, you can be admitted into the hospital where they will give you additional oxygen.  Even if you open windows and doors, that will not be enough to immediately air out the area.  Carbon monoxide monitors have been invented where you can be alerted if levels start to rise.  You should scatter them throughout the floor plan of your home, and on multiple levels if necessary.  Even though these devices are similar to smoke detectors, they should not be used as replacements.

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.