Our Company Blog
Fall is the best time to educate homeowners and the general public about chimney safety because winter is when most fires happen. It’s when you’re using your fireplace or furnace to heat your home that disaster can happen, especially when the chimney isn’t maintained properly. In order for our friends and neighbors in the Boston, North Shore, and Portland area to have safe and efficient fires this burn season, we offer services to keep the chimney working properly and lasting year after year. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) is doing its part to make the public aware of chimney risk and safety by planning and promoting National Chimney Safety Week each year.
Safe Chimneys Mean Safe Communities
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and CSIA agree that the safest and most efficient chimneys are those that are cleaned regularly and inspected annually. When a chimney is clean, the air flows more easily, allowing smoke to vent properly. When this process works efficiently, there is less fire risk and less damage to the property and less frequent injuries and deaths due to fire. We believe that even one chimney fire is too many, and we offer comprehensive chimney services year-round to insure that chimneys in our communities are safer. When chimneys and fire appliances are safer, that means our communities are safer. Homeowners in New England count on Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep and have for over 30 years. With a company that puts safety first, makes education and certification a priority, and who offer the highest level of professionalism in the industry, it’s easy to choose Billy Sweet for safer chimneys.
Safer Chimneys Mean Fire Prevention
CSIA has scheduled National Chimney Safety Week for September 29th through October 5th—one week before NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week. Fire Prevention Week and National Chimney Safety Week go hand-in-hand. Fire Prevention Week, running October 6th through 12th is a time for communities to raise awareness about fire prevention and fire preparedness. Not all fires can be prevented, but a little bit of preparation can save lives in the event of a fire. Chimney Safety Week is all about preventing fires, and Fire Prevention Week is all about living through fires!
Fires can occur in more than just chimneys. You can experience an accidental fire in a dorm, hotel or motel, apartment, high-rise condo, manufactured homes, and more. The best way to protect your family and home is to use NFPA’s public education tip safety tip sheets available online. In addition to keeping the chimney, fireplace, furnace, and other heating systems like the dryer maintained properly, it’s important to take other important measures. Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Plan an escape and practice it monthly. Pay attention to problems with your heat systems and alarms. If you’re not sure that your chimney system is working properly, call in the professionals!
Call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep at 617-469-4528 or request an appointment online to service your chimney and make sure it’s as safe as possible.
January has the highest amount of house fires in a calendar year. Whether it’s from heat appliances, kitchen equipment, electronics, or clothes dryers, these fires account for an unnecessary loss of property and life each year. Not only does a high concentration of residential fires occur in January, but they also happen oftentimes overnight, while homeowners are asleep.
House fires are an unwelcome and dangerous surprise, but one that can be prevented. When they can’t be prevented, preparation can help save your life. Half the battle is remembering fire safety when using household appliances—especially your fireplace.
Your Safest Fire
You may have the most advanced, top-of-the-line fire appliance with the highest safety rating on the market, but if you don’t operate it correctly, and with safety in mind, it will not be safe. It will actually be dangerous.
- Know your appliance.
Whether you have a fireplace, stove, or insert, read your owner’s guide and get to know the parts. Not sure how to use a damper? Learn how the damper can help you light a fire and keep your family safe by using it properly. Your stove may have a shaker to drop ashes out of the fire box. It may have a hopper to feed pellets to the fire. Get to know your appliance BEFORE your first burn.
- Burn proper fuel.
You should only burn properly seasoned wood in your wood insert, stove, or fireplace. Your gas fireplace should be connected to a natural gas line by a gas company. Your pellet appliance should only burn manufactured pellet products. Burning the wrong type of fuel in your fireplace can bring down efficiency, damage the system, and even raise the risk of fire. Your flue liner may not be appropriate or safe for all fuel types. Know your appliance, and burn the correct fuel for your appliance.
- Use fireplace accessories.
Special, long-handled accessories can help you maintain your fire safely. You can purchase these accessories at a home improvement store and they should include a shovel, poker, and broom. While you’re at it, you can purchase leather gloves to protect your hands from burns and extreme temperatures.
- Never leave a fire unattended.
Once a fire is burning in a fireplace, it shouldn’t be left until it is out. Never leave children unattended around a fire, and utilize glass doors, screens, and gates to prevent accidental falls and burns.
- Dispose of ash periodically.
