Wood burning fireplaces offer a certain charm and ambience to your home, but when it comes to heating and environmental efficiency they are far from the best choice. If you have a fireplace at home, you may want to keep it, while also making it safer, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly. That’s where fireplace conversion can be the ideal way to transform your inefficient wood burning fireplace into a more efficient and functional heating installation.

Gas fireplace conversionThe Problem With Wood Burning Fireplaces

Wood burning fireplaces can be one of the most inefficient options, with much of the heat from within the home and as well as the heat generated from the fire simply being lost through the chimney. Wood burning fireplaces also add smoke, pollution, and particulate matter to the air which can trigger allergies and asthma and contribute to environmental pollution. Wood burning fireplaces increase the risk of chimney fires and home fires due to the buildup of creosote as a byproduct of wood burning.

Fortunately, when it comes to switching out your wood burning fireplace for a cleaner, more efficient version, you have a number of options.

Wood Burning Fireplace Inserts

Wood burning fireplace inserts retain the charm of traditional wood burning fireplaces, while lessening the environmental impact. Wood burning inserts reduce drafts and heat escaping from the fireplace, while ensuring wood burns hotter and more completely. Wood burning fireplace inserts can fit right into a traditional fireplace, converting it into a more efficient option.

Artificial Gas Logs

Artificial gas log fireplaces can offer an economical option that gives the effect of a real wood-burning fireplace without the pollution and the mess. Artificial gas logs may still need to be installed with glass door enclosures to reinforce insulation and prevent heat loss. Gas log fireplaces use gas as a fuel which can be more economical than firewood (if you need to pay for firewood). Gas log fireplaces provide reliable heat without the pollution of smoke and the mess of ash and creosote.

Gas Fireplace Insert

A gas fireplace insert is like a gas heater installed within the firebox of the existing fireplace. Because they are sealed, they are more efficient than gas logs and can provide reliable heat with adjustable flames. Gas fireplace inserts can cost more to install initially but can offer a more efficient heating solution without the health and environmental concerns of other fireplace options.

Electric Fireplace Insert

Electric fireplaces can be useful as they don’t require a chimney to vent. That means if your chimney is not functioning you can still create the effect of the fireplace with an electric insert. The drawback of an electric fireplace is that there are no flames, so it doesn’t have the same effect as other installations. While Electric inserts are inexpensive to install, electricity is generally not the most efficient fuel source. However electric inserts can provide a good source of heat as a nonpolluting alternative to an open fire place.

For environmental, health, and economical reasons, swapping out your traditional fireplace for a more efficient version makes sense. If you’re not sure which fireplace alternative is right for you, talk to our fireplace experts today to learn more about which fireplace conversion will work best for your home.

Keeping your chimney safe is an essential part of keeping your whole home safe. Keep an eye out for these 6 essential warning signs that your chimney needs repair.

  • A Smoky Or Smelly Home

A smoky or smelly home can mean your chimney liner is not working properly. Chimney liners, with clay being the most popular, are channels inside of the chimney that contain and direct combustion products outside, protecting the chimney from corrosion. If these fumes are not redirected, the consequences on your health can be severe.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to spot liner damage. Consider calling a professional if you detect an overly smoky odor from your chimney.

  • Flakes Or Shards Of Tile/Ceramic In Your Hearth

On the topic of chimney liners, watch out for bits of flue lining in your firebox. Flue liner “shaling” occurs with time and can lead to a host of consequences, as indicated above.

The purpose of the liner is to protect the surrounding home, including combustible materials around your fireplace. Get an inspection to determine whether to replace or repair the lining.

  • White Staining On The Chimney’s Exterior

Efflorescence the name given to the effect created when a white residue of minerals and salts comes to the surface of concrete and mortar. It is a sign that water is leaking into your chimney system and is indicative of present or future structural deterioration.

When the chimney has disintegrated materials or is missing a cap, rain water can more easily make its way into the walls. This can be a sign your chimney needs repair or additional protective structures to prevent further damage.

  • Cracks In The Chimney Crown

On the topic of water damage, let’s discuss the dangers of crown cracks. If you’ve noticed air or water coming in through the fireplace, there may be cracks in the mortar around your chimney. As the cracks grow, so do structural problems so have these repaired quickly to maintain safety.

