creasote, soot, tar, oil, deposits inside chimney

The Chimney Safety Institute of America defines this word as, “Chimney and stovepipe deposits originating as condensed wood smoke, including tars, oils.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines it as, “A dark brown or black flammable tar deposited from especially wood smoke on the walls of a chimney.”

In my experience, I find most people do not realize that creosote is the by-product of anything that is burned in a fireplace or wood-burning stove or insert.  This material is flammable and is the major reason to have a chimney cleaned.

In most cases, it is impossible to remove all the creosote in a chimney.  Creosote can be stone hard and burns into the surfaces of a flue.  But creosote is amazing because it oxidizes and changes chemical composition so that hard, burned on material will become cleanable in some amount of time.

Wood burning in fireplaces, though very comforting, have adverse effects on the environment. (Mathew Sumner/San Mateo County Times)DAMPER:  The Chimney Safety Institute defines this word as, “A valve, usually a moveable or retractable plate for controlling the flow of air or smoke.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines it as, “ A valve or plate (as in the flue of a furnace) for regulating the draft.”

Many fireplaces have a damper blade located at the top of the firebox that is opened when a fire is to be lighted or closed once a fire has been suppressed.  During the colder months of the year it is ideal to close the damper when the fireplace is not in use, as that closed damper will help to keep the cold air outside the home while helping to keep the warm air in the home.  This saves money for the homeowner and prevents the warm, heater air from rising up the chimney and out of the home.

Not all but most dampers operate like a drawer.  When the damper handle is pushed in towards the back-wall of the firebox the damper is closed and when the damper handle is pulled forward (like an open drawer) the damper is open.

Most top-sealing dampers open by pulling down on the handle and releasing it from the bracket that has secured it to the sidewall of the firebox.  To close a top-sealing damper, pull down on the handle and lock the cable in the bracket.

*”Very few people realize the danger of clothes dryer fires. However, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are an estimated annual 15,500 fires, 10 deaths and 10 injuries due to clothes dryer fires. Several hundred people a year are also subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning from improper dryer vent setups. The financial costs come to nearly $100,000,000 per year. In some cases faulty appliances are to blame, but many fires can be prevented with proper dryer venting.”  If you notice that your clothes require a much longer drying time, maintenance of the dryer exhaust system is imperative.yelp.com-l-495x371

Dryer fires occur when the lint accumulation and reduced airflow feed on each other to provide the condition that ignites a fire.  Most people don’t realize lint is highly combustible.

Once upon a time, dryers were always located in the basement of a home but today people have realized their ability to install a dryer closer to the dirty clothes source which is in the bedroom area of the home.  Often that remodel will put the dry between interior walls of the home instead of directly venting through an exterior wall and the venting material is installed in longer runs which means the dryer has to work harder to push the products of combustion farther.  The end results in a greater accumulation of lint, that highly combustible material.

It is important the lint is removed from the lint trap after every load that is dried.  Even with that good behavior lint can still wander into your appliance.  In our experience, lint screens located near the back of the dryer have less internal build up of lint than those with screens near the front door of the dryer.  We do our best to clean as much of that as possible but sometimes it is necessary to call upon the assistance of a dryer repair company that is qualified to disassemble the dryer and access the interior surfaces that collect lint.

If you are undertaking a remodeling project of this nature, try to make the exhaust run as short as possible, straighter is always better and avoid the use of too many elbows which restrict the flow.

Use only 26 gauge venting material and avoid flexible connectors that are constructed of flammable material.  Unfortunately, we see these flammable products sold in every local hardware store.

When pushing the dryer into position take care not to push the appliance so far back that it crushes the venting material.  If it is time to purchase a new dryer, measure the existing space and be certain not to purchase an appliance that is too deep and will compromise the vent connector.  If you notice a lot of “dust bunnies” in your laundry room, it could be because the venting connector has been crushed or has holes.

The dryer duct needs to vent to the outside atmosphere and not into an attic or crawlspace under the house.

Never use screws to put the venting material together.

For safety, never let your dryer run while you are asleep or out of the house and remember to read the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the safe use of their product and install as directed.

Need an appliance specialist?  We have a great referral for you whom we trust with our very own appliances:  Todd Anderson, Anderson Repair Services, 510-301-0223

*The source for this information is from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Proposal to phase out wood burning fireplaces in the Bay Area ended.  Full article available at Contra Costa Times – CLICK HERE.

