As the cooler months approach, you'll likely be looking to use your fireplace as a source to cut heating costs or increase the ambiance of fall and winter. Before you fire up the logs, you'll want to take precautions to make sure your fireplace and chimney are operating properly. After all, fireplaces and chimneys are the causes of 42 percent of all home-heating fires.
Here's how to make sure your fireplace is safe for use this fall and winter.
Have Your Chimney Swept
The National Fire Protection Association recommends having chimneys swept at least once a year before heating season to remove soot and debris. To find a certified chimney sweep in your area, visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
A chimney sweep will not only clean your chimney but inspect for structural and lining damage.
Have Your Gas Burner Inspected
If you have a gas fireplace, it's important to have it thoroughly cleaned and inspected each year, as well. An inspection will ensure there are no gas leaks or buildup that could pose a hazard to your home.
Burn the Right Wood Type
Firewood that is green or comes from resinous tree types like pine are more prone to combustion. The best types of firewood are dense, split and stored in a dry place for at least 6 months. Dense hardwoods like maple and oak have higher energy content, so they release more heat and produce longer-lasting fires.
A mid-grade chimney cap will run you anywhere from $50-$100 but will keep rain, birds, squirrels and other debris from entering.
Build Your Fire Correctly
Small fires typically generate less smoke and high heat can crack your chimney. When building your fire, place logs on a mental grate at the rear of the fireplace. Don't use flammable liquids as starter; use kindling instead.
Screen in Your Fireplace
If you don't have one already, you should place a fire screen or metal fire curtain in front of your fireplace to avoid sparks and fallen wood pieces from making their way onto your carpet, furniture, or anyone passing by. Fire screens should cover the entire opening of your fireplace to serve their purpose.
Be prepared for the unexpected. While you're preparing your fireplace for the first fire of the season, it's a great time to replace batteries in your smoke detectors and have your fire extinguisher professionally inspected. As always, don't leave a fire unattended. Make sure it's fully extinguished before leaving your home or going to bed.
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