If ash is allowed to build up in the firebox, it can become crowded, causing hot ashes, coals, and even flaming logs to fall out of the fire. Dispose of ash safely and leave a thin layer of ¼ inch to insulate and protect the bottom of the firebox.
- Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
Check the batteries regularly, and practice fire drills with your family. Plan an escape route (that includes 2 ways out) and practice it with your entire family, including children.
Contact Us Today
It’s important to remember that firefighting is for firefighters. It’s not a job for homeowners with fire extinguishers. If you have a flue fire, you won’t be able to access it before it puts your life in danger. The best way to keep your family safe throughout winter is to practice fire safety, make sure your chimney system is clean and safe, and prepare for an emergency, just in case. It may save your life.
Call Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep and let us help you have your safest fire this winter.
There are many issues that can arise during the winter months—things that affect the bills you pay and the safety of your home. The problems that affect your home this winter are not always caused by your fire appliance, your heater, or even neglect. Many problems arise because of weather, storms, damage, or other things entirely out of our control. In order for our customers to have the safest home possible this winter and every winter, we recommend these tips.
Gutters and Drains
Gutters and outside drains are great assets during freezing winters and wet springs. However, if they aren’t properly maintained, they can become a hazard. Leaves and debris left inside gutters and drains can cause a clog, allow your water flow to stall and freeze, and even lead to leaks and water damage outside the gutter system. A gutter problem doesn’t just affect the roof, eaves, and house. An overflowing or damaged gutter can lead to washout and damage to your landscaping and direct rainwater to your basement and foundation instead of designated drainage areas.
The only windows that do not need to be weatherized are those that are double-pane storm windows. There are specific models and brands of windows that will insulate your home despite the outside weather and temperature, but these windows are expensive and not usually in older homes. If you have a standard single-pane window, it should be properly winterized in order to save you money and prevent damage.
Screen Removal – If your windows have an outer screen, the screen should be removed during winter prep. Leaving the screens in the window can allow water to pass through the screen and then freeze against the window and the window sill. This not only leads to a temperature drop but also can ruin a wooden window frame and sill. Remove the screen and store upright in a storage closet, basement, or attic.
Storm Window Panes – If your single-pane windows have a screen, look around the basement and attic for replacement storm windows. These panes slip right into the space where the screen is removed. If your windows do not have storm window panes, remove the screen and plastic over your windows for insulation.
Window Insulation – Whether you have storm windows or simple single-pane windows, you can still add clear plastic insulation to your windows to help keep the cold out and keep your warm air in. You can hire someone to winterize your windows or purchase a window insulation kit at your local home improvement store to improve your home’s heat efficiency.
By the end of summer, we are excited to be finished with lawn care. We’re excited for the leaves to begin falling and celebrate as we put that weed trimmer and lawnmower in the shed for the winter. While we as homeowners are understandably finished with lawn care when autumn arrives, it’s important to trim your lawn before winter is in full force. Oftentimes, the grass stops growing, so we fail to cut it one last time. This makes raking more difficult when necessary and can hide hazards beneath high grass and then snow as fall turns to winter and winter to spring. Cutting your grass before winter arrives will mean a seamless transition back to spring and summer and will mean a healthier lawn and healthier microorganisms that help cultivate healthy soil.
Air Duct and Dryer Vent Maintenance
During winter months, we use air ducts and dryer vents more often than other times of the year. You may not even realize it, but you are likely spending more time than ever indoors, breathing recycled air that has been moving through your HVAC system over and over. You are also likely using the clothes dryer more often than in warmer months if you use a clothesline during the warmer months.
Whatever the reason, these systems are being used, and are oftentimes neglected. In order for a more efficient and safer central air and heating system, make sure you have your air ducts cleaned and sanitized as needed. When the system is maintained properly it will use less energy, will cycle and filter the air in your home better, and will last longer. Similarly, the clothes dryer vent will work better when it is cleaned annually. Not only will a clean dryer vent keep your family safe this winter, but it will help your dryer work better, work safely, use less energy, and last longer. Running your dryer multiple times for one load of clothes is a sign that there is a problem—and it’s a sign that costs you money! Schedule dryer maintenance now and see how much it saves you.
Chimney and Fireplace Maintenance
Homes that have a fireplace and chimney system are safer when they are maintained properly. Don’t take our word for it! The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) both agree that the safest and most efficient chimney systems are those that are cleaned regularly and inspected annually. Ideally, a homeowner would schedule these important services before the burn season, but it isn’t too late.
Residents in Boston, North Shore, and Portland area can call and schedule a sweep or inspection with Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep anytime, year-round. Our aim is to make safe homes and warm hearths. Dial 617-469-4528 or contact us online.
So you think you have a gas fireplace? It is fairly simple to figure out whether your fireplace burns gas or not. First, there is not an empty space for logs and fire-building in your firebox. Instead, you’ll find logs—usually ceramic. Your system will be connected to a gas line of some kind and will have an ignitor and pilot light. This is a gas fireplace. What type of gas fireplace you have can be slightly more difficult to figure out. If you don’t have your owner’s manual, it is important to determine what type of system you have. Using the system according to its design is important for safety and efficiency as well as convenience.
Types of Gas Appliances
Gas is a fuel type that is always growing in popularity due to its convenience and versatility as well as efficiency and cost. You may be able to use gas in any room in your house, but your venting and your space will determine what type of appliance is best for you.
- Gas Stoves – Like all other types of stoves, a gas stove can be freestanding anywhere in a room. It can fit into a corner, in an existing firebox, on any story, and in any sized home or apartment. A professional can install a gas stove anywhere using appropriate refractory materials.
- Gas Fireplaces – A gas fireplace can be accomplished by installing a gas log set into an existing firebox, or installing a manufactured insert into a wall or firebox. Your professional chimney sweep can help you determine which type of gas fireplace is best for your home, your style, and your need.
Gas Inserts V. Gas Logs
Perhaps you don’t have the space for a gas stove or you simply like the appeal of a fireplace more, you can get the same benefits from a gas log set or insert. If your gas fireplace is set into a wall or hearth, it is likely one or the other. If it has glass doors, ceramic logs, and no visible ash or creosote residue, you’re looking at a gas insert or gas log set—not a wood-burning fireplace.
Identifying a Gas Insert
A gas insert is a closed unit, like a stove, but looks like a fireplace. It is retrofitted into an existing firebox or installed directly into a wall. A gas insert may have ventilation that is hidden. It may vent through the ceiling or wall and many draw air the same way, leaving the air in your home undisturbed. A direct vent insert, for instance, has a pipe that draws air in from the outside to help the fire burn. Inside this pipe is the actual flue that vents the toxins from the fire. This allows there to be only on vent and means the air inside the home is continuously cycled and heated and deposited back into the home.
- A gas insert is retrofitted into a traditional masonry fireplace
- A gas insert produces radiant heat and warm air
- A gas insert will often have doors or a closed glass front
- Logs in a gas insert are sometimes rearrangeable (for aesthetics)
- Gas inserts are made with a metal firebox
Identifying a Gas Log Set
A gas log set is convenient for people who would like a fireplace but don’t need it to produce a lot of heat. Gas logs use gas for fuel, but don’t cycle air from the room and continuously heat it. Some gas log sets feature detailed ceramic logs and others are very simple. Some require a vent and others do not. Gas log sets are cheaper than inserts and ideal for converting from a wood-burning fireplace without a lot of costs.
- A gas log set will sometimes have a blue flame
- Gas logs are removable (for cleaning) but have a specific order for optimal use
- Gas logs require an existing fireplace
- Gas logs are usually installed in a masonry fireplace with no special wall or floors
Know Your System for Safety
Part of knowing your system is identifying what type you have but also locating the model number so that you can use it properly. Generally, gas appliance work in the same way—using gas and an ignitor the fire lights, and continuous fuel and airflow allows it to maintain a flame. The toxins produced by the fire are then vented out a flue or if it is a vent-free log set or insert it will require no ventilation and all the heat and moisture from the fire comes into the living space. Using a vented fireplace with no vent is dangerous and can cause permanent injury or death.
If you’re not sure whether your fireplace should be vented or not, it is imperative that you locate the model number and user guide before lighting it. If you cannot locate your model number or user manual, a professional can do this during a standard gas service appointment.
Schedule a fireplace maintenance appointment with Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep and we can help you identify your fireplace. When one of our fireplace experts complete the job, you can rest assured you’re using your fireplace properly and safely.
Call us today at 617-469-4528 if you live in and around Boston.
Call our North Shore number: 781-593-2333.
Call our Portland area number: 207-773-7933.