The scents of fall in our neighborhood always include plumes of smoke from the surrounding fireplaces. I love the smell. I don't know why, but the aroma of the logs (usually oak or maple) conjure up feelings of comfort and security.
Yet, all it takes is a clogged blower or a chimney mishap to turn a pleasant plume into a raging house fire.
"Whether you have a wood-burning or gas fireplace, it is important to properly prepare it for the fall and winter seasons to ensure both their functionality and your safety," said Ashley Hogan, a spokesperson for Napoleon Fireplaces and Grills. "Accidents involving fireplaces can be a major cause of home fires. However, most of these can be prevented."
If you plan on using your fireplace for warmth and ambience this fall and winter, take a moment to look at the following tips recommended in a report by the experts at Napoleon. "Most of these simple inspections and cleaning tips can be done by the average homeowner. If you have any doubt at all, contact your local fireplace installer or chimney sweep."
* Start the season off by having your chimney cleaned. One of the main causes of fires from wood-burning appliances is an abundance of creosote (unburned fuel) that has accumulated in the chimney.
* Be sure that any gasket material is inspected and replaced if needed. This would include the gasket sealing the door, the door glass and, in some instances, the ash pump. "If the airtight appliance is operated without these gaskets effectively sealing the openings, excess air can leak into the firebox creating an over-fire condition, which may permanently damage the appliance," according to the report.
* The blower on a wood-burning fireplace -- unlike the blower on a furnace -- does not have a filtering system to prevent the buildup of dust and hair so it should be part of the inspection/cleaning.
* Be sure the chimney is inspected for broken or deteriorated brick lining the fireplace. Some cracks might not be a concern, but if the brick lining is damaged to the point of showing the fireplace's steel body, the heat from the fire could cause permanent damage to the appliance.
* Contact a qualified technician and have the appliance serviced and repaired (if needed). A fireplace that is properly maintained can look as new as the day it was installed. Proper cleaning is always a deterrent for problems down the road. Even the glass should be cleaned annually to keep it looking clear. Gas fireplaces might appear to be maintenance free but, like a car engine, these combustion systems are affected by dust, and even insects can impair their performance. It is vital that the airways on both the pilot and main burners are cleaned to ensure they are operating correctly. Bottom line: It's best to have an inspection of the entire system including the safety controls.
* As with a wood-burning fireplace, the blower needs to be inspected and cleaned.
* "Replace the batteries in any optional remote transmitters and, in some cases, in the receiver as well," said the report by Napoleon. "Even when not being used, the power held in a battery is slowly depleted."
Finally, it is fall. That means it is time to check all of the batteries and test any smoke or carbon monoxide detectors in the house.
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