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  • Stained Ceiling Or Walls

We’ve been talking a lot about the dangers of moisture and stained ceilings or walls around the chimney as these are great signs that your chimney may need repair.

Look out for dark patches, dampness, and stains and take steps to investigate the issue. There are countless DIY conversations happening online on websites and forums to help you troubleshoot, but as always, it’s important to reach out to a professional if unsure.

  • A Chimney Fire

Loud cracking and popping? Dense smoke and intense smell? These are signs of a chimney fire.

Flue fires are caused by the release of hydrocarbon gases from heated wood. At around 1100 degrees F, unburned gases condense and harden into creosote.

Creosote is highly flammable and triggers chimney fires. Chimney fires can cause the masonry to expand to the point of blowing out, which in the worst cases means room explosions.

To tell if you’ve had a chimney fire, look for warped metal in the damper, cracks in exterior masonry, smoke escaping through the mortar, or heat damaged TV antennas.

If you’re concerned, call your local chimney sweep for an inspection as soon as possible.

Keeping your chimney safe and in good condition means you can enjoy your fireplace in comfort, peace, and safety.

Fireplace, Berkeley Chimney Repair, Lafayette Chimney Repair, Walnut Creek Chimney Service, Lafayette Chimney Service, Walnut Creek Chimney Inspection, chimney sweep, dryer vent, alameda, oakland, Artificial Log Set, artificial logs, bay area, berkeley, chimney sweep, clean, Concord, danville, fireplace inserts, frequently asked questions, Irish Sweep, lafayette, oakland, orinda, Pleasant Hill, walnut creek, Wood Burning Chimney, Wood Burning Device, Wood HeatersFireplaces are a captivating home feature and a cozy source of warmth. But as eye-catching as a fireplace may be, it is often forgotten in the grand scheme of home maintenance and repair.

We recommend getting your chimney and fireplace inspected by a professional once a year but, in the meantime, there are plenty of proactive measures you can take.

Here are five useful tips to keep your fireplace safe in any season:

  1. Keep Your Chimney Top Clean

First, make sure you’ve installed a chimney cap to keep mother earth outside. Because animals like to seek refuge in there, the Humane Society of the United States recommends using a stainless-steel chimney cap with wire mesh to prevent their access. Clean the cap if it becomes clogged. You can use a wire brush to remove debris from the mesh.

While you’re up there, examine the brick mortar for cracks or flakiness. Caulk is a great waterproof filler to patch any damage.

  1. Contain The Flame

Gusts of wind from storms can shoot down the chimney and blow embers all over your favorite (and flammable) furnishing. Installing glass screens keeps your fire insulated and protects your home and loved ones.

These screens should be open during the full blaze to maximize airflow. Doing so will promote combustion and minimize the buildup of creosote. Make sure to clear the hearth space of furniture, Christmas trees and other flammable decorations to avoid igniting wandering embers.

  1. Don’t Neglect Your Detectors

Check your carbon monoxide detector’s batteries and invest in a quality smoke detector.

The American Society of Home Inspectors suggests a photoelectric detector, which works by aiming light into a sensing chamber and detecting the entrance of smoke through the chamber via reflected light. A photoelectric detector works best for smoldering fires.

Also, don’t burn trash or old tree branches. They will produce more smoke than productive blaze and risk setting off your alarms.

  1. Keep It Clean

Ensure your fireplace and your chimney are clean prior to your fire burning season.

To check if it’s time for a sweeping, take a flashlight and your fireplace poker and scratch the black surface above the smoke chamber. If the scratch in creosote is extremely thin, you can leave it a bit longer until your next sweep.

But if you have ¼ inch or more of creosote, do not light another fire until the chimney has been swept out. For a thorough job, we recommend calling a professional.

Pro tip: Ashes and creosote can be a source of calcium for your plants.

  1. Install and Use Fireplace Dampers

Dampers are used to let smoke out during fires and keep heat inside when the chimney is not in use.

Ensure that the damper or flue is open for the entire duration of fire burning and wait until the embers have stopped burning before closing your dampers. The damper can also be checked by looking up into the chimney with a flashlight or mirror.

For a complete and comprehensive fireplace safety analysis, leave it to the professionals. Contact us for thorough inspections and cleanings if you think your fireplace is ready for a sweep.

