Our Company Blog
If sitting in front of a crackling fire is your favorite way to warm up during the cold winter months, but your traditional fireplace isn’t quite cutting the mustard anymore, we have a solution for you that will add both beauty and heat to your family room. Fireplaces are a highly desired feature for many new homebuyers; unfortunately, they’re also a major air gap, sending as much as 8% of valuable heated air straight up the chimney. An energy-saving wood, pellet or gas insert will help you transform your existing hearth into a super-efficient heater that can significantly cut your energy bills.
Wood-burning inserts create real heat with real logs. This firebox slides into your existing masonry or metal fireplace. Your installer will snake a stainless steel liner down your chimney to connect to the top of the insert before fitting a decorative cast iron, steel, or colored porcelain flange around the insert to provide you with a finished look. Many front doors come with ceramic glass to help with radiating heat into the room. Adding logs to the fire is as easy as opening the front door and tossing some in. Wood-burning inserts can easily heat anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet of living space, depending on their size. Inserts designed to heat 1,500 square feet will typically burn for three to five hours before needing more wood, whereas inserts designed to heat upwards of 3,000 square feet will typically provide an 8- to 10-hour burn window.
Instead of burning wood logs, a pellet insert burns wood pellets—rabbit-food-sized bits of compressed, recycled wood waste and other renewable substances—that are poured into a hopper. Like its wood-burning counterpart, a pellet insert is a sealed combustion box with a partially glass front door that’s surrounded by a decorative flange. To operate the system, you buy a bag of pellets, pour them into the hopper, press a button, and sit back and enjoy the fire. Unlike their wood-burning counterparts, pellet stoves need electricity—to start the fire, operate the blowers, run the auger that feeds the pellets into the burn pot, and run the computer board that monitors the whole system. Pellet inserts can easily heat anywhere from 1,000 to 2,500 square feet of living space, depending on their heat-generating capacity and the size of the fuel hopper.
Converting to gas has never been easier. Unlike the older generation of gas fireplaces, today’s gas inserts are real heat producers that can use propane or natural gas to power a steady flame that dances across fake logs, decorative glass chips, or stones, all behind a sealed glass face. A gas insert can be used in masonry or prefab fireplaces and can be vented through the existing chimney or directly through an adjacent exterior wall. In comparison to the other options, a gas insert is the easiest to use and requires very little maintenance beyond the customary annual check. Lighting the fire is as easy as flipping a switch. It is ideal for zone heating (heating the room you’re in while turning down the thermostat in the rest of your house).
An insert, installed by a factory-trained professional, will help to keep your heated air in the room. Inserts generally run anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000, including installation (prices can vary depending on the current state of your fireplace and existing chimney liner). Choosing the fuel type you want to use is the first step in the conversion process. To help with this decision, you’ll need to decide what’s most important to you—burning real wood and having heat even if the power goes out (wood insert), burning bio-fuel without the hassle of chopping and hauling wood (pellet insert), or push-button convenience for flipping on fast heat in a specific area of your home (gas insert). Regardless of the route you choose to go, the professionals at The Chimney Care Company can help you every step of the way.
Whenever you burn a solid fuel (wood, coal or pellets) in your stove, fireplace or insert, you will be left with ashes that need to be removed. These ashes must be removed periodically, as they can affect the performance and durability of your unit. The frequency of the ash removal will depend on the product itself and the type of fuel being burned.
ASHES THROUGHOUT HISTORY
Ancient man transported fire from one location to another by wrapping hot coals insulated by ashes in animal skins. Once he arrived at the new home site, rekindling the fire was easy. He removed the coal—which was still hot—and placed it on a small pile of leaves and twigs. He then blew on the hot ember and restarted the fire. It’s important to point out that fires are still started this way today, and often, it’s an accidental fire.
THE DANGERS OF IMPROPER ASH REMOVAL
Improper ash removal from fireplaces and wood burning stoves causes thousands of fires in the U.S. every year. According to the NFPA, almost 10,000 fires are caused yearly due to improperly removing and discarding ashes. Hot coals, hidden in a pile of ashes and thus well insulated, can stay hot for up to four days because the ash acts as an insulator that keeps the coals from burning out. All these coals need to flare up again is more oxygen. It’s for this reason that fire departments often return to a scene to spray more water on smoldering timbers and newly flared coals.
ASH CONTAINER 101
Never empty ashes into a paper or plastic bag, cardboard box, or other similar container. The only suitable means for ash storage is a metal container with a tight-fitting lid, as this helps keep air from blowing through and disturbing the ashes, which can leave hot coals exposed and easily reignited. For optimum safety, wet the wood ashes prior to attaching the metal lid to the pail. As a safety precaution, never store your metal ash container on your deck, in your garage, or in any location that may allow heat to transfer from those hot coals to nearby flammable items. Innumerable wooden decks catch fire every year because of this simple oversight. Instead, place the container on a non-combustible surface such as stone, concrete, brick, or slate.
