As the cooler temperatures take root, it is tempting to fire up the fireplace. However, before striking that first match or turning the gas on, we caution you to practice good fireplace safety.
If you used your fireplace last year and have not cleaned it out, you must do that before lighting the first fire of the season. Why? Creosote build-up.
In a wood-burning fireplace, the wood never burns completely. The smoke is a combination of unburned gases and a fog of unburned tar-like liquids. When they come in contact with a cool surface, they condense and form a substance called, creosote.
Creosote builds up over time, and it’s highly flammable. If it catches on fire, it will get extremely hot very quickly and can burn your house down before help arrives. Creosote can also leave an undesirable odor inside your home. Cleaning the fireplace and chimney is a messy job. You are better offer hiring a professional chimney sweep. Rebecca Derendal, the owner of Arizona Chimney & Air Ducts suggests that when hiring a professional, make sure they carry general liability insurance along with workers compensation even if they are self-employed. Take it a step further and find out whether they belong to The National Chimney Sweep Guild and National Fire Protection Association.
Whenever you use a gas appliance in your home, you run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if the gas line is not working properly. Also, an untended gas flame can cause a fire.
Prevent tragedy by taking these precautions:
- Study the manufacturer’s gas fireplace safety instructions.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your house and change the batteries twice a year.
- Hire a fireplace professional to inspect and clean the gas log set and glass once a year. Some fireplace dealers offer this service.
- Hire a plumber to inspect and test the gas connections and the fan.
- Keep children and pets away from the gas fireplace. If your model has glass doors, they will get hot enough to burn little hands and paws that push against it.
- Leave three feet between the fireplace and flammable objects like furniture and curtains.
- Contact your service professional if you smell an unusual odor or if the appearance of the flames change. If you smell gas, leave the house and then call 911.
- Perform regular maintenance yourself, including:
- Clean and adjust the logs and accessories like the glowing “embers” so they look their best. Safety Tip: before cleaning the logs with a damp cloth, wait for the unit to cool completely.
- Clean the fan and air circulation passages.
- Clean the glass after each use.
- Check the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector.
- Make sure vents are unobstructed.
Holiday fireplace tips
Take extra care around the holidays. More highly flammable objects are nearby at this time of year.
Don’t burn trash because the smoke and ashes can be toxic; don’t use a charcoal lighter or kerosene to light the fire. It could flame up; don’t leave small children or pets alone in a room with a fire; and don’t leave your home or go to bed while the fire is burning.
Do use a spark screen while burning and a grate to lay your wood upon; do make sure the damper is open before lighting a fire; do make sure furniture or anything combustible is not too close to the fireplace — that includes Christmas trees; do check the carbon monoxide and smoke alarms annually; and do create a fire escape plan and make sure everyone in the household knows what it is and what to do.
Following these tips will ensure that you can safely enjoy the beauty and comfort of a fire in the hearth.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com.
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