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All About Carbon Monoxide

You won't know it's there until it strikes! Avoid CO poisoning through proper chimney care and maintenance.

You won’t know it’s there until it strikes! Avoid CO poisoning through proper chimney care and maintenance.

When you are using your fireplace, you probably give little thought to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning; however, the Chimney Safety Institute of America states that every year over 200 people in the United States die from carbon monoxide poisoning due to the toxic gas entering their homes due to venting problems or leaks in their heating or chimney system. Additionally, 10,000 cases of illnesses due to carbon monoxide poisoning are reported every year. Fortunately, proper maintenance of your chimney, including an annual chimney sweep and inspection from a CSIA-certified chimney sweeping company like Weststar Chimney Sweeps, can prevent any possible carbon monoxide poisoning incidents from occurring in your home.

What does carbon monoxide do to you?

Quite simply, too much carbon monoxide in your bloodstream will kill you, and low levels of exposure to carbon monoxide over a period of time can cause many health problems. Unfortunately, when carbon monoxide is in the air, the protein hemoglobin in your blood would rather latch on to carbon monoxide and ignore life-giving oxygen. Because of this, your body will replace oxygen with carbon monoxide, and this causes greater or lesser levels of your cells suffocating, depending on the duration and intensity of the exposure to carbon monoxide. Low-level exposure to carbon dioxide includes serious side effects like permanent organ and brain damage. The elderly, infants, and people with breathing issues are in more danger to carbon monoxide exposure as their immune systems are compromised. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the common cold and flu, so it can take some time to diagnose the true problem. If you continue to suffer from headaches, fatigue, or even depression, ask your doctor to check your blood levels of carbon monoxide.

How does carbon monoxide form in my chimney?

A by-product of combustion, carbon monoxide can be found in both gas and wood-burning fireplaces, stoves, and furnaces. If the combustion process is incomplete, more carbon dioxide is formed. Restricted air flow (closed fireplace doors and an unopened damper) is a cause of incomplete combustion as not enough oxygen is able to get in to burn the fuel completely.

How does carbon monoxide get into my house from my chimney?

Several factors lead to the toxic gas leaking into your home. A damaged or deteriorated flue liner allows carbon monoxide to seep through its cracks. Weststar Chimney Sweeps can easily take care of this problem by restoring a damaged flue liner with HeatShield or even replace your old liner with a new stainless steel liner. Other factors that cause carbon monoxide to enter your home are debris clogs, soot build-up, and animal or birds nests obstructing the chimney flue.

How do I prevent carbon monoxide from entering my house?

The best prevention against carbon monoxide leaks is an annual chimney sweeping and inspection from a CSIA-certified company like Weststar Chimney Sweeps. We will ensure your venting system and flue liner are in good shape, and if not, we provide chimney repair services to fine-tune your chimney so that it works efficiently and safely.

If you have any more questions about the dangers of carbon monoxide, contact Weststar Chimney Sweeps, and our staff will be happy to answer them as well as schedule a chimney sweeping and inspection to ensure your home is carbon monoxide-free.

Tips for Avoiding a Chimney Fire

If you don't want this to happen to your beautiful home, you better learn the basics in avoiding chimney fires.

If you don’t want this to happen to your beautiful home, you better learn the basics in avoiding chimney fires.

Over 25,000 chimney fires in the U.S. last year were responsible for over $120 million in property damage. Chimney fires can quickly spread into house fires in a relatively short period of time. No one ever wants to experience a chimney fire, or worse yet a fire in the chimney that spreads to other areas of the home. This is an important issue, and there are things everyone can do to protect themselves and their families from the chances of a chimney fire ever affecting them.

Why Me?

Most chimney fires happen for one simple reason: improper usage and care of wood-burning appliances. The importance of yearly chimney inspections and sweepings cannot be understated, as they are the one true way to minimize the likelihood of a chimney fire sparking in the first place. The fact is that clean chimneys simply don’t catch fire.

What Causes Chimney Fires?

When wood is burnt, the emissions are expelled into the chimney. As these gases rise, they cool down and form creosote — a tar-like substance that sticks to your chimney or chimney liner. Creosote is extremely flammable and can be lit by even a small spark or floating ember from the fire below. The three most common causes of chimney fires are:

  1. Burning wet or unseasoned wood can increase the production of creosote.
  2. Failing to have your chimney swept often enough.
  3. Blockages in your chimney that can restrict air flow.

Knowledge is key to reducing the potential of a chimney fire happening in your home.

What can I do to Prevent a Chimney Fire?

Your first line of defense is always prevention. Make sure you have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in multiple locations within your home. Make sure you only burn dry, seasoned wood. Make sure you get your chimney swept at least once a year (more frequently is you use your fireplace more heavily). Make sure you never burn trash, cardboard or other types of waste, as these are more likely to produce sparks.

Chimney fires are a dangerous and serious problem to have, but the good news is that they are almost entirely preventable. Homeowners must be careful to only burn materials that are ready and meant to be burned. While using the correct fuel is important, a chimney fire can still occur even after taking all of the necessary precautions. This is why annual chimney inspections and sweepings are a critical part of your home maintenance routine. If your chimney is clean, the chances of a chimney fire occurring are slim-to-none. Don’t wait to call to schedule your inspection and cleaning. Our CSIA-certified chimney technicians will help to ensure that you and your family have a safe and happy heating season.