No matter what type of fireplace you have, you should be sure it is safe before lighting or turning it on. All fireplaces require some type of maintenance and require a clear path for flue gases. One of the most important steps to take before lighting your fireplace is to ensure there are no obstructions, whether inside or within the fireplace chimney. Flue gases must draft properly to avoid the emission of carbon monoxide into your living space – a dangerous gas that can be deadly.
If you use your fireplace regularly, there is no question you should have your fireplace serviced at least once a year. If you use it occasionally, you may be able to extend that time, but it is suggested that you have it checked before you turn it on, as conditions may have changed since the last time you used it.
A properly operating direct vent gas fireplace will have a safe and secure glass enclosure, will ignite without delay and will vent properly out through a termination cap that is clear from debris or obstruction. The flame should be fully ignited. Sooting is a sign of incomplete combustion, wasted gas and is a serious safety hazard.
The best way to identify if your fireplace is working properly is to have a visual inspection and a professional check it’s operation. They will check to make sure your fireplace is properly mounted and there are no gaps or cracks in the fireplace framework; they will also check the glass for the same and ensure it is properly sealed. They will vacuum the interior to remove any dust bunnies or dead bugs. They will turn the gas off at the shut off valve and check to see that the igniter is properly sparking and that all burner holes ignite to ensure there is no blockage. If they are blocked, this may require further cleaning. Debris can accumulate in the burner jets and create a dangerous condition if not properly serviced. Once your service is completed, the gas logs are placed back in the proper position and the fireplace is ready to use.
While at your home they will check the termination cap to make sure it is secured to the flue piping that exits your home. The bird screen inside the cap should be intact to ensure that small animals do not make a home inside your chimney flue. The absence of the screen can leave you vulnerable to unwanted pests that can block or damage your flue pipe and render your fireplace unusable until it is repaired. A professional service company will check to see if there are any damp patches on the walls, ceiling stains or white blotches on exterior masonry – all signs that your flue or chimney may be compromised.
If you suspect that the termination cap of your gas fireplace may get blocked during heavy snow storms, consult with a professional, as you may not be able to use your fireplace during heavy snowfall; or, the alternate would be to have a fireplace professional assess if the termination of the chimney can be extended or altered to accommodate elevated snow levels.
Homeowners should make an annual inspection of their grounds. Make sure there is no debris or outdoor furniture blocking the termination cap. We enjoy gas fireplaces because they are relatively low maintenance, but that doesn’t mean they are no maintenance.
The best way to ensure your fireplace is safe to use, whether it be wood burning or gas fired, is to have a professional inspection annually. The lack of proper maintenance of your fireplace can cause many hazardous conditions including fire, carbon monoxide poisoning and toxic fumes. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, especially when it comes to the safety of your family and home.
Daniel Ragusa, President – Firebird Sweep Inc.
(718) 356-1747 www.firebirdsweep.com