Information gleaned from www. baaqmd.gov

Sole source of heat:
A wood-burning device may be used during a mandatory burn ban if the device is the only source of heat in a residential dwelling and the device is EPA certified. A person claiming this exemption is required to register the EPA certified device in the District’s registration program and submit records to the District for verification.
(Effective November 1, 2016)

images-9Non-Functional, Permanently Installed Heating Device:
Residential dwellings (excluding commercial and residential rental properties) that have a non-functional, permanently installed heating device may receive a temporary exemption from a mandatory burn ban if repairs are completed in 30 days and submission of all repair documentation is submitted to the District within 10 days of completion.
(Effective November 1, 2015)

Loss of Electric Power and/or Natural Gas:
The use of a wood-burning device is allowed during a mandatory burn ban when there is loss of electric power and/or natural gas as determined by the utility service providers.
(Effective November 1, 2015)

Mandatory Burn Ban:
A mandatory burn ban is declared to prevent regional wood smoke accumulation when a PM2.5 level is anticipated to exceed an unhealthy level within the next 3 days.

Update to the above:
A mandatory burn ban is declared when a negative impact upon public health is anticipated resulting from PM2.4 levels forecast to exceed 35 mg/m3. “Mandatory Burn Ban” will replace “curtailment period.” (name change)
Staff determined that Rule 6-3 already allows the District flexibility to declare Winter Spare the Air Alerts 2 – 3 day sooner to prevent unhealthy air from occurring and it is not necessary to amend the regulatory requirements of this section.

Sales and Manufacturing of Wood Heaters:
All new EPA certified wood-burning devices manufactured and sold must meet or exceed new NSPS standards:
• Effective 60 days after new NSPS standards are published in the Federal Register:
o 4.5g/hr for catalytic and non-catalytic stoves using crib test or cordwood test. If cordwood testing is conducted, the manufacturer must supply the emissions test method to EPA and the test method must be approved.
o Effective 5 years after the date of the final rule, the following new NSPS standards apply:
2.0 g/hr for catalytic and non-catalytic stoves using crib test.
2.5 g/hr for catalytic and non-catalytic stoves using cordwood test. The manufacturer must supply the emissions test method to EPA and the test method must be approved.
Wood stove retailers will be allowed to sell existing inventory of EPA certified devices rated 4.6 g/hr – 7/5 g/hr until December 31, 2015.

Sale or Transfer of Real Property has been changed to Disclosure Requirements for Real Property:
Real estate property may not be sold or transferred if it includes an uncertified wood-burning device. The seller may decommission the uncertified device or may replace it with gas-fueled, electric, or EPA Certified devices that meet or exceed new NSPS standards.
(Effective November 1, 2016)

Update to the above:
Removed Proposed “Point-of-Sale” Requirement
The “point-of-sale” requirement has been changed to require disclosure documents upon sale or rental of real property to disclose health hazards of PM2.5
(Effective November 1, 2015)

Fireplace or Chimney Remodels:
Upon remodeling a fireplace or chimney, an uncertified wood-burning device must be replaced with a device that is gas-fueled, electric or EPA certified that meets or exceeds new NSPS standards. This requirement is triggered by any fireplace or chimney remodeling activity that requires a local building permit.
(Effective November 1, 2015)

Update to the above:
Upon remodeling a fireplace or chimney, an uncertified wood-burning device must be replaced with a device that is gas-fueled, electric or EPA certified if the remodel cost exceeds $15,000 and requires a local building permit.
(Effective November 1, 2016)

Commercial and Residential Rental Property has been changed to Rental Properties with Natural Gas Service:
All commercial and residential rental properties must have an alternate form of heat that does not burn solid fuel and all wood-burning devices must be EPA certified or be replace with gas-fueled or electric devices.
(Effective November 1, 2016)

Update to the above:
Removed proposed requirement that all rental properties must replace wood-burning devices with gas-fueled, electric or EPA certified devices.
All rental property in areas with natural gas service must have an alternate from of heat that does not burn sold fuel.
(Effective November 1, 2018)

New Building Constructions:
New building constructions may only install gas-fueled or electric devices. Installation of devices that burn solid fuel is prohibited.
(Effective November 1, 2015)

