UK fire statistics show that every year over 31 thousand houses have chimney fires. Many insurance companies will no longer pay out for claims made due to chimney fires unless the chimney has been swept by a professional chimney sweep and a recognised chimney sweeping certificate has been issued. To greatly mitigate this risk make sure a fully qualified chimney sweep regularly cleans your chimney and inspects your solid fuel appliance. By using a registered Guild of Master Sweeps professional you can be assured that you are in safe hands as we are trained and qualified to the highest standards and work to a code of practice, providing expert advice on all chimney problems.
Causes of Chimney Fires
• Solid fuel stoves and fireplaces are designed to safely contain and burn fuel, providing heat for your home. The chimneys that serve them have the job of expelling the exhaust fumes and substances given off from the burning fuel.
• As these substances rise up the chimney and cool down, condensation occurs and forms a creosote type residue that sticks to the chimney. Usually black or brown in appearance, it is highly combustible and in sufficient quantities can catch alight.
• Certain conditions encourage the problem; restricted air supply, unseasoned wood and cold chimney temperatures (especially external wall chimneys) are all factors that can accelerate the build-up of flammable residues.
Ways of Preventing a Chimney Fire
• Have your chimney swept regularly as recommended by a Guild of Master Sweeps qualified chimney sweep.
• Use seasoned woods only (dryness is more important than hard wood versus soft wood considerations).
• Build smaller, hotter fires that BURN more completely and produce less smoke.
• Never BURN cardboard boxes, waste paper, or Christmas trees; these can start a chimney fire.
• Burn Recommended fuels ONLY and NEVER use your fire as a waste paper bin. It has been proven that this practice starts chimney fires.
• Use only recommended fuels for your appliance and flue type (If you are unsure check your manufactures instruction or ask your stove supplier).
How Often Should My Chimney/Flu Be Cleaned
• Smokeless Coals: At least once a year
• Wood: Once a quarter when in use
• Bitumous Coal: Twice a year
• Oil: Once a year
• Gas: Once a year
Carbon Monoxide – The Silent Killer
Many people think that carbon monoxide only comes from gas appliances but the truth is that ANY fuel that burns creates carbon monoxide.
Invisible, odourless and tasteless – carbon monoxide (CO) is the deadly gas which lives up to its name as the silent killer. Exposure to even relatively low levels of this highly poisonous gas can cause brain damage or death!!! You cannot see, smell or taste it. If left undetected, it is deadly. Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of viral infections which include drowsiness, weakness, headaches, nausea and pains in the chest. If anyone in your house has any of these symptoms when using any fossil fuelled appliance consult a doctor and stop using the appliance until it has been checked by either a qualified heating engineer or a Guild of Master Sweeps qualified chimney sweep.
Carbon monoxide can be produced where a gas (or other fuel, such as solid fuel or oil) appliance has not been correctly installed or serviced or a flu or chimney has become blocked. Tell-tale signs to look out for include sooting on the appliance, a yellow or orange lazy flame and excessive condensation in the room where the appliance is installed.
Simple Steps To Carbon Monoxide Safety
To help protect your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning follow these simple steps:
• Ensure your chimney is regularly swept as recommended by a Guild of Master Sweeps qualified chimney sweep.
• Ensure all heating appliances are checked annually by a registered heating engineer!
• Be cautious when buying second hand appliances. Do not save on safety.
• Never be tempted to DIY with gas….it is a criminal offence to do so!
• Tell-tale danger signs include sooting around the appliance, a yellow or orange lazy flame and excessive condensation in the room where the appliance is installed.
• Switch off the appliance immediately and contact a doctor if you experience symptoms such as drowsiness, headaches, nausea or pains in the chest when using a heating appliance.
• If you live in rented accommodation insist to see your landlord’s gas safety certificate which shows the appliances he owns have been checked for safety by a ‘Gas Safe’ registered installer. Your landlord is legally obliged to provide you with written proof of these checks on an annual basis.
• Fit a Carbon Monoxide Monitor in your home. This can be done quickly and cheaply. Consult your Guild of Master Chimney Sweep qualified chimney sweep or consult a registered heating engineer.