In the case of a solid fuel appliance the chimney must be swept at least once a year irrespective of how often it has been used. If deposits are allowed to build up year after year they can become very hard, and removal at a later date could be quite costly. If a solid fuel fire is used often and uses wood or coal, then it would be wise to have it swept halfway through the heating season as well.
The sweeping of a chimney is not intended just to prove that a flue is not blocked, but also to clean the sides of the flue to avoid a gradual build up of deposits over the years. To clean a flue whilst it is being swept, the sweep must ensure that he chooses the correct size and stiffness of a brush to suit the size of flue, the material it is constructed from or lined with, and the fuel that has been burned since it was last burned. A professional chimney sweep should have a great number of brushes in his equipment as well as different strength of rods. Once the chimney has been swept the chimney sweep should issue a certificate stating whether, in his opinion, the flue is safe for you to continue using and when he estimates the next time the chimney should be swept.
Safety – Carbon Monoxide
Every type of fuel to be burned in the home will have specific risks and if you are to ‘reduce these risks to a reasonable level’, your chimney must be swept.
The safety of the occupants of any house has to be the prime concern when any work is carried out to the property, even more so when dealing with something as dangerous as fire and smoke. The dangers of a fire will be well understood by almost any reader, but can still be underestimated due to the long history we have of containing and controlling fire in our homes.
One of the greatest dangers to occupy us of homes containing a combustion appliance is Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning. This gas is highly toxic and has become known as the silent killer.
There are a number of dangers that are often ignored or not considered, including chimney fires from a woodburning stove, and the heat transference into the floor under a gas fire and through the back wall of a fireplace where an open fire is in use. If a chimney fire occurs in a chimney that has developed a coating of tar on the inside, this could burn for a few hours and reach temperatures of over one thousand degrees centigrade. This is sufficient to cause a steel pipe to glow red and brick and cement to crack and degrade. Even ignoring this extreme, if we consider only the normal operating temperatures in the flue we will underestimate the dangers and put ourselves at risk.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that is the product of incomplete combustion of carbon based fuels such as smokeless fuels, coal, gas, oil and even wood. It is harmful if breathed in and may result in death if present in large enough quantities or if a person is exposed to it for long enough.
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