Is your fireplace doing its job this Texas winter?

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By Terri Williams January 22nd, 2020
For business

It's important to properly maintain your home's fireplace.

Texas is more likely to have winter heat waves than severe winter weather. However, there are always enough cold nights to make you thankful for your home’s fireplace. Before you light it up, though, there are a few things you need to do first.

“As homeowners prepare their home for the cold temperatures, cleaning the chimney is among the long list of to dos and for good reason,” said Craig Gjelsten, vice president of operations at Rainbow International Restoration, which has offices across Texas.

He’s the person you call when your home sustains damage from fire or smoke, so he knows a few things about fireplaces.  “A clean fireplace can not only keep you and your family safe, but also help you save energy,” he said.

How is that possible? “If you are using a traditional fireplace that burns wood,” Gjelsten explained, “you are not using electrical energy tied into the home, which can help reduce the monthly electric bill.”

Inspect and clean the fireplace

Gjelsten advises Texans to have the chimney cleaned and inspected at least once a year. “The best time of year to do this is in the spring, summer or fall before the colder months arrive and homeowners start to use their fireplace,” he said.

While those times are ideal, it’s never too late to have it inspected and cleaned. Why is this so important?

“Maintaining a clean fireplace is the best way to remove creosote, a byproduct of wood combustion that contains tar and toxins,” he said. And if you eliminate the creosote from the chimney liner and the smoke box, Gjelsten says you reduce the risk of a fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), failing to clean chimneys is one of the leading contributing factors to home heating fires.

“Cleaning your fireplace also lowers the chance for chimney cap damage and severe smoke or carbon monoxide inhalation,” Gjelsten said.

Purify the fireplace

You also need to purify your fireplace, according to Richard Ciresi, franchise owner of Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning, which has over 30 locations in Texas, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Frisco, Leander, College Station, Katy, Lubbock, and Longview.

“Your fireplace may be offering up more than you bargained for – destroying your home’s indoor air quality by releasing dangerous pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other particles,” he warned.

Ciresi recommends taking the following fireplace precautions to protect indoor air quality. “Choose the proper fuel: ensure a hotter, cleaner burning fire by using dried ‘seasoned’ wood, particularly hard wood – like maple, ash, oak, and beech –  which outperform softer pine and fir.”

And he says you should never burn wood that is wet, or has been painted or treated.

Ciresi also recommends adding an air purifier. “Whole house HEPA air filtration systems, when added to your heating system, can help control smoke pollution, removing 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns in size and larger,” he said.

You also need to establish boundaries a safe distance away from the fireplace. The NFPA advises keeping anything that can burn a minimum of three feet away. If you have kids, be sure to establish a “kid-free zone” at least three feet away. To keep sparks and embers from flying out of the fireplace, the NFPA also recommends putting a strong screen in front of it.

Ventless fireplaces

Ventless fireplaces are an option for homeowners without a chimney.

If you don’t have a chimney, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a fireplace. “Ventless fireplaces can be installed virtually anywhere – indoors and out – and employs a patented system that uses specially designed alcohol gel fuel cartridge in a locked safety firebox,” said Arthur Lasky, founder and product designer of HearthCabinet Ventless Fireplaces.

The cartridges burn for 1.5 to 2 hours maximum, and Lasky says they produce very little carbon monoxide.

“Our outdoor units are a perfect alternative to gas or wood-burning models that create smoke, odor and leave a residue,” said Lasky. In fact, he says in some cities, wood and gas-burning fireplaces are banned in new homes. “Because our alcohol cartridges burn so cleanly, HearthCabinet ventless fireplaces have been used in some of the finest residential, hospitality, and commercial spaces across the country.”


Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Image Credit/Shutterstock/HearthCabinet

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