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Chimney Safety

With the increased popularity of Woodburning and Multi-fuel stoves it is sometimes all too easy to forget the importance of the on-going maintenance requirements. Once you have had you appliance fitted by a qualified engineer it is then wise to schedule in annual maintenance while it is fresh in your mind. This will ensure that your appliance is kept in the best possible condition and above all it is safe.

Chimney Fires

UK fire statistics show that each year on average over 30 thousands houses have chimney fires.
This will be largely due to not getting the chimney swept often enough or burning fuel that is inappropriate for the appliance and causing tar to build up in the chimney.

Most insurance companies will no longer pay out for claims made due to chimney fires unless the chimney has been swept by a professional qualified chimney sweep and a valid certificate of sweeping issued that is recognised by insurance companies.

If the fire brigade is called out to a chimney fire and it is proven that the chimney has not been properly maintained, then the local council may bill you for the call out, which can be expensive!

Chimney fires destroy the homes and lives of thousands of homeowners in the UK each year. Chimney fires can burn explosively – noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbours. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney, which can startle homeowners as the low rumbling sound reminds them of a freight train or a low flying airplane.

The temperatures they reach are very high and can cause damage to the chimney structure and nearby combustible parts of the house.
Use only recommended fuels for your appliance and flue type.

To find a qualified chimney sweep you can visit websites such as the National Association of Chimney Sweeps website which will list sweeps in your area. The usual recommendation is that you chimney is swept and checked at least once a year, however this may vary depending on the appliance you have fitted and the fuel burnt.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Many people think that carbon monoxide only comes from gas appliances, but the truth is ANY fuel that burns creates carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a very dangerous, colourless and odourless gas, which endangers your health even at low-level exposure.

Side effects resulting from low-level exposure include permanent organ and brain damage, and not surprisingly; infants and the elderly are more susceptible than healthy adults, as are those with anaemia or heart disease.

However, too much carbon monoxide in your blood will in fact kill.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning

The symptoms of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning are so easily mistaken for those of the common cold, flu or exhaustion that proper diagnosis can be delayed. Because of this, be sure to see your doctor about persistent, flu-like symptoms, chronic fatigue or generalised depression.

If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning get urgent medical advice, and do not use your appliance until it has been checked properly by a competent person.

Fuel Quality

 The most common form of wood fuel at the moment is logs. These will usually come from local sources and can be brought from a variety of outlets – e.g. coal merchants, farmers, tree surgeons. It is important the logs are dry and well seasoned. Burning wet or unseasoned wood is less efficient and can cause harmful build up of deposits in the chimney over a very short time. Thick coatings of creosote or resinous material can cause chimney fires, or prevent the chimney functioning properly. This can allow harmful fumes to escape into the dwelling.

If you buy logs, which have not been seasoned, you should store them under cover but open to allow free air circulation for at least a year. Some logs may take 3 to 4 years to fully season. Bring the fuel into the house a few days before you want to use it to get it as dry as possible. Wood from different trees has different heat values. Wood fuel has typically less than half the calorific value of coal and smokeless fuel, so you must be prepared to use a greater volume of wood to heat your home or room, unless you use both wood and mineral solid fuel.

If you burn wood, you should have your chimney swept at least twice a year. Do not burn any painted or treated wood. Treated or painted wood will emit chemicals which are potentially damaging to health and the environment. This also applies to MDF and chipboard.

This blog was provided by Kean Roberts Managing Director of Cornwall Woodburners