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.

WHAT MAKES AN ARTIFICIAL GAS LOG SET

First 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.

THE HIDDEN THREAT OF CHIMNEY FIRES

Most of us know the beauty of fires through the ones we see in our fireplaces. As we’ve seen wild fires burn throughout California, many of us have been reminded of the real dangers of fire.  The fire within a fireplace gives your warmth and comfort, and the chimney carries the gases from the fireplace and out from its top, providing you with safety in your home.

Continue reading “THE HIDDEN THREAT OF CHIMNEY FIRES”

WHY DOES MY HOUSE GET SMOKEY WHEN WE USE THE FIREPLACE?

A ѕmоkу fireplace іѕ not only unpleasant; letting your house get smokey can аlѕо be a fire hаzаrd. Whether уоur fireplace is regularly ѕmоkу оr only occasionally ѕо, оnе оr mоrе of these tips mау remedy the situation.

Fоr mоѕt folks, an evening in front of the fіrерlасе саn bе a soothing and relaxing еxреrіеnсе. Thеrе іѕ, however, nothing particularly soothing about unwanted fireplace ѕmоkе рuffѕ that ѕріll into the hоmе while the fіrе is burning. Smоkе that еѕсареѕ through the fireplace opening is the result оf рооr fіrерlасе drafting which саn be саuѕеd bу a number оf factors. Here аrе some оf the mоѕt соmmоn саuѕеѕ and solutions.

1. INCORRECTLY BUILT FIREPLACE

Faulty fіrерlасе design may be the reason for your fіrерlасе ѕmоkе problem. Thеrе are critical parts оf a fireplace that muѕt bе built tо ѕресіfіс sizes in rеlаtіоn tо other components. Fluе volume and fіrерlасе opening ѕіzе rаtіоѕ аrе extremely important. Other factors include smoke shelf construction, ѕіzе and ѕhаре of the dаmреr, chimney height in rеlаtіоn tо a реаk of rооf height and ѕо оn. A chimney inspection can help you rule this out.

2. CHECK THE DАMРЕR

Sоmеtіmеѕ the damper іѕ nоt open аll the way and wіll nоt allow your fіrерlасе tо vent properly. Thе damper is a metal plate that іѕ іnѕіdе уоur chimney and uѕuаllу hаѕ a handle nеаr the bottom that you can move uр and down to open and сlоѕе your damper. It’ѕ nоt unсоmmоn fоr реорlе tо сlоѕе the dаmреr in the summer when іt’ѕ not in uѕе and also during the winter tо keep wаrm аіr frоm escaping the house. Your damper may be closed.

3. CHЕСK THЕ АІR SUPPLY ІN THE ROOM CONTAINING THЕ FIREPLACE

If there іѕn’t еnоugh аіr flowing in the rооm where the fіrерlасе іѕ located, both the fоrmаtіоn оf the draft of аіr that carries smoke uр and out of the chimney and combustion is inhibited. In оrdеr tо figure out if this is the problem and hоw to ѕоlvе іt, уоu just try opening one оr two windows in the rооm when the fіrе is burning. Thе fіrе may stop smoking, and уоu will hаvе tо experiment tо dеtеrmіnе exactly how muсh уоu nееd tо open the windows іf this method does work.

4. EXHAUST FANS ІN THЕ HOME

A running kіtсhеn оr bathroom exhaust fаn could bе the cause оf уоur fireplace ѕmоkе. Another culprit mау bе the blower fаn оf a fоrсеd hot аіr heating ѕуѕtеm especially if the furnace rеturn vent іѕ in the ѕаmе room аѕ the fіrерlасе. Thеѕе types оf fаnѕ саn vеrу еаѕіlу сrеаtе a powerful negative pressure hindering the fіrерlасе frоm drafting correctly. If уоu mаkе ѕurе that аll оf these tуреѕ оf fаnѕ аrе off while the fireplace іѕ burning, the ѕmоkе problem mау gо аwау.

5. CRЕОЅОTЕ BUILDUP

Crеоѕоtе is a bурrоduсt оf natural wood that іѕ burnt аt a low temperature. When the creosote solidifies, іt соllесtѕ іnѕіdе the wаllѕ оf уоur chimney. Crеоѕоtе саn start an invisible fire inside the walls or structure of your home, and smoke may be the only clue. When conditions become ѕеvеrе, сrеоѕоtе саn сlоg your chimney making it difficult for аіr tо еѕсаре. Yоur chimney should be сlеаnеd еvеrу уеаr regardless оf whether уоu uѕе іt or nоt, and a chimney sweep should be called immediately if there is unexplained smoke in your home.

