Summer Tips for Maintaining Your Wood Burning Fireplace

A wood-burning fireplace is a cozy addition to any home. Perfect for warming up or just roasting marshmallows, wood-burning fireplaces are designed to retain heat in your home. Remember: proper safety measures are necessary to prevent chimney fires, structural fragility, carbon monoxide intrusion, and poor indoor air quality. Regularly scheduled maintenance and cleaning keeps a wood burning chimney and fireplace safe, functional, and beautiful.

Your fireplace may not be getting much use during the hottest months of summer, which is exactly why it’s an ideal time to schedule maintenance and cleaning. Here’s how to maintain your wood burning chimney and fireplace this summer:

  1. Cover the fireplace. Fireplace covers can keep a fireplace safe during the summer. When the weather is hot and humid, a low pressure system sucks warm air down your chimney. This can draw trapped, stagnant air back into your living space along with unpleasant smoky odors. It’s a commonly experienced phenomenon known as the reversal of the stack effect. The stack effect is when warm air is at a higher pressure than the cool air outside, which makes it want to rise and escape the house through the chimney and other openings. To maintain the pressure balance, low-pressure cool air from downstairs areas or the lowest floor rush up to replace the rising air, creating an upwards current of air.

In hot weather, the stack phenomenon reverses, causing warm air to flow downward through the chimney and into the home. Several measures can counteract this issue, including closing the fireplace damper during summer, using a glass door fireplace enclosure or cover, and removing debris from the chimney cap if applicable.  

2. Get your chimney checked. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends having chimneys inspected annually by a qualified professional chimney service technician. Annual checks reduce the risk of carbon monoxide buildup and chimney fires. Additionally, having chimneys cleaned annually is recommended to reduce creosote buildup and obstructions in chimneys (these pose several health and safety risks).

After a winter of lovely wood fires, with a long hot summer ahead, it’s the perfect time for a cleaning and an inspection of your wood-burning chimney and fireplace. 

3. Choose the right fuel. Best wood-burning practices are especially important during fire season. Mandatory no-burn days begin on November 1st of any given year and end on the last day of February the following year. All other no-burn days are not mandatory. Choose well-seasoned wood (wood that has been split and properly stored for at least six months so it has a low moisture content). Though softwood is usually the cheapest option, hardwood will give a hotter and longer burn. Choosing the right wood also reduces your chimney’s exposure to harmful acids, moisture, and chemicals from green or treated wood.

Schedule a Chimney Inspection Now

Our services at The Irish Sweep can help you maintain and enjoy your wood-burning fireplace for years to come. To schedule an appointment with an expert, call us at (510)521-4088, or use this simple contact form by clicking here.

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.

GAS OR WOOD BURNING FIREPLACE: WHICH IS BETTER?

If you are building a home or renovating, you may be hoping to add the ambience of a fireplace.  This can give you a cozy setting for winter days.  Fireplaces are popular among buyers, so having one could increase your property values.  While you may be sure about your choice to add a fireplace, you may be more uncertain about whether to add a gas or wood burning

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