(ARA) - What you don t know about your chimney can hurt you, especially if you have a gas-heating appliance that uses your masonry chimney as a venting system. Every day, without any visible signs, acid produced by your gas appliance may be eating away at the inside of your chimney. The resulting damage can compromise the safety of your family and the value of your home. An annual inspection of your chimney, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association and the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), can alert you to potential problems before they become costly or dangerous.
Most homeowners are aware of the need for chimney sweeping and inspection if they own a woodburning stove or regularly use their fireplace. But many don t realize that gas heating appliances, whether a furnace, boiler or even a hot water heater, rely on the chimney for proper venting of the exhaust. Appliances fueled by natural gas or propane may not produce as much visible soot as appliances burning other fuels do, but they can deposit corrosive substances in your chimney. In many cases, these acids may cause damage to your chimney without producing any external symptoms until the problem has become dangerous or expensive to repair.
The Best Safeguard: Annual Inspections
Gas heating appliances are currently one of the most popular choices for home heating in many areas of the country. The convenience factor of a high efficiency appliance is becoming more expensive. As natural gas prices continue to increase, proper maintenance of high efficiency appliances can help keep your fuel consumption down. In order to work as safely and efficiently as possible, gas appliances must meet specific venting requirements. One of the best ways to ensure that your gas heating appliance will operate correctly is to have a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep evaluate the chimney at the time the appliance is installed. This will ensure the gas appliance has the properly sized connector pipe and chimney flue. This is essential for proper operation. It will also give you and the chimney professional a point of reference to determine any changes in the chimney at subsequent yearly evaluations.
If the chimney was not inspected at the time the appliance was installed, it is important to have the chimney-heating appliance relationship checked out. Inspections are especially important when older chimneys are paired with higher-efficiency appliances and boilers (generally, those with efficiency ranges above 80 percent) but are also important with new chimneys and older heating appliances. Appliances with efficiency ranges of 90 percent do not require vertical vents and are vented horizontally through an outside wall.
When gas burns in vented heating systems, the dangerous fumes that are the by-products of combustion, including carbon monoxide, are released into the chimney through a connector pipe. Funneling these fumes out of the living area is the primary purpose of a chimney. In addition to carrying off toxic gases, chimneys also create the draft that provides the proper air and fuel mixture for efficient operation of the heating appliance. Unfortunately, many chimneys in daily use in homes throughout the country either are improperly sized or have conditions that make them unable to perform their intended function.
Natural gas is a clean-burning fuel, but today s high-efficiency gas furnaces pose special problems. The fumes they produce are cooler and contain high levels of water vapor, which can cause more chimney condensation than older models. Since these vapors can also contain chlorides picked up from house-supplied combustion air, the flues are subjected to more corrosive conditions than before and can quickly deteriorate or plug up completely.
A gas heating appliance and a gas hot water heater commonly share a chimney flue. If the heating appliance is changed out to a direct vent appliance the flue may then be too large for just a hot water heater. The too-large flue can cause the water heater to vent its products of combustion into the living space. A CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep can help you avoid this hazardous situation by checking for correct flue size.
In the United States, numerous agencies and organizations now recognize the importance of annual heating system inspection and maintenance in preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fire Protection Association and the American Lung Association are some of the organizations that now encourage the regular maintenance of home heating systems and their chimneys in order to keep carbon monoxide intrusion at bay.
A well-tuned furnace, connected to a venting system or flue that is correctly sized, structurally sound, clean and free of blockages, will operate efficiently and produce a warm and comfortable home. Carbon monoxide alarms are now readily available and no home should be without at least two, one near the furnace and one near the sleeping area of the home. Detectors are not a substitute for routine maintenance, but can be a lifesaver should problems occur.
Considering the risks involved when gas systems are neglected, and the benefits that accrue when they are properly maintained, we suggest you have your furnace and chimney serviced annually by a qualified technician and cleaned or repaired as needed. CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps have earned the chimney and venting industry's most respected credential by passing an intensive examination based on fire codes, clearances and standards for the construction and maintenance of chimney and venting systems. They are also well versed in the characteristics of fuels available for home heating such as wood, gas and oil. This knowledge allows them to expertly diagnose and solve chimney and venting problems. Courtesy of ARA Content