Posts tagged with "Cleaning"

Tools of the Trade: Chimney Cleaning Equipment

Everyone loves a good fire burning in the fireplace. Every once in a while, though (generally between burn seasons), your chimney needs to be cleaned to remove buildup and keep you safe for many fires to come. A qualified chimney sweep should be able to tell you during your annual chimney inspection if a cleaning is necessary (which should be done when soot buildup reaches 1/8” in thickness), and the procedure can be completed by the sweep or by yourself with the help of a few essential chimney cleaning tools. Here’s what you (or your sweep) will need… Continue reading

Top 3 Reasons to Sweep your Chimney

–Article contributed by Owens Chimney Systems

Many people enjoy the rustic feel and relaxing ambiance of a wood-burning fire. However, when it comes to fire in your home, Owens Chimney Systems in Charlotte, NC is there to help keep your family safe. If you need to cut corners on your home maintenance, your chimney and fireplace are definitely NOT the place to do it. Before using your fireplace, you must make sure that it is clean and safe to operate.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that you have your chimney cleaned and professionally inspected at least once a year. There are many good reasons to clean and inspect your chimney, but here are the top three:

1. To Prevent a Chimney Fire

Chimney FireTrust us—you DO NOT want a fire in your chimney. A chimney fire can be quite spectacular—with loud popping and cracking sounds, lots of dense smoke and a strong, hot odor. But chimney fires aren’t always dramatic enough to alert the neighbors. Sometimes, they burn slow and aren’t even visible, but they still reach high temperatures and can seep into the walls of your house and ignite anything flammable. Flames from a chimney fire can quickly spread into the walls or onto the roof of your home and cause massive devastation, if not the total destruction of your home. It is a nightmare scenario, but one that can most likely be avoided with proper care and maintenance of your chimney.The most common cause of chimney fire is, simply, a dirty chimney. Over time, chimneys will become clogged with creosote, a natural, tar-like substance that is a by-product of burning wood. Creosote is black or brown in appearance and, over time, it builds up and leaves a glazing inside your chimney. This glazing is highly combustible and it can take only a small amount to start a fire. Restricted air supply is one of the factors that contribute to the build up of creosote, another reason it is important to clean your chimney regularly.

2. To Protect Your Health

danger carbon monoxideMusical comedian Weird Al Yankovic is known for his humorous songs about pop culture icons, but there’s nothing funny about the way his parents died. In 2004, the Yankovics were found dead in their California home, victims of an accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from burning wood in their fireplace. Breathing the fumes from gas or solid fuel fires can be dangerous or, as was the case with the Yankovics, fatal.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever fuel is burned. Even at low levels, CO can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion and fainting. A blocked chimney or a chimney with an improperly functioning flue can cause a buildup of this dangerous gas. CO is responsible for thousands of deaths in America each year, and many of these poisonings are caused by blocked chimneys. This is why it is critical to have your chimney examined and swept to make sure your flue is clear before using the chimney.

3. To Avoid Smoke Damage

fireplace smoke stains

When a chimney is not regularly cleaned, soot will accumulate around the flue. This makes it difficult for the flue to draw the smoke upwards and can cause the smoke to enter your room. This soot will leave a black film around your hearth and soil any furniture, carpeting or decorations nearby. Sometimes, smoke can even cause black staining around your chimney, which can be difficult or impossible to remove.

When you cut corners with chimney and fireplace maintenance, you are literally playing with fire. The good news is that the risks described above are completely preventable. Be sure to have your chimney cleaned and inspected by a certified chimney professional at least once a year so you can enjoy safe use of your fireplace for years to come.

About Chimney Creosote – Part 1: The 3 Stages of Creosote

What is Creosote?

Creosote is actually just one of the components in the stuff (aside from the ash) that’s left over when wood is burned.  The whole mix of tar and creosote and soot is commonly called creosote.  The term is almost exclusively used when talking about burning wood.  If discussing soot resulting from burning oil, or even gas, this is just soot and it’s just called soot.  Though the black residue in the chimney from burning wood is called creosote, it is in fact mostly tar.

There are, generally speaking, three types of creosote are found in chimneys and they are usually called ‘stages’ or ‘degrees.’  All three forms are all combustible and should be removed.

First Degree Creosote Buildup

First degree creosote has a high percentage of soot and can be removed from a chimney effectively with a chimney brush.  First degree creosote develops when there is a relatively good combustion of the wood and/or relatively high flue gas temperatures.

This describes an open fireplace.  The burning wood had lots of air for the combustion process and the heat flies up the chimney.  These are best conditions for a chimney.

Second Degree Creosote Buildup

Second degree creosote is a bit trickier.  This creosote buildup is generally in shiny black flakes.  Imagine dry, hard tar corn flakes, and in greater volume than first degree creosote.  It’s not as easy to brush away, but still fairly removable.  It would be difficult to describe all the situations where 2nd degree creosote develops, but suffice to say it will occur where the incoming air is restricted.   This describes woodstoves and fireplaces with glass doors.

Third Degree Creosote Buildup

Third degree creosote buildup is the worst of them all.  This occurs when the flue temperatures are low and/or combustion is incomplete.  This is common when any of, or a combination of, these conditions exist:

  • On woodstoves with the air controls turned way down
  • Un-insulated chimneys (or any other reason the chimney is cold)
  • When using unseasoned wood
  • If the flue is oversized for the appliance
  • When the house is tight and can’t draw sufficient combustion air

Third degree creosote looks like tar coating or running down the inside of the chimney.  It is extremely concentrated fuel.  It can get very thick as it hardens and is recoated over and over.  An inch thick would be unusual, but it’s not unheard of.

And worse yet is third degree creosote that fills up “chimney fire fluff.”  If creosote buildup catches fire in a chimney, maybe it burns away completely but more often it does not.  More frequently the creosote partly boils, partly burns and leaves a dried out light-weight “sponge,” often more than 2” thick which is actually very easy to remove.  But if it is not removed, new third degree creosote fills that sponge you can have well in excess of 100 pounds of creosote in a chimney.

The first chimney fire may not have damaged the house, but that next chimney fire will be fiercer than the first and exceptionally dangerous.  The really tough part is that third degree creosote, in any form, is very hard to remove.

We’ll discuss ways to remove creosote in Part Two.

Air Duct Cleaning Washington D.C.| Air Duct Cleaning

Air Duct Cleaning: Worth it?

If you’re not sure whether your home needs an air ducts cleaning, there’s a simple litmus test. Get a flashlight and take a screwdriver to your nearest vent. Take a peak inside. If you like what you see, then you’re probably free to go without an air duct cleaning. If you’re like the rest of us, however, you’re likely to see an excessive amount of dust, pet and human hair, and debris. It’s presence in the vent is indicative of an abundance of it throughout your air system.

While there’s plenty of debate over the merits of air duct cleaning, both the EPA and the National Air Duct Cleaners Association recommend air duct cleaning in response to mold, pests or excessive debris in your air ducts. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association takes it a step further and recommends an air duct cleaning every three to five years.
Various factors can increase the rate at which your air ducts should be cleaned. The presence of pets in your home, indoor smoking, renovations, home cleanliness and your local weather can all affect your air ducts. People with allergies tend to get their ducts cleaned more frequently, as they report a decrease in allergies following an air duct cleaning.

Proper air duct cleaning is more than just a swipe with a duster. Professional duct cleaners clean your entire system, including coils and the central system. Studies from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers show dirty coils and blowers in commercial buildings can reduce efficiency by up to 40%.

While it may sound simple, air duct cleaning is in fact a skilled job. Coils, central systems and air ducts need to be cleaned carefully to avoid damaging motors or duct work and prevent the loosened debris from going back into your home. Air duct cleaning takes several workers, specialized equipment, and several labor intensive hours.

Beware air duct cleaners that seem implausibly inexpensive. For thorough, well cleaned air ducts, the EPA and the National Air Duct Cleaners Association estimate the minimum you’ll spend to be close to $400. While that price may seem high, it can be much more costly to do with a discount air duct cleaner. Damaged motors, bent ducts, and a home full of dust are costly and time consuming to fix.

High’s Chimney is based out of Gaithersburg, and provides services throughout Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland. Whether you’re looking for air duct cleaning in Rockville, masonry repair in Fairfax, or wood stove installation in Alexandria, our trained professionals are happy to work with you to ensure a beautiful and functional home.

Roof Algae Stains Removal with Roof Cleaning Chemicals

If you’ve never thought to clean the roof of your home, you’re not alone. With the endless amount of cleaning that needs tending to inside and around the home, many people never stop to think about their roof. This could be an expensive oversight. A variety of algae, known as Gloeocapsa magma, is spreading through the United States. This algae feeds on limestone and decomposing organic matter, and can dramatically age and damage shingles.

Gloeocapsa Magma Algae: How it Affects Shingles

Asphalt shingles, the most common on the market, are made using limestone as filler. These shingles don’t shed fallen organic matter, such as decomposing leaves, particularly well. Gloeocapsa Magma, which is spreading throughout the United States due to increased humidity, uses both decaying organic matter and limestone as a food source. After a colony of algae begins to form on your shingles, the process increases exponentially as old algae dies and decomposes which provides food for new algae. It’s not uncommon for a “spot” of algae on the roof to turn into a large patch before the owner even realizes it’s a problem.

Gloeocapsa magma does more than stain roofs. It holds moisture in shingles, and exposes your roof to the plethora of problems excessive dampness can cause: premature shingle aging and rotting. Without correction, these problems can lead to mold, mildew and moss.

Traditional Roof Cleaning Chemicals

There are a variety of products on the market to help remove algae from your roof. Many of them contain harsh chemicals such as bleach or sodium hydroxide. Bleach is toxic to plant and animal material, but may not kill the underlying bacteria. Sodium hydroxide is a chemical used in paint strippers as well as oven and drain cleaners. It too is toxic, and both of these harsh chemicals erode gutters, flashings, and other hard surfaces.
Additionally, sodium hydroxide based chemicals often need pressure washed to remove the leftover residue. This pressure washing adds undue wear and tear to the shingles. Even so called “low-pressure” washes are well above the normal level that shingles should be exposed to.

Roof Cleaning without the Chemicals

At Highs Chimney, we would never expose you or your home to unnecessary chemicals. We have found the best algae remover to be DEFY® roof cleaner. This cleaner is specially formulated to kill the algae attacking your roof without excessive damage to your home or garden. It uses a blend of detergents coupled with sodium metasilicate, which is made from sand and considered non-pollutant. This combination helps break apart the algae colonies, which allows the DEFY® rinse to remove these particles from your roof, without the need of a pressure wash.

Once the roof has been cleaned, we apply DEFY® Stain blocker, which helps prevent the return of the algae. This Stain Blocker needs to be reapplied for continued protection of your roof, but your climate and individual circumstances determine how often reapplication needs to be. Depending on the humidity, shadiness of your roof, and likelihood of decomposing organic matter, this could range from one year to five, with two to three being average.

If you’re beginning to notice spots or stains on your roof, it’s time to call in the experts. We can help determine if gloeocapsa magma is to blame, and stop its growth before it gets out of hand or damages your property, all without unnecessary chemicals.

What Is A Chimney Sweep?

Not necessarily the singing and dancing workers of classic movies, a chimney sweep is also known as a chimney service technician. Hiring a skilled and experienced chimney sweep to handle your chimney maintenance is one of the best ways to keep your family and home safe from fire.

Chimney sweeps are trained to detect and remove creosote from your chimney. This dangerous build up of emissions sticks to the chimney walls and is the leading cause of chimney fires. It must be removed at least once a year. The sweep will also inspect your chimney system, looking over the condition and advising you on any repairs that need to be done.

Be sure to hire only certified and trained technicians. They need to have graduated from the Chimney Safety Institute of America, an organization that is dedicated to educating both the public and those in the industry on chimney safety. This professional chimney sweep will clean your chimney thoroughly using the proper techniques and the best equipment. They are also skilled in installations and general chimney maintenance.

Expect to pay a reasonable amount of money to have your chimney cleaned by a trained and experienced professional. This annual maintenance task is imperative to ensure a safe atmosphere in your home and to reduce the risk of fire due to creosote build up.

It’s a wise idea to have the same chimney sweep or chimney service company look at your system every year. This allows them to keep track of the wear and tear and accurately gauge the condition of the chimney both inside your home and out. Keep your family safe and enjoy worry free fireplace and stove operation with the trusted services of a professional chimney sweep.

The Most Common Chimney Cleaning Mistakes

Ever wonder what the more common chimney cleaning mistakes are? Here is a comprehensive list of the top mistakes:

1) I use chimney sweeping logs, salt or other chemical means to keep soot from building up in my chimney, so it doesn’t need sweeping.

These products can reduce the buildup of creosote but do not remove everything, and can actually cause massive “sheets” of creosote to loosen and fall onto your smoke shelf, piling up and causing a chimney fire. If you look at the directions for any creosote destroying log or chemical it clearly states that this does not replace professional chimney cleaning. And never ever use a chimney sweeping log in wood burning stove; you may cause irreversible damage to your stove.

2) A good chimney fire once or twice a year is all the chimney cleaning you need.

Yes, a chimney fire does burn up the creosote in the chimney, because that is its fuel. It can also crack the flue and allow the fire to spread through the walls of your home, and/or sparks from the fire can catch your roof on fire. You cannot control fires of this nature.

3) I burn hardwood only, or seasoned wood, so it burns clean.

Nothing burns clean. Some things burn cleaner than others, and may reduce the need for frequent sweepings, but if it burns it is carbon based and if it is carbon based it does not ever burn completely and perfectly. Also most firewood vendors that advertise “seasoned wood” aren’t actually delivering it. To properly season (dry) wood it must be cut, split and stacked for 1-2 years. It cannot start drying until it is split (the bark prevents that from happening). The optimum firewood moisture content is 20%. We use a very easy to use moisture meter that can give you a reading on the moisture content of any log. The best way to purchase firewood is to buy next year’s supply this year, stack it, cover it and leave it alone.

4) I clean my own chimney.

We believe that chimneys should be cleaned by professionals with experience and the proper tools. We have removed sticks, rods and brushes from chimneys that homeowners have used to clear blockages.

5) The best time to clean my chimney is in the fall.

Actually the best time is in the spring, when you are done using it. Soot has corrosive properties. Any corrosive properties are going to eat away at your chimney, in the summer when it gets humid it will have a nasty smell, and then when you need your heating system you may have to wait to get a proper chimney cleaning. It is less busy in the spring so you don’t have to wait as long for an appointment, and if the inspection does uncover a problem you have plenty of time to fix it. It is especially important to clean pellet systems annually and preferably in the spring, leftover pellets can swell and burst from summer humidity and actually shorten the life of your appliance. All pellet manufacturers require a professional service and repair at least once a year.

6) It’s too late to get my chimney cleaned once it is winter/snowing.

Chimneys can be cleaned at any time of the year; excess snow is no excuse. If your chimney needs cleaned, get it cleaned.

Dryer Vent Cleaning, Why Is It Necessary?

There are many advantages to be had simply by keeping your home’s dryer vents clean, including increased safety and money savings.
Dryer Vent cleaning
Clothes dryer fires and hazardous carbon dioxide emissions often start with problems in the dryer’s venting system or lint trap area. Why these two places? Because the lack of proper vent cleaning and the use of improper dryer venting practices. Mixing the extreme heat of the dryer necessary to efficiently dry clothes and an over-abundance of lint and debris can be dangerous, if not deadly. Clean the lint filter/screen after each dryer use. Clean the vent and exhaust duct periodically as well.

Check the outside vent while the dryer is in operation to ensure that air is escaping and not getting clogged somewhere. It may be necessary to remove the exhaust duct from the dryer to dislodge an obstruction. Also, pull the dryer out from the wall and ensure that lint and other fibers are not lingering. This lint and debris amounts to highly-flammable particles of cotton and polyester that have come off of clothes being dried. Once these fibers clog the vent, heated air cannot escape.

Although you can perform many of those tasks yourself, it is also a good idea to have a professional come in yearly and give your dryer unit a thorough clean. You can even have a professional focused on chimney sweep services clean your chimney and dryer vent all at once. Today’s newer homes often place a dryer away from an outside wall, which makes the dryer is vented for a longer distance and inspection and debris removal is complicated. Many apartment/condominium complexes and homeowner’s associations now require an annual or semi-annual cleaning to prevent accidents and fires.

Another advantage to keeping dryer vents free of lint and debris is the money savings you will see. When lint traps, vents and exhaust areas are full of debris, heat is not distributed in the drum as it should be. This makes the dryer run longer in order to fully dry clothes. It may also take more than one cycle to completely dry a full or heavy load. Also, as your vent continues to fill with debris, the life expectancy of your dryer is cut in half with each load.

Ducts? Cleaning? Why Do I Care About Duct Cleaning?

Most homes have a forced air system of central heating and cooling. The hot and cold air gets to the rooms of the home through ducts and registers. Even with the best filters in place at the blower motor, dust and other pollutants still get by and get trapped in the ducts.

duct cleaning`

The trapped particles build up over time into a thick mat of allergy causing pollutants that break free and get pushed into the home’s air. The only way to remove the pollutants is to use professional equipment that can travel through the ducts and clean them out.

Do it Yourself Duct Cleaning Doesn’t Work.

A homeowner using a vacuum cleaner can only reach a couple of feet into ducts. More often than not, the homeowner ends up just breaking off pollutant build up and forcing it farther into the ducts to be blown out the next time the heat or AC is turned on.

Why Professional Duct Cleaning is the Way to Go

The concept of using a home vacuum with a brush attachment is taken to the extreme with professional equipment. Rotobrush builds equipment that has a rotating brush reminiscent of the style used by chimney sweeps that is attached to a super heavy duty flexible hose. The hose attaches to a powerful vacuum at one end. At the business end, the brush rotates in the ducts to break up the pollutant build up while at the same time sucking all of the filth into the hose.

Pro Duct Cleaning Equipment

Meyer Machine and Equipment offers high pressure systems that drive whip assemblies that are pushed through the duct work to knock all of the debris loose. Once the debris is loose in the ducts, it is cleaned out by a vacuum hose that is guided through the ducts. There are many different whips and brush systems that are designed to be used with different styles and lengths of duct work. A good technician will have multiple tools at his disposable to get to all of the dirt in the ducts. It is a good idea to have some manual brushes on hand too.

Indoor air is known to be of dubious quality in the first place. Adding to the irritants and pollutants already in indoor air by forcing more of it out of old, never cleaned ducts is just adding insult to injury. No wonder spring and fall allergies are so bad. Not only are there new pollens and molds for allergy sufferers to deal with, now they have to contend with the assault the air conditioning, chimney or the furnace brings to their noses through duct work. Not to mention, what do you think a chimney cleaning would stir up in the air within your home?