There’s nothing like gathering around a fireplace for warmth and ambience. However, many people are aware that fireplaces are not the most environmentally friendly way to heat your home. The amount of smoke produced by fireplaces and the inefficiency of their heating performance can be a concern. However, with these 4 innovate techniques, you can make your fire more environmentally friendly while preserving the charm of sitting around the fireplace.

Choose A Wood Burning Fireplace Insert

A wood burning fireplace insert takes the benefits of a wood burning stove and fits into the layout and structure of your traditional fireplace. Wood burning fireplace inserts are enclosed and boost the efficiency of a fireplace to 65-80% (versus 5-10% for an open fireplace).

Wood burning fireplace inserts can heat a room for 3 times longer and burns wood slower and hotter. They also keep the fireplace sealed when not in use, keeping your home warmer, more insulated and more environmentally friendly at all times.

Environmentally Friendly Fireplace, Fireplace Repair, Chimney Sweep, Orinda Chimney Service, Orinda Chimney Repair, Orinda Fireplace Service, Orinda Dryer VentConvert to a Gas Log Fireplace

A traditional fireplace can also be converted to a gas log burner for a cleaner and more environmentally friendly heating source. Gas is a slightly more expensive fuel source than wood (if you get firewood free) but it reduces the costs of fireplace maintenance. On the other hand, quality firewood can also be costly, so gas can sometimes be the more cost efficient option.

Gas logs can look and feel just like a real fireplace without the smoke, ash and chimney buildup. Because a gas log fire produces no smoke and provides more efficient heating, it’s a cleaner and more eco-friendly option when compared to an open fireplace.

Keep Your Fireplace Efficient

No matter what type of fireplace you have, keeping it efficient will make it more environmentally friendly. Regular chimney servicing clears build up and boosts efficiency, allowing wood to burn more effectively. A chimney sweep clears creosote and ash buildup from the chimney interior to improve ventilation, achieving a more complete wood burn. This helps to make your fireplace more environmentally friendly, while also reducing the risk of chimney fires.

Use Quality Wood

Wood that doesn’t burn effectively means a less eco-friendly fire and more fireplace buildup. You should never burn trash, wood with glue or paint, driftwood or moldy wood as these can release chemicals into the air. Instead, always choose hardwoods to burn on your fireplace, as these burn longer, cleaner and hotter than softwoods. Hardwoods burn more efficiently, providing more heat for longer for the same amount of carbon released. Always choose hardwoods to burn on your fire, and make sure every piece of wood burns hot.

Choosing to convert your traditional fireplace to a more environmentally friendly option means you can retain all the charm and ambience of your traditional fireplace while greatly improving the efficiency. While traditional fireplaces have a bad environmental track record, these modifications can help you enjoy a home heating luxury. Talk to your local chimney service and fireplace professional about the options for making your fireplace more environmentally friendly today.

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Although hidden and out of sight, dryer vents perform a vital role in your home. Dryer vents remove hot exhaust air from your clothes dryer to ensure effective and safe operation. However, through the process of drying your clothes and with repetitive use, dryer vents can become clogged with lint, dust and other debris. Cleaning your dryer vent on a regular basis is critical. Not only does this help maintain the efficient functioning of your dryer, cleaning ensures your entire home remains safe.

Why Cleaning Dryer Vents Is Important

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 15,450 house fires in 2010 were caused by home dryer machines, and the majority of these (32%) were triggered by dryer vents that hadn’t been cleaned. These fires greatly threaten the safety of homes and families as well as cause millions of dollars of damage to property.

Dryer vent fires most often occur due to lint and other debris that builds up in the vents after repeated dryer use. Lint is made up of small fabric fibers and dust particles that are released from clothes when they are washed. Lint is naturally highly flammable, and combined with the heat from a clothes dryer, can quickly kindle a fire. Clothes dryer fires can often cause significant damage to a home before they can be controlled.

Not only can clogged dryer vents lead to fires, they also reduce the efficiency of your dryer, provide the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning, and promote conditions for the spread of mold and allergens. As dryer vents become clogged and the machine has to work harder to remove exhaust, the dryer efficiency drops and your energy consumption climbs. Without being fully removed by the dryer vent, carbon monoxide can leach into your home causing death or long term poisoning. The buildup of lint and dust in the warm moist environment can also lead to mold growth and excess dust mites. Mold and dust mites can make your whole family ill, while potentially triggering severe allergies or asthma in those who are susceptible.

