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The Science of Combustion

Have you ever wondered what is going on inside your chimney? Chemistry and physics both play a part of a well-functioning chimney.

You need heat, fuel and oxygen in order for your chimney to work correctly. You also need them in balance to one another.

You need heat, fuel and oxygen in order for your chimney to work correctly. You also need them in balance to one another.

 

Disposing of Wood Ashes

This is the season for more than holidays and snuggling by the  fire…this is also the season for house fires. Many fires are caused by ashes that are not properly cooled or disposed of. In this post, we will review ways to deal safely with ash. Always remember, we install Thermo-Rite glass doors