Wood ash, once completely cooled, can safely be disposed of in your garden because natural firewood ash makes a great soil additive that your plants will enjoy because they are high in potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Just make sure you have removed any mulching materials such as dried leaves and other dried plants first, so there’s nothing to catch fire in your garden. Spray the dispersed ashes with water as an added safety precaution.
For additional information on this and many other topics, contact the Chimney Care Company today. We offer complete chimney and fireplace services to the Cincinnati, southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky area. You can always count on us for friendly service and quality workmanship.
A burning question for many homeowners with fireplaces is which type of wood they should be using. There is no simple answer to this question, however, as the options available to you are quite numerous. Nevertheless, Chimney Care Company is here to help you make a more informed decision when the time comes. Our long-term customers know we’ll take care of them and you can rest assured that we’ll take care of you as well.
There are two basic types of firewood available to those with a wood-burning fireplace: softwood and hardwood.
QUICKER IGNITING FIRES WITH SOFTWOODS
Softwoods—pines, spruces and firs—start burning easily. Typically, these woods have less potential BTU [British Thermal Unit] energy than their hardwood counterparts. Softwoods also produce a much more significant amount of smoke. The one true advantage softwood has is that it lights very quickly because it’s less dense; this quality makes it an excellent choice for kindling for any fire; using it for anything beyond that is like sending your money straight up the chimney.
LONGER BURNING FIRES WITH HARDWOODS
Hardwoods—oaks, maples and cedars—on the other hand, don’t start burning quite as easily but burn for a long time, which makes them ideal for prolonged burns. Per square inch, when compared to softwoods, they have much more BTU potential than other types of wood and, therefore, burn hotter and more steadily for extended periods.
BETTER BURNING FIRES MARRY THE TWO TYPES OF WOOD
The easiest and best fire is built by using a mixture of both softwoods and hardwoods. A bed of ashes underneath the grate produces steady heat and aids in igniting new fuel as it‘s added. This will ensure that the fire will continue burning as long as small amounts of wood are added at regular intervals. As a matter of fact, more efficient wood burning results from burning small loads of wood with sufficient air than from burning large loads of wood with minimal air.
MORE EFFICIENT FIRES WITH SEASONED WOOD
It’s also important to season your firewood, whether it’s hard or soft, as all of it contains moisture. Seasoning takes place when the moisture content in the wood reaches equilibrium with that of the surrounding air. A common method of seasoning wood is simply stacking it outdoors in a spot that allows for good air circulation and is dry, sunny and open for approximately six months out of the year. Seasoning in this manner will produce wood that is dry enough to support efficient combustion and has a higher heating value than unseasoned wood.
For the most part, it is far more important that your firewood is dry and seasoned; the particular type of wood you’re burning is merely a secondary concern. Having both softwood and hardwood on hand is a good idea. You can use the softer woods for kindling and for fires during cooler months when only a small amount of heat output is desired and save the harder woods for the coldest months. Keeping these things in mind will make you a much happier homeowner and will make the cold months of the year much more enjoyable for you and your family.
Call Chimney Care Company today to have our professional chimney technicians take care of your fireplace.
If you’ve just installed or are planning to install a pellet stove, it’s important to grasp the importance of getting into a regular habit of cleaning it and providing regular appliance upkeep to get the most out of your investment. The manufacturer’s instructions will typically give you fairly straightforward specifics as far as cleaning and upkeep are concerned in regards to your particular model. Nevertheless, we at The Chimney Care Company would like to provide you with a few general tips and areas to keep an eye on.
BURN POT MAINTENANCE
This is the stove’s carburetor, meaning it mixes the air and fuel together to enable combustion. As is the case in a car, the correct air to fuel ratio is extremely important to achieving top performance. When operating normally, your stove should produce a bright yellow or white flame. You may also notice a white or gray ashy buildup on the glass during high burn and a darker, fluffy ash on low burn—both are totally normal. If, however, your flame is orange and sooty or there’s a brown caramel-like substance building up, immediate action should be taken to improve the burning efficiency of your unit.
It’s extremely important that you check the burn pot every day and clean it periodically to keep the air inlets free of ash and clinkers (formed from ash that melts and then hardens). The frequency with which you need to clean the burn pot will depend, in large part, on the type and grade of pellets you’re burning. Incorrect adjustment of the air to fuel ratio can greatly increase the likelihood of blockages forming in the burn pot due to the stove’s inability to remove excess ash on its own.
