Chimney cleaning is the process of removing soot, creosote, and other debris from your chimney flue. This is essential for several reasons.
It prevents chimney fires. Creosote is a highly flammable substance that builds up in your chimney over time as a result of burning wood. If it accumulates too much, it can ignite and cause a dangerous fire that can spread to your roof and other parts of your home.
It improves air quality. Burning wood produces fine particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and other pollutants that can escape from your chimney and pollute the air. These pollutants can damage your lungs and other organs, and harm the health of you and your family. They can also contribute to smog, acid rain, and climate change.
It enhances efficiency. A clean chimney allows the smoke and gases from your fire to exit more easily, which improves the draft and combustion of your stove or fireplace. This means you can use less fuel to produce more heat, which saves you money and reduces your environmental impact.
How often should you clean your chimney?
The frequency of chimney cleaning depends on several factors, such as how often you use your stove or fireplace, what type of wood you burn, and what type of appliance you have. However, as a general rule, you should clean your chimney at least once a year, or more often if you notice any signs of creosote buildup, such as:
A dark or shiny coating on the inside of your chimney flue
A strong or unpleasant odour coming from your chimney
Smoke or sparks coming out of your chimney top
A reduced draft or performance of your stove or fireplace
Chimney should be cleaned no later than the early fall, before the fire burning season. If you choose to hire a chimney sweep, you can expect a quick turnabout if you have them come earlier, ideally in the summer.
How to choose the right fuels and appliances?
Another way to reduce the pollution and emissions from your wood-burning stove or fireplace is to choose the right fuels and appliances. Here are some tips:
Use dry wood. Wet wood creates more smoke and creosote than dry wood. You should only burn wood that has been seasoned for at least six months and have a moisture content of 20% or less. You can check the moisture level with a moisture metre, or look for the ‘Ready to Burn’ logo when buying wood.
Use certified fuels. Manufactured solid fuels such as briquettes or pellets are also an option for some stoves or fireplaces. These fuels must be certified as ‘Ready to Burn’ to confirm they meet sulphur and smoke emission limits.
Use EcoDesign stoves. EcoDesign stoves are stoves that meet the new requirements for emission levels and seasonal efficiency that came into effect in January 2-22. These stoves adhere to strict criteria around particulate matter (PM), organic gaseous compounds (OCG), carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). They are designed to burn more cleanly and efficiently than older models.
Use DEFRA-exempt stoves in smoke controlled areas. Smoke control areas are areas where you are not allowed to emit smoke from a chimney unless you are using an authorised fuel or appliance. DEFRA-exempt stoves are stoves that have been tested and approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for use in those areas. They make it harder for wood to smoulder and stop it from ever being completely starved of oxygen. So, as well as reducing emissions, they will minimise soot build-up in your chimney.
Keeping your chimney clean is not only good for your safety and comfort, but also for the environment. By following these tips, you can enjoy the benefits of a wood-burning stove or fireplace while reducing your pollution and carbon footprint.
Many thanks to the experienced chimney sweep who articulated the above advice and allowed it to go viral without credit.
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