Update to the above:
Only the date has been changed.
(Effective November 1, 2016)

Visible Emissions Limitation:
Following a 20 minute start-up allowance for new fires, visible emission of grater than 20% opacity and aggregate to 3 minutes in any hour is considered an exceedance of the standard.
(Effective November 1, 2015)

Registration:
Registration – All residential properties claiming Only Source of Heat Exemption must have a registered EPA certified device.
o Type of Device(s)
o # of Device(s)
o Make, Model and Serial # of Device(s)
o Manufacture Date(s)
(Effective November 1, 2016)

wood burning fireplaces, gas log set

Seize the moment!

Those with wood-burning fireplaces take note! Have you heard about the most recent new proposal to be mandated by the (BAAQMD) Bay Area Air Quality Management District? In a nutshell, there is a strong push toward the elimination of fireplaces. As a result, if you are considering the installation of a set of artificial gas logs or a gas-burning fireplace insert, seize the moment NOW, especially if you are considering relocating in the near future.

The Time is NOW!

As we move toward September, Bay area retail stores and professional chimney installers will be overwhelmed and those dreams to have an installation completed by the Holidays may not become a reality. This is YOUR MOMENT to be pro-active. So before that little cold nip of fall air puts a shiver in your spine, start planning.

4 Guidelines to help with your Chimney decisions

  1. Any time a fuel source is changed in a fireplace, for example, wood-burning to a gas conversion, the chimney must be cleaned.
  2. If the plan is to install as set of artificial gas logs, an inspection of the interior surfaces of the chimney is required to determine the worthiness of the clay liners inside the chimney and their related mortar joints.
  3. If the chimney fails the inspection, you might want to consider your options which could include installing a stainless steel liner in the chimney that will support that set of logs or installing a gas-burning or wood-burning fireplace insert.
  4. It might also be time to consider the seismic liability of your chimney.

The BAAQMD is on the move. There is a proposed mandate coming down the pipeline and all Bay Area residents who love their open wood-burning fireplace should take notice. If the proposal is approved, this will be a requirement on all home sales; Please check our website www.theirishsweep.com regularly for updated information.

The Irish Sweep offers complete installation of artificial gas logs or fireplace insert. Contact us today to schedule your install at 510-521-4088.

 

dryer vent cleaning, structural fires, bay area, alameda, berkeley, oakland, californiaThe US Fire Administration reported 15,600 structural fires, 15 deaths and 400 injuries because of lint build up in the venting system of gas and electrical residential dryers.
The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that a Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician perform a duct inspection and cleaning on an annual basis which in the long run saves money because of increased efficiency of the dryer and decrease of wear on your appliance.
SIX WARNING SIGNS THAT YOUR DRYER EXHAUST VENTS NEED TO BE CLEANED
1.  Longer than normal drying time
2.  Reduced performance
3. You see lint coming out of the dryer vent opening
4.  Burning smell when your dryer is running
5.  Dryer feels hot on the outside
6.  You haven’t had your dryer vent cleaned in over 1 year.
22 Mar 2015

Living room

Your home is likely to be the most important asset you have. Having a fireplace increases the value of that asset, and adds a quality to your life that is hard to measure. Taking care of your fireplace, or – more specifically – your chimney, is critical for both the financial and cozy values of your home. In terms of chimney maintenance, there are three things fireplace users need to know:

 

1. Use the fireplace properly: make sure the damper is fully open when in use, make sure the grate is against the back wall, only burn dry firewood or manufactured logs.

2. Clean the firebox: ash build up in your fireplace restricts airflow and can cause smoke in your home.

3. Have trusted chimney sweep.

Why would you need a trusted chimney sweep? Well, they’re the ones who do the real work when it comes to taking care of your fireplace and chimney.

First, they clean. Chimney cleaning is not a Do It Yourself type of project.

It is, however, imperative to have your chimney cleaned regularly because of the flammable material that collects along the inside of the chimney. So, how often is “regularly” in the chimney sweep business?

 

The rule of thumb is after every 75 uses; but who really counts? If you are burning a couple of times a week during cooler weather, figure on calling in a professional once a year. Once on-site, the sweep can give you abettor estimate.

 

Second, they inspect.

