Image of the Boston skyline
Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep Logo

Our Company Blog

The Difference Between Gas Inserts and Gas Logs

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.

gas fireTypes 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.

Why We Love Boston

At Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep, we love serving the greater Boston area. We think Boston is a great place to live and feel grateful for the opportunity to serve the homeowners of this beautiful city year after year. From exciting nightlife and sports to beautiful historic homes, there are plenty of reasons why we love working and living in Boston. Here are some of the things we think make this city great.

boston-skyline-image-boston-ma-billy-sweet-chimney-sweep

Sports In Boston

Fenway Park, need we say more? Boston is home to one of the most historic baseball fields in the United States, and the Boston Red Sox is arguably one of the most famous baseball teams in the major leagues. But Boston doesn’t stop there. We are also home to the Boston Celtics and the New England Patriots. If you are a sports lover, Boston is a great place to visit and live.

Nightlife In Boston

From shopping and dining, to shows and concerts there is no better place to take in the sights than in one of the most historic cities in the United States. We have the Boston Symphony and the Boston Opera House and great concerts all over the city, the Boston area is a great place to take in a show.

Historic Theaters In Boston

  • Cutler Majestic Theater
  • Wilbur Theater
  • Shubert Theater
  • Wang Theater

History In Boston

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Early European settlers came to America in the 17th century and created a prominent city for the earliest colonists. Boston was also home to monumental historic events such as the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, as well as Paul Revere’s famous Midnight Ride. These historic events make Boston an interesting and exciting place to live and visit, even if you are not a history buff.

Living In Boston

Boston defines itself by its beautiful neighborhoods and at Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep we love serving every vibrant neighborhood. The vibrant economy and unique neighborhoods truly make Boston a beautiful place for families to live. Each neighborhood has its own feel, which makes it a diverse place for young entrepreneurs, families and retirees.

Neighborhoods In Boston

  • Charlestown
  • Roxbury
  • Dorchester
  • Hyde Park
  • Downtown

Taking Care Of Your Boston Home

If you live in Boston, you already have great pride in where you live and what your home looks like. Take that pride a step further by using a local company to care for and maintain your chimney and wood-burning heating appliances. At Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep, we have years of experience sweeping, inspecting and repairing chimneys in different types of homes.

When you live in Boston, you have a respect for the economy that keeps our great city going. Employ a local company with certified professionals that will come to your home and make sure your chimney is in top working order. Not only will you be supporting a local Boston business, but you will also be keeping your chimney and your home in top working shape. Contact Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep in Boston to find out more about our chimney sweeping services.

An In-Depth Look At Top Sealing Damper Advantages

If you’re a new homeowner or are unfamiliar with your fireplace you may be asking yourself, “what is a fireplace damper?” The damper is arguably one of the most important pieces of your fireplace. Often located near the bottom of your chimney, your damper serves to seal your fireplace shut so no heat escapes when your fireplace is not in use. If your fireplace damper is leaky or malfunctioning it could lead to costly heat loss.

top-sealing-damper-fireplace-image-boston-ma-billy-sweet-chimney-sweep

This clip is courtesy of Richie Baxley at Environmental Chimney Service in Asheville NC.

What Is A Top Sealing Damper?
Traditional dampers are located at the base of your chimney, near the throat and/or the chimney box. However, in recent years top sealing chimney dampers are being recommended. A top sealing damper functions essentially the same way but is more efficient at keeping warm air in and cold air out. Located at the top of the chimney, this type of damper seals the chimney where debris and moisture is likely to get in, and heat is most likely to escape.

Better Seal, Less Heat Loss
In general, top sealers are though to be better at keeping heat loss at bay because they provide a tighter seal and reduce heat loss exponentially. These newer, more efficient sealers are now recommended for reducing heat loss and improve heat retention in more homes. Homeowners are now realizing that a traditional damper is not enough to thoroughly and efficiently heat their home(s), especially if a wood-burning fireplace is the principle way they choose to heat their home.

Eliminating Debris Inside The Chimney
Not only are top sealers better at reducing heat loss, they also help prevent debris and moisture from entering the chimney. Debris like twigs and leaves can fall into your chimney, especially if tall trees surround your home. These twigs and leaves can get trapped in your chimney and cause chimney fires, which are a serious hazard for homeowners. Additionally, chimney fires are expensive, costing homeowners $11.7 billion in 2011 alone. Preventing debris inside your chimney with a top sealing damper is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of chimney fires.

Eliminating Moisture Inside Your Chimney
Not only does a top sealing damper prevent debris from building up in your chimney, it also seals your chimney so tightly that it prevents moisture from entire your chimney. Rain and snow can enter your chimney and affect the efficiency of it. When you’re trying to heat your home, a clean, dry fireplace and chimney is the most efficient fireplace.

In many homes, top sealing dampers are seen as an important addition to the chimney and fireplace. In addition to chimney caps and traditional dampers, a top sealing damper is a simple add-on that can improve the way your fireplace works – making it cleaner, safer and more efficient.

Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep has been serving the New England area for over 30 years, and can help you update your fireplace to make it burn cleaner, hotter and more efficient. Don’t suffer through the winter months. Update your fireplace with a top sealing damper that will improve the way your fireplace works and help heat your home for less money.

Dangers of Neglecting Chimney Maintenance

At first glance, chimneys seem very robust. They live outside all year, exposed to the elements, and can withstand hundreds of degrees worth of heat, fire after fire. Despite all of this, however, chimneys do need some regular care to keep up with these high demands. Industry experts strongly recommend having the chimney swept and inspected at least once every year and for good reason. Failure to keep up with chimney maintenance can have some devastating consequences.

dangers-of-neglecting-chimney-maintenance-boston-ma-billy-sweet-chimney-sweep

For wood burning fireplaces and stoves, the chimney will contain a buildup of a material called creosote. This black, tarry material clings to the surface of the chimney and can build up to the point of blocking air flow. Creosote is also highly flammable and is the cause of many destructive chimney fires. It burns at a much higher temperature than wood or gas, and once burning, it can be very difficult to extinguish. To keep your home and family safe, having a chimney sweep remove the creosote is imperative.

Debris found in the chimney can also take the form of an obstruction that reduces or blocks the flow of air. A common obstruction in the chimney is an animal and its nest. Warm chimneys attract small animals like birds, squirrels and raccoons that need a cozy space to wait out the winter. Unfortunately, this means trouble for the home owner. When the toxic fumes from the fire cannot escape through the chimney, they end up in the house. Not only does the creosote and soot leave messy, black residue on walls and furniture, but this lack of ventilation can actually be dangerous. Carbon monoxide, a product of combustion, can cause death when inhaled in high enough concentrations. It also has no color, smell, or taste, making it impossible to detect without relying on a special detector. To avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide from the fireplace, have a chimney sweep out every year.

Chimney inspections should also be done every year. The inspector examines the chimney from inside the house and from the roof to determine its structural soundness. A common problem that inspectors uncover is water damage. In a masonry chimney, water can enter the brick and mortar and cause cracking or even collapse. In all types of chimneys, water can also cause damage to the interior. If the flue lining is made of metal, water exposure can lead to rusted cracks or holes, which then exposes the house to further water damage, carbon monoxide leaks, and potential house fires. A simple inspection could determine if the chimney cap needs to be replaced, which can prevent these problems most of the time.

All in all, failure to keep up with chimney maintenance could cost you money in repairs, your house, and even your life. Instead of risking it, just call to schedule your annual sweep and inspection today. If you live near Boston, Massachusetts or Portland, Maine, contact Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep to speak with a professional.

Does Your Chimney Have Draft Problems?

November has begun, which means fall is closing in on its halfway point already. Especially in the northeast, this means less daylight and colder temperatures. Most people have given up on wearing sandals and shorts, and instead, they do not leave the house without at least a jacket and a scarf. Homeowners have likely resorted to heating up their homes at least once this season, and for those with fireplaces or stoves, that may mean lighting up a toasty fire. While many people have a basic idea of how the chimney works, using the fireplace most effectively might require a little more knowledge. Specifically, if you want to save more money by avoiding draft problems with your chimney, you may want to read on for how to catch the problem and resolve it.

chimney-draft-issues-boston-ma-billy-sweet-chimney-sweep

Chimneys function based on the idea that hot air rises. When a fire has been lit in the fireplace, the hot gases produced by it are less dense than the surrounding air, so the hot air moves up through the chimney. Fires are generally burned during the fall and winter seasons, so the riding hot air eventually meets the colder, denser, outside air somewhere in the chimney. This pressure differential results in an upward pull on the air, creating an air flow known as a “draft.” The draft pulls the air from the home into the fire, fueling it with oxygen, and then sends the smoke and gases from the fire outside through the chimney. When this process does not happen properly, you run into what is known as a draft problem.

Draft problems can occur for a few different reasons, but no matter how you spin it, they cost you money. One common draft problem is an oversized chimney. With older fireplaces especially, large chimneys are a common problem. The wider a chimney is the more space the hot air can spread out in, which means the air cools faster and rises slower. With the rise of air significantly slowed down, the pull of the draft loses its strength. This can cause your fire to burn at a cooler temperature or even go out completely. Your mason can remedy this problem by determining the proper chimney width your fireplace and chimney require and installing a flue lining to match.

A chimney that is too short can also cause a draft problem. The taller your chimney is, the more powerful the draft will be. Therefore, if your chimney is too short, a common issue in older bungalows or ranch homes, it cannot create an adequate draft to keep a strong, hot fire going. While this issue is more expensive to address, your mason can walk you through the process of adding height to your chimney. This will save you money in the long run by preventing cold air from creating a draft going into your home instead of out.

If you worry about draft problems costing your money in your home, contact your local mason today. The area of Boston and North Shore, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine are all served by Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep, so if you live in one of these areas, contact Billy Sweet for a professional consultation.