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Understanding how your chimney works

One of the most common complaints from fireplace owners is improper chimney drafting, or smoke entering the house from the fireplace rather than exiting through the chimney. The proper working of your chimney relies on the principles of physics. While it may sound complicated, understanding how your chimney works is really quite simple.

The physics of your chimneyUnderstanding the Machanics of your chimney - New Haven - Fairfield CT - Total Chimney Care

To understand how your chimney works, you first must understand that the air in your house is constantly moving. Warm air rises to the top of your home and attempts to force its way out of any cracks or crevices — including attic vents, light fixtures and cracks — it can find to reach the outside. At the lower levels of your house, cold air is attempting to get in to replace the warm air that’s exiting from the upper levels of your house. Somewhere in the middle, there’s the neutral pressure plane, the breaking point at which the air above is positive air trying to exit to the home and the air below is negative and trying to draw more air in.

Your chimney is part of your home’s circulatory system. When it’s full of warm air, as it is when there’s a fire in your fireplace, warm air rushes up the chimney while cool air is pulled into the fireplace. Any disruption in this system can interfere with your chimney’s ability to draft properly.

External disruptions to your chimney’s function

Believe it or not, any vented appliance in your home can affect the way your chimney is drafting. Appliances that draw air out of the house, including bathroom fans, kitchen hoods, clothes dryers and central vacuums, create negative pressure in the area of the fireplace. When there’s negative air pressure near the fireplace, that can prevent air from being draw into the fire and forced up the chimney, causing smoke to draft backward into your home.

Wind loading, when the wind outside is strong enough to put pressure on a portion of the house, also can disrupt your chimney’s draft. If the wrong portion of your house is pressurized by the wind, that can cause smoke to draft back into your home.

Internal disruptions to your chimney draft

One of the biggest culprits of a bad chimney draft is an improperly sized chimney. A chimney that is too tall or too short, too wide or too narrow can interfere with drafting and cause smoke to flow back into your home. Closed or jammed dampers can interfere with the chimney’s draft. Creosote can block your chimney, and your chimney flue or chimney cap can be plugged with debris that prevents your chimney from drafting properly and causes smoke to enter your home.

If you’re having problems with your chimney’s draft and suffering from an influx of smoke into your home from your fireplace, call the chimney experts at Total Chimney Care. We’ll inspect your fireplace and chimney, and help you identify and rectify the problem.

Choose Local Firewood for the Upcoming Season

Buying Local Firewood - New Haven Fairfield CT - Total Chimney CareFall has officially arrived, and it is here in full force. Many leaves have already fallen to the ground, and those that have not still cling to the trees, creating a beautifully colored landscape. The winds now have a crisp edge that has everyone searching for a cozy jacket to bundle up in. In addition to enjoying the cool weather and sipping hot apple cider, many people – particularly homeowners – are starting to think about heating their homes, if they have not already switched the heat on. Many Connecticut homes still utilize wood-burning stoves or fireplaces as at least a partial source of heat. That means now is the time to stock up on fuel, meaning bundles and cords of wood.

For some homeowners, choosing and purchasing firewood can be a hassle. There are the questions of where to buy the firewood, whether the purchase is a good deal, and estimating how much you will need to get you through the winter. The amount of wood you need depends on your fireplace, the weather conditions, and how often you plan to use your stove or fireplace. Whether or not the wood you buy is worth the price you pay depends on the individual wood dealer you choose. However, you can know ahead of time where to buy your firewood because where you buy depends on where the dealer gets the firewood from.

You should always inquire about the origins of the firewood before deciding to purchase it. Choose to buy from firewood dealers who only sell firewood from local forests. The reason for this is that every forest contains native species of insects and fungi, all of which cohabitate together with few problems. However, when the firewood from these forests travel to different areas, even a mere few counties away, the native organisms on them travel along too. When you store your firewood outside, these species start to inter mingle. Then, these once native species are introduced to new habitats where they become nonnative species. This could result in devastating consequences for the ecosystem.

One nonnative species that has wreaked havoc on the ecosystem is the Emerald Ash Beetle that originated in Asia. It first appeared in Michigan, where it began terrorizing the ash tree population. Now, ash trees all over the country are being eaten alive and thousands have already died.

In order to avoid devastations like this in the future, firewood must not leave the area it was cut down in. Therefore, avoid traveling long distances to purchase firewood, and avoid traveling long distances to use your firewood. Even transporting just a few bundles of wood can start a nonnative species epidemic in the habitat you visit.