While there is some amount of inspection during the cleaning process, a Level II inspection combines cleaning and thorough camera inspection of your chimney.

You want to have one of these inspections:

  • Before re-facing the fireplace, remodeling or adding on to your home, or selling your home.
  • After an event that might damage the chimney –especially earthquakes.
  • If you suspect water damage.
  • If you think something is wrong. It is better to know that everything is all right than to ignore a problem that could result in losing your home.

 

Third, they may repair.

This is where the “trusted” part really comes into play. A reputable chimney sweep is a certified chimney sweep. In California, if the sweep installs, demolishes, replaces, or repairs, then they must have a contractor’s license as well. If your sweep does not have a contractor’s license, or cannot manage your specific job, they are sure to offer you referrals to qualified professionals.

Good chimney health not only ensures the continued value ofyour home. It protects your home from loss by fire.

 

23 Jan 2015

In California, there are not many opportunities to put a wood-burning fireplace to work. The combination of mild temperatures and frequent no-burn days can make a crackling fire a rare treat. So, what do you do when the smoke comes out of the fireplace instead of going up the chimney?

 

First things first, is the damper FULLY open? There are two types of fireplace owners: those who have forgotten to open the damper and those who will forget to open the damper. And, with use, dampers become harder to open because of water damage and/or soot accumulation. So, give that thing an extra yank, or pull – depending on how yours works, and make sure it is all the way open.

Next, is the grate (the thing holding the wood off the floor) touching the back wall of the fire box? Without getting into the science of airflow, it’s easiest to just say that touching the back is where the grate needs to be.

If you’re good on the damper and grate, and you need to stop the smoke from billowing into your home NOW, here’s a quick trick:

 

  1. Get the aluminum foil and a roll of tape (any type will do).
  2. Cut a length of foil that is longer than the opening of the fireplace is wide.
  3. Tape the foil over the top of the fireplace opening.

before

 

 

By making the opening smaller, the chimney has a better chance of dealing with the by-products of the fire. It may not be attractive, but it will save the moment until you can diagnose and deal with the problem more permanently.

Without getting too much into the science of airflow, fireplaces work because air flows and hot air rises. Problems arise when something prevents one of those two things from happening properly. Running dryers, kitchen or bath vents, and furnaces can disrupt airflow – sucking it out of the fireplace instead of letting it go up the chimney. Opening or closing doors around the house can also influence airflow. Obviously, a closed damper prevents air from going up the chimney.

A cold chimney can also cause smoke. You can pre-heat your chimney by lighting a newspaper torch and CAREFULLY holding it up and to the back of the chimney. This gets the air flowing in the chimney before actually lighting the fire.

How do you spend a rainy day?

 

  • Hot cocoa, a roaring fire, and your favorite DVD playing;
  • Enjoying a big bowl of soup and a great book cuddled up in front of the fire;
  • Or, how about having all your friends over to enjoy drinks and conversation next to the warm glow of a fire.

 

Now that the Bay Area is actually getting rain, it is time to build a fire and pick your favorite way to enjoy the weather. The question, though, is do you know if your chimney is up for the challenge?

Rain is not your chimney’s best friend; mortar (the material that holds the bricks in your chimney together) actually dissolves in water. A good soaking will weaken the joints and diminish the structural integrity of the structure. During the next break in the storms, here are some things to find out about your chimney to keep that fire roaring safely in your fireplace:

 

  • Be sure that your gutters do not overflow onto the chimney. The best way to do that is to hire a professional to clean out the gutters!
  • Do your downspouts come close to the base of the chimney? If so, make sure they point away from the chimney and that water is not able to flow back towards your home.
  • Does the chimney crown direct moisture away from the structure?
  • Do you have a flue cap to prevent water intrusion? (Flue caps also have spark arrestors, an important safety feature for those not-so-wet times of year.)
  • Do you know if a professional has waterproofed the chimney?

 

If, at any point in that list you said, “Uh, I don’t know,” or, “how would I know?” it is time to think about hiring a chimney sweep.

At the term “chimney sweep,” many imaginations conjure up some Charles Dickens image of an orphan working for nothing – or the movie Mary Poppins. The modern day chimney sweep does not come close, if for no other reason than there is a licensing process now in place. Today’s chimney sweep does more than just clean; they install, inspect, and repair from the base of the fireplace to the tip of the chimney crown.