Canadians understand how important heat is in the winter. As we head into fall, there are a few things you need to do in the coming weeks to prepare for the winter months.
Whether you burn logs or gas, it can be dangerous to light a fireplace until certain things have been done or checked.
Here is a checklist that can provide assurance when the time comes to get cozy near a safe, blazing fire. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detector and have a fire extinguisher close to the appliance. Clear the area around the fireplace of any potentially flammable materials – 3 feet away is a good rule.
Woodburning Fireplaces and Stoves
Experts recommend that fireplaces, wood stoves and chimneys be inspected annually. Clean chimneys help fireplaces and stoves run more efficiently and safely. Soot and creosote may adhere to the inside and can cause a fire because they are highly flammable.
- A yearly chimney sweep ensures the whole system is in good working condition. Professionals will also check the condition of your flue lining. Even a small crack in the flue can cause a house fire.
- Chimney structures are out of sight, but they should not be out of mind. When mortar is damaged or when bricks are loose or cracked, there is a good chance moisture has entered your chimney system. Moisture damage should be repaired as quickly as possible, to minimize the amount of damage done.
- If there is not already a cap on your chimney, have one installed as soon as possible. Chimney toppers serve several important functions, particularly when they have wire mesh. Chimney caps keep moisture out, keep critters out, and help to prevent fires when they have a mesh spark guard that will extinguish embers that might otherwise fly from the chimney.
- Stock up with the right fuel. Have your firewood stored, dried, and ready to burn. The type of firewood you burn determines the quality of your fire and how much flammable creosote is deposited in the chimney. Seasoned hardwoods burn longer than softwoods. If you don’t want a lingering fire, softwoods are the better choice because they don’t leave smoldering wood coals behind.
With some quick annual maintenance, you can maintain or even improve your stove’s efficiency this winter – you might even burn less wood.
Experts also recommend pellet stoves have a yearly maintenance check that will include:
- Cleaning the exhaust piping and venting
- Removing the combustion and distribution fans, then vacuuming out all the ash and soot
- Cleaning behind the inner firebox panels, top heat exchange panels, firewall panels and any ash traps
- Double-checking the gasket on the firebox door
- Cleaning the firepot and the hopper carefully, removing any ash, bits of pellet or pellet dust
There is nothing easier than a gas burning fireplace or insert. There’s no ash to clean up because it burns natural gas or liquid propane but don’t assume this means it doesn’t need cleaning. In fact, it is still recommended you have a certified gas technician inspect and clean your gas fireplace to ensure your safety. The technician will first inspect the exterior to ensure glass is not chipped, cracked, or dirty, and the framework is holding up sufficiently.
- While checking for dents or debris, the technician will also look at the interior gas ignition under the log structure and make sure it is lighting flawlessly. They also make sure your log set is not deteriorating in any way.
- The face of the unit will have to be taken off, so they can inspect the valves and connections underneath your fireplace or insert. They will make sure your fireplace’s heat output is correct, and clean up any residue that has started to block any ports or vents.
- After a routine check, your technician should make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors, and that you are aware of any repairs your gas fireplace may need.
Certified gas technicians have a wealth of information and will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your fireplace or insert. Don’t be afraid to ask.