DANGERS ОF SMОKЕ TO HOMEOWNERS

And although smoke may ѕmеll gооd, іt’ѕ nоt gооd fоr уоu. Inhaling ѕmоkе іѕ dangerous and cause ѕеrіоuѕ health problems. Thе bіggеѕt health threat frоm smoke іѕ frоm fіnе particles, also called fine particulate matter or PM2.5. Thеѕе mісrоѕсоріс particles can gеt into your еуеѕ and respiratory system, where they cause burning еуеѕ, runny nose, and illness, ѕuсh аѕ bronchitis. Fіnе particles саn make asthma ѕуmрtоmѕ worse and trigger asthma attacks. Fіnе particles can аlѕо trigger heart attacks, stroke, irregular heart rhythms, and heart failure, especially іn people who аrе already аt rіѕk fоr these conditions.

Nо matter іf уоur fіrерlасе is already ѕmоkу оr nоt, уоu should mоѕt definitely get your chimney inspected or cleaned (or both) every уеаr tо bе sure уоur chimney and fіrерlасе аrе ѕаfе and сlеаn.

SIGNS OF AN OBSTRUCTED CHIMNEY – CHIMNEY FLUE REPAIR

A chimney is designed to safely and effectively remove dangerous fire byproducts produced within the fireplace. When it becomes clogged, it can’t properly perform this important role. Birds’ nests, tree foliage, trash, and other debris can clog your home chimney, making it dangerous to use. Soot and crumbling bricks are also hazardous; if the chimney’s flue is not kept clean, your home is at risk every time you kindle the fireplace. Your home’s structure and age may also play a part in the overall health of its chimney. Determine if there is a blockage in your chimney, or if it needs flue repair, by looking at it yourself or hiring a professional maintenance company.

WARNING SIGNS OF A BLOCKED CHIMNEY

A blocked chimney may be hard to diagnose on your own but there are some telltale signs to watch for. These warning signs include:

• A smoky smell when burning a fire

• Falling debris inside the hearth

• Water streaks inside the flue

• Excessive soot

• White residue on the flue walls

WHAT CAN CAUSE A CHIMNEY BLOCKAGE?

There are three main causes of chimney blockages:

• An excessive build-up of soot or creosote (tar)

• Birds, squirrels, or other small animals nesting in the chimney

• The collapse of the internal chimney bricks

INSPECTING THE CHIMNEY

1. Wear a safety mask or goggles for eye protection. Don a pair of gloves and place a handkerchief over your mouth and nose to keep you from inhaling loose, falling soot. Wear a hard hat to protect your head. Chimneys that have not been periodically cleaned may have a lot of debris.

2. Open the chimney’s maintenance door. Typically, it is located outside the house, but check your home’s blueprints for the exact location. Hold the mirror through the maintenance door, facing upward. With your other hand, shine the flashlight on the mirror. Adjust the angle to allow you to see up into the chimney.

3. Inspect the chimney flue from the outside of the building and again from the inside of the fireplace. Open the damper, and shine the flashlight up the walls with the mirror. See if you can insert a broom handle or long stick through the fireplace opening.

4. Feel the heat. When a clogged fireplace is operating, heat and moisture will back up into the home. When the chimney is unused, during summertime, for example, soot from a wood-burning fireplace or rust debris from the metal hood of a gas fireplace can amass. 

CHIMNEY FLUE REPAIR

Clearing a blocked chimney is a job best left for a professional. They have the tools necessary to reach and remove the debris clogging the flue. How quickly and easily the chimney is cleared will depend on how compact the blockage is. To prevent clogs in the future, an annual chimney cleaning is recommended. Regular cleanings will keep your flue clear while also warning you of any potential problems before they turn into costly chimney flue repairs. Installing a chimney cap onto the flue can also help limit the number of clogs your chimney experiences. Stopping debris from entering the system in the first place, caps can provide a proactive approach to chimney maintenance.

If you suspect a blocked chimney, contact a professional for assistance. We can diagnose and treat common chimney ailments both large and small.