So make sure you are buying locally grown firewood that is well seasoned and ready to burn. Always make sure the firewood is not green and well dried out to burn cleanly in your fireplace.

To speak more about this topic with an expert, contact Total Chimney Care for professional input.

By Steve Sobczak on October 30th, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Basics of Ash Removal

Do you know what to do with the ashes in your fireplace?

Do you know what to do with the ashes in your fireplace?

For someone who does not like dirt or dust, a fireplace may not seem like an ideal piece for your living room. Many think that when a fireplace has dirt or ashes in the bottom that it needs to be immediately removed, but this may not be the case. Your local chimney professionals can answer these questions and also administer your annual chimney sweep and inspection. Call Total Chimney Care for all of your chimney needs.

Should you leave the ashes or should you remove them?

Many homeowners are shocked to learn that you are supposed to leave a thin layer of ash in the bottom of your fireplace during burning season. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) suggests this amount be about an inch. This is done to help build and maintain your fire by supplying extra heat. However, you must be very careful in monitoring the ash level because too much can allow pieces to come into contact with the grate, causing it to burn out prematurely.

However, if you have a stove that burns from the front to the back you will need to have the ash in the inside of the door removed. This gives you a spot to move the hot coals from the back to. A small layer of ash will also protect the overall floor of a firebox. At the end of the season you do need to remove all of the ashes. When the acids contained in ash begin to reach parts of the fireplace they can begin to cause rust and deterioration.

How do you remove ash from inside of your firebox?

There are many ways you can remove ash – always using a glove, a fireplace shovel, and a wet/dry vacuum. This process should be done four or more days after the last fire so they are completely cooled down and safe. You should always place the old ash in a metal or clay container and discard far away from your home. You can remove ash and soot from glass parts of the fireplace with an equal part water and vinegar base. Using a spray bottle, cover the area and gently wipe away with a paper towel.


By Steve Sobczak on February 17th, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , | Leave a Comment

Gas or Wood Burning Logs?

Converting a Wood Burning Fireplace to Gas Logs: Advantages and Disadvantages

Ever since gas logs became an option in the average home, homeowners have debated whether or not this is really a better option than their wood burning fireplaces. There are many important things to take into consideration before making this important decision. There are advantages and disadvantages to each but in the end, it is a matter of preference and a choice that each homeowner needs to make for themselves.

The most obvious advantage of a fireplace with gas logs is that it is extremely convenient. The fireplaces simply need to be turned on and it is possible to have a roaring fire in just moments. Some models require people to reach in and turn a knob, while others create a fire with the push of a remote control button. As soon as the family wants a fire, they can have one and do not have to wait for logs to catch and for the fire to really get going.

Photo of: gas fireplace

Gas logs are a click away from heating the room.

Another reason that many people enjoy a gas burning fireplace is that they no longer need to deal with the mess of burning logs. This includes the need to purchase or gather firewood as well as the need to season it well in advance. In addition, a fireplace with gas logs does not create any ash that needs to be cleaned out after each fire. This makes day to day maintenance of the fireplace much easier than when it burns real, wooden logs.

In addition to being convenient and easy to use, fireplaces with gas logs do a much better job of heating the home than their traditional counterparts. They create a great deal of heat, which spreads throughout much of the home. This can help reduce the energy bill because it is not necessary to run the heat as often during the cold months. However, it is important to keep in mind that most models are not capable of heating the entire home.

A fireplace with gas logs will not create the same smell as a wood burning fireplace. For some people, this may be an advantage, especially if they are very sensitive to the smell of smoke. However, for some people, the smell of a fire burning is extremely nostalgic and one of the things they most look forward to when the weather turns cool. Those who are emotionally invested in the sound and smell of a traditional fire should consider this before installing gas logs.

Homeowners should not install fireplaces with gas logs if they think it will reduce the amount of annual maintenance on their fireplace. Regardless of the type of logs in the fireplace, it is important to have an annual inspection. This will help ensure that the fireplace is in safe, working order and that there are no potential problems on the horizon. The chimney and fireplace should still be checked out by a licensed chimney sweep at the beginning of every cold weather season.

There are many advantages to a fireplace with gas logs but there are also many reasons that people choose to keep their wood burning fireplaces. A gas fireplace is much more convenient but it lacks the traditional smell and sounds that many people have come to associate with a cozy winter night at home. Before making a decision, be sure to consider all of the options and to keep up with regular fireplace maintenance.

By Steve Sobczak on August 9th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment