When the cold weather starts, having a fireplace or a wood burning stove is a great way to save on heating costs. But they are not maintenance free. If you don’t take good care of your fireplace or wood burning stove, you could end up with a much bigger fire than you expected and lose your whole house.
Inside your chimney, soot and creosote build up over time, so it is important to make sure you have your chimney cleaned regularly. Creosote is most prominent in pine, so it is best to avoid burning pine in the fireplace or wood stove in your home, although it is fine to burn outside where you have no chimney to worry about.
Many hardware stores sell “logs” that are supposed to clean the creosote out of your chimney, and while they can be helpful, I certainly wouldn’t rely solely on those to keep your chimney creosote free.
It’s important that a homeowner have their chimney professionally cleaned on a yearly basis, depending on how much they use their fireplace or wood burning stove. If you use either on a daily basis as a main source of heat, without question, you should have a professional chimney sweep come and clean your chimney each year. The best time to do this is right before you are getting ready to begin your next winter. Why? Because during the summer, leaves, other debris, squirrels and chipmunks can all climb down your chimney. So if you clean it at the end of the season, these potential problems can be present when the next winter begins.
What should you do if you do experience a chimney fire? Immediately put out the fire in fireplace or wood burning stove, close the flue, call the fire department and leave the house. But with proper care and maintenance, this is something you should easily be able to avoid experiencing.
Fireplaces and wood stoves aren’t the only thing that need regular care and maintenance to efficiently keep your home warm in the winter. Your furnace needs regular cleaning as well so that it keeps your house warm in the most cost efficient way. If your furnace is dirty, it has to work harder to heat your home, and that ends up costing you more money, and no one wants to spend more than they need to in order to keep their home comfortably warm.
If you have a gas or oil burning furnace (actually called “boilers” in homes), it should be cleaned yearly. Not only will this keep it running at its most efficient, but it will also make your boiler working for many more years than if you just ignored it and never had it cleaned.
Some homes have boilers that have something called “tankless hot water heaters.” These are usually older homes, but they still exist. It’s very important to have the coils for those systems cleaned regularly as well to make sure you get enough hot water.