WHAT ARE “NO BURN DAYS”?

Spare the Air was formed in 1991 by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to inform residents when the air quality is forecast to be harmful and to share information on ways to decrease air pollution. No Burn Days are also called “Winter Spare the Air” days.

In 2008, the Air District approved a rule that makes it illegal to burn firewood on days once a Winter Spare the Air alert is in effect. This guideline was adopted to protect public health.

During winter months, wood smoke is the major source of air pollution in the Bay Area, accounting for more than one-third of fine particulate substance pollution. On cool, peaceful days when there is an inversion layer of warm air acting as a cover over a layer of cold air, wood smoke can build up at ground level to harmful concentrations.

There are numerous things residents can do to decrease their impact on air quality over the winter, when these weather conditions endure. The first line of protection is to limit usage of wood-burning stoves, and ideally switch over to a different heating method, such as gas, or EPA-certified wood stoves.

CHECK FOR ALERTS BEFORE YOU BURN

Never fail to spot an alert by signing up for Winter Spare the Air Alerts. Modify your alert for text, email, or phone call. Winter Spare the Air Alerts will as well be posted to the Spare the Air and Air District websites and social media.

KEEP IN COMPLIANCE

Besides avoiding burning wood on Winter Spare the Air Days, there are additional provisions in the wood-burning rule.

Wood-burning devices are forbidden in new buildings constructed in the Bay Area. Gas-fueled fireplace, gas inserts, and electrical fireplaces are acceptable.

We want you to stay warm this winter, but make sure you first check if that day is a “no burn day” by visiting the Spare the Air website.

HOW TO PREVENT FIREPLACE GRATE MELTDOWN

Gone were the days when you have no options to sit around the smoky fireplace. Nowadays no one talks about those pesky fireplace tool sets, thanks to the fireplace grate! That not only puts an end to fireplace smoke in your home but also increases the efficiency of your fireplace in following ways:

  1. Wood consumption is cut to half.
  2. Fireplace smoke is put to an end.
  3. Eliminate the virtual need of “ tending the fire”.

However, fireplace grate comes with a drawback too. Due to thermal oxidation, or simply rust on metal, the fireplace grate grows thinner, until the time it melts down. So, how do you prevent your fireplace grate from melting? Follow these steps:

AVOID HEAT ONLY AT THE CENTER

First and foremost, the best way you can increase the lifeline of your grate is by spreading the heat from the center. By scattering the firewood and coals over the entire grate width, this will prevent fireplace grate meltdown and prolong the life of your grate.

AVOID WATER AT THE FIREPLACE

Unlike your bonfire in the woods or any champ fire that you put out by dousing beer or water on, when it comes to fireplace grate, water will cause them to corrode over time. Let your fire naturally burn and die down.

GO FOR A CAST IRON GRATE

Last but not least, if you want to replace your fireplace grate with a new one, then this time make sure you look for a fireplace grate that is made out of cast iron. Contrary to steel, cast iron can withstand heat in a better manner. Cast iron can withstand 1,400 degrees whereas steel can only withstand 1,000 degrees, making cast iron grates the optimal choice for your fireplace.

REDUCING CREOSOTE

Those who have wood burning fireplaces or stoves know the advantages to a wood burning fire. They are beautiful, warm, and give you a sense of calm. However, with wood burning fires, the buildup of creosote occurs. This goes through some tips to reducing creosote.

WHAT IS CREOSOTE?

When wood is burned, creosote builds up from the transformation. This builds up along the lining of the stove or chimney and becomes a hidden issue for the home. Just like the ash from the bottom of a fireplace needs to be cleaned up regularly. Creosote should be removed occasionally for the safety of the home and those living there. This is why annual chimney inspections are recommended.

These are some recommendations for reducing creosote buildup:

USE THE RIGHT WOOD

Wood that has less moisture and/or seasoned is the best wood to use. When the wood is in such a state, the fire will burn hotter and create less creosote. If the wood has a lot of moisture, it will still burn but at a lower degree. This leads to more smoke and creosote.

KEEP THE FIRE HOT

When a fire struggles to find its fuel (oxygen), it has a hard time getting hot enough to burn all the materials. By having a fire that is low in temperature, creosote buildup is higher.

DON’T LET IT DIE ON ITS OWN

It is common for fires to just be allowed to burn out. By having them die down, the fires are at a low temperature for a long period of time. This causes more creosote and a higher safety issue.

Creosote is a safety issue. Low temperatures and moisture increase creosote production. Therefore, use the right wood that is very dry and avoid having fires at low temperature. If you have questions or need a clean up, talk to our experts at The Irish Sweep.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE A CHIMNEY SWEEP INSPECTION

If you’ve never had your chimney inspected, you might be wondering what exactly happens when the inspector comes. Annual inspections and chimney cleanings are recommended for safe fireplace burning. You’ll want to get it done between your last fireplace usage last year and your first fire this winter to ensure that it’s in good working condition.

At your scheduled chimney inspection, your chimney sweep will likely use a special camera to look inside the system, affording them a better view of what’s going on where your fire and smoke travel.

Here’s what they’ll look for:

1.     STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS AND FLUE

The chimney sweep will first look at the exterior and interior of the fireplace and chimney, looking for any problems of wear and tear, including the fireplace, chimney, flue and hearth. These structural elements can affect whether your chimney stays standing after earthquakes or severe weather.

2.     COMBUSTIBLES ARE SECURED

They’ll also look at the structure of the chimney. This is to be sure that combustibles can’t contact any other building materials, which would be a fire hazard. Your fire should stay within a completely secure firebox area. The risk of slow-burning fire within your walls is something to take very seriously.

3.     OBSTRUCTIONS

Your chimney sweep will look for any obstructions. These could possibly block the venting of smoke, combustible byproducts and gas, such as animal nests, leaves and other debris. An obstruction could cause these gasses to build up dangerously inside your home instead of leaving like they should.

4.     VOLUME AND KIND OF COMBUSTIBLE DEPOSITS

A chimney sweep will look at the volume and nature of any combustible deposits building up on the walls of the chimney to see if they pose a danger. Creosote can ignite within your chimney or flue and is highly flammable.

To see what a chimney sweep inspection looks like using a camera like we use here at Irish Sweep, watch this video:

 

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