Keep Dryer Vents Clean

Although uncleaned and clogged dryer vents are the leading cause of dryer machine fires, they can be easily prevented with proper dryer vent maintenance and cleaning. One of the simplest things you can do to prevent dryer vent fires is to ensure you remove lint from your dryer filter before and after each load, to eliminate lint buildup. Although this won’t reach all the potential lint buildup in your dryer, it can help to reduce the total lint burden in your dryer.

Another essential component of home dryer maintenance is inspecting your outer vent flap to ensure that it is not obstructed by any debris or build up.

Professional Dryer Vent Cleaning

Professional dryer vent cleaning is an essential aspect of your dryer vent maintenance. While checking your dryer vent yourself at home can help to minimize build up and reduce the chances of a fire, professional dryer vent cleaning can reach areas of the vent that you can’t reach alone. No matter how good your regular dryer vent cleaning is, you will always require professional dryer vent cleaning from time to time. Authorities recommend having your dryer vent professionally inspected and cleaned at least once a year for greater dryer vent safety and performance.

 

Dryer vent maintenance is an essential aspect of keeping your home safe and efficient. Maintain and clean your dryer vent regularly at home and book professional dryer vent cleaning services at least once a year to remove long term lint buildup.

Regular chimney cleaning helps your chimney to function efficiently and safety, boosting the chimney’s function and reducing the risk of chimney fires. But how often do you need a professional chimney sweep? It’s an important question to which there is no one right answer. However, understanding how often you should sweep your chimney is important to keep your fireplace in top condition.

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Chimney cleaning helps to remove buildup of ash, soot, dust and debris from inside your chimney, and most importantly helps remove creosote. Creosote builds up on the inside of chimneys and flues when wood fuel is burned. The less efficiently wood is burned, the more quickly creosote builds up. This makes it difficult to determine when a fireplace needs cleaning based on usage alone. One fire where the wood is burned inefficiently may contribute much more creosote than many fires where the wood is burned properly. Creosote is highly flammable and can trigger a chimney fire if left to build up to more than 1/4 inch. Regular cleaning helps to remove buildup such as creosote and keep your chimney safe from fires.

How Often Should You Clean Your Chimney?

Because the degree of creosote buildup can vary depending on how wood is burned, it can be tricky to work out just how often you should have your fireplace cleaned.

Ideally, it’s best to ask a chimney professional to provide a chimney inspection to gauge the level of creosote buildup and determine whether a clean is necessary.

Otherwise, as a rule of thumb the National Fire Prevention Association and the Chimney Safety Institute of America both recommend a chimney should be cleaned and inspected for structural soundness and integrity at least once a year.

If I Haven’t Used My Fireplace Much, Can I Avoid Cleaning It?

Because creosote buildup can occur after relatively few fires where wood has burned incompletely, using your fireplace rarely isn’t necessarily a good reason to avoid cleaning it. Fireplaces can also deteriorate structurally due to water or impact damage and become clogged with debris or even pests, so it’s best to schedule chimney inspection and cleaning at least once a year at the minimum.

Should My Chimney Be Cleaned More Frequently?

If you know that your fireplace is used often and your fireplace burns wood inefficiently, you may need to have your chimney cleaned more often. Chimney cleanings should be aligned with creosote buildup, so in chimneys where creosote buildup is happening more rapidly, cleanings should be more regular. This can also be the case where certain types of wood are burned, such as pine, which naturally releases more creosote. If you use your fireplace very frequently, or are aware that your fireplace is burning fuel inefficiently, it is advisable to consult with your local chimney expert about how often your chimney sweeps should be.

Regular chimney cleaning and inspection helps to keep your fireplace safe, tidy, strong and chimney fire free. Talk to your local chimney sweep about how often your chimney should be cleaned based on your individual needs.

A fireplace is the centerpiece of a room, a conversation point and a source of warmth and character.  Adding a touch of traditional style and character to your home, there’s nothing like gathering around the fireplace with family and friends on a cool night.  But when it comes to choosing the right fireplace for your home, there are a wide variety of options.  With the five factors discussed below, we look at how you can make a better choice for the right fireplace for your home.