HEAT EXCHANGER MAINTENANCE
Located inside the combustion chamber, the heat exchanger is designed to transfer the heat produced by the burning pellets in the burn pot into clean hot air for distribution into your living space. Fresh air passes through the inside of the chamber and draws the heat out of the stove and into the room. For maximum efficiency, the surface of the heat exchanger should be cleaned regularly. The frequency with which you’ll need to clean it will depend on your particular unit’s design and can range anywhere from daily to monthly. On some models, cleaning is as simple as moving a rod that scrapes the tubes inside the stove, whereas other stoves may require professional service.
VENTING SYSTEM AND OTHER COMPONENT MAINTENANCE
It is recommended that you have your stove’s venting system cleaned by a professional who’s more experienced in the maintenance of such things. If the vent pipe becomes blocked, smoke may leak into your home. Luckily, most pellet burning appliances now have a safety switch that will interrupt their operation and keep exposure to harmful gases to a minimum. The motors and fans in your stove will need occasional cleaning and/or lubricating as well; using the wrong lubricant or the wrong amount of lubricant can, however, damage the unit. Gaskets (fire chamber door, ash pan door, and hopper lid) may also need replacing from time to time to ensure the seals remain tight.
Like traditional and gas fireplaces, it is recommended that you call a certified professional to service and clean your pellet stove on at least an annual basis; they’ll also be able to provide preventive maintenance at this time. Here at Chimney Care Company, your family’s sense of security and safety is important to us. Whatever your fireplace, chimney or other needs, if you’re looking for high quality, professional services from industry experts, you’ve come to the right place. Give us a call today!
Many homes have a gas fireplace. Unfortunately, homeowners generally don’t think about servicing them until something goes wrong, which is usually at the most inopportune time. Whether you take a few moments to check out some of the more obvious things yourself or schedule an appointment with a trusted fireplace service technician, both can save you a lot of frustration down the line.
Guidelines for Gas Fireplace Service
As you may or may not know, there are several different types of gas fireplaces, and the guidelines for servicing each is somewhat different. If a model has what is known as a standing pilot—the pilot light stays on all the time—the most important regular service item is the pilot assembly. Some units have a pilot light that’s only on when the unit is in use, while others use electronic ignition to light the burner directly without using a pilot system at all; both of these won’t need servicing quite as often.
For the last few decades, all unvented gas fireplaces and inserts as well as gas log sets have been manufactured with an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) to ensure safe operation of the appliance; these sensors should be cleaned every year to keep the system from becoming more sensitive and/or causing nuisance shutdowns. If you are particularly handy—one capable of changing you own oil or the spark plugs in your car without breaking something—you should be able to handle this task; however, if you are the slightest bit apprehensive about handling anything dealing with gas, it’s best to leave this to a trained, experienced professional.
The goal is to clear out the accumulation of sediment in the tiny pilot opening. A can of compressed air can be used with the included straw to direct air toward the opening to clean it out. If you opt to do this yourself, remember to make sure the pilot is OFF. If the pilot assembly is at least five years old or if you live close to salt water, this method might not be as effective as it once was, leaving you needing to seek professional assistance anyway!
Gas Fireplace Cleaning Needs
Unvented logs are designed to burn very cleanly; as such, if you notice any black sooty deposits on your logs, it is best to stop using them immediately to make sure your logs and/or burner are set up correctly. If you aren’t absolutely sure that everything is correct, please refrain from using your fireplace until you can have a professional technician evaluate the situation for you.
Other fireplace options and gas log sets need cleaning, too, but perhaps not as often depending on the frequency of their use. Vented gas logs should be cleaned regularly if there is any sooty buildup present; there are commercially available sprays on the market to assist with this task if you are comfortable doing so. If at any point you are unsure or the least bit apprehensive, it is best to err on the side of caution and contact a professional to handle the work on your behalf.
Direct vent gas fireplaces have fixed glass panels that will likely need annual cleaning to stay clear. If the glass is collecting a black residue (soot), the fireplace should be adjusted to remedy this issue. If the glass has a gray or white film, however, there is no need to worry; there are chemical compounds in the gas itself that produce the residue (this is completely normal). The use glass cleaners containing ammonia is a huge no-no. Water and a soft cloth will usually suffice as long as you make this is part of your regular cleaning routine; adding a little vinegar to the water may save you a little elbow grease. Tougher deposits may require special fireplace glass cleaner to ensure that the job is done properly. Don’t forget to dry your glass completely and check for streaks and fingerprints before re-installing the glass!
Here at Chimney Care Company, your family’s sense of security and safety is important to us—which is why we’ve spent the last 25 years installing, repairing, cleaning and maintaining the chimneys, fireplaces and dryer vents of our neighbors in Cincinnati, southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky. To schedule an appointment, please give us a call at 513-248-9600 or click here. We appreciate your business and look forward to helping you keep your family safe and warm for years to come!