 

Fuel Type

Fuel type is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing your new fireplace.  The type of fuel your fireplace uses will determine the maintenance, running and cleaning costs of your fireplace.  Wood-burning fireplaces have long been the most popular choice because of fuel availability and their traditional style.  Traditional wood-burning fireplaces are known to be quite inefficient when it comes to heat retention and energy usage, so these are often replaced with wood-burning fireplace inserts that also use wood fuel.  Gas fireplace inserts and artificial gas log sets are becoming more popular as a cleaner and more environmentally friendly source of fuel.

Wood-burning fireplaces and inserts also require more intensive flue cleaning as wood releases more by-products than gas when burned.  Gas burning fireplace inserts still require maintenance, but the level of service may be less extreme due to the cleaner fuel. Gas inserts never need their flues cleaned.

 

Design

The design of the fireplace you choose should match the theme and design of your home.  It can be helpful to work with a fireplace professional or architect to analyze the qualities of your home and investigate which style of fireplace would fit best.  For a traditional style home, you may wish to choose a traditional wood-burning fireplace or more energy efficient wood-burning fireplace insert which fits into the structure of your fireplace.  More modern or transitional homes may prefer to have an innovative and dynamic gas-burning fireplace insert or artificial gas log design.

 

Style

The style of fireplace you choose will depend both on the type of fuel you want to use and the characteristics you want your fireplace to possess. Freestanding wood burning stoves are great for heating large spaces, while traditional fireplace and wood-burning fireplace inserts are great when you want to blend heating with style.  Artificial gas log sets can be installed in many creative and diverse ways for a completely new and innovative style of fireplace in your home.  Balancing the right choice of fuel type, fireplace location and home design will help you chose the right fireplace style.

 

Construction

Many homes are built with a designated space for a fireplace to be installed.  However, some homes do not have space for a traditional built-in fireplace.   Choosing which room and location you want your fireplace installed will help determine whether it should be a built-in or freestanding fireplace or appliance.   Your fireplace professional or architect can also help you determine what material your fireplace should be built from to meet the needs of safety, codes, design, and aesthetics.

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Energy Efficiency

Nowadays many people are concerned about heating their homes in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner.  Fireplace style and fuel type can greatly affect how efficient your fireplace is at heating your home.  Freestanding stove, wood or gas burning fireplace insert are generally more efficient than traditional wood-burning fireplaces or artificial gas log sets.  An expert can work with you to find the most efficient and appealing fireplace solution for your home.

Choosing the right fireplace can help you create an inviting atmosphere of warmth and comfort in your space.  Discuss your options with a fireplace expert or architect to balance all the available choices and find the right fireplace for your home.

3201894-450pxFirst of all, let me be clear, artificial gas log sets can only be installed in a fireplace that is suitable for wood burning.  The only way we can determine the fireplace is fire safe is to clean the chimney and then look at the interior surfaces with our remote vision camera system.

These sets come in various sizes and include ceramic logs of your choice with a burn pan, decorative silica sand, volcanic cinders, dual effect embers, a pedestal grate and damper stop.

A plumbing contactor is required to install a gas valve on the floor or wall near the fireplace and a gas supply line into the firebox.

Vent-free artificial gas log sets are illegal in the State of California.

Wood burning in fireplaces, though very comforting, have adverse effects on the environment. (Mathew Sumner/San Mateo County Times)Inserts are either gas or wood burning, could be pellet but we see very few of these in the Bay Area.  They are a highly engineered metal box, fabricated in a factory and designed to be clean burning and they slide into the firebox of either a masonry or factory built fireplace.

 

The manufacturer of each of these inserts will specify the venting materials required for the insert, the clearances to combustibles and provide installation directions for each model they manufacture.  These appliances have all been tested and approved by some testing laboratory.

Factory Built Fireplace, Oakland, Berkeley, Alamo, Lafayette, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, Concord, Danville, Blackhawk, Dryer Vent CleaningThis is a fireplace and chimney system that was manufactured in a factory (as the name implies) out of metal.  It is a modular system of component parts that was brought to a job site and installed once the wood framing for the house was in place.  It has a firebox lined with refractory panels, with a damper at the top of the firebox and lengths of double or triple-walled chimney place on top to form a complete fireplace and chimney system.  The chimney above the roofline may be enclosed by a wooden chase.

It has many slang names (which I refuse to use) but some of you may know this fireplace as a Z-Can, ZC, Zero Clearance fireplace (which is a misnomer) as clearances to combustibles are required.  I’ve heard some people refer to it as an insert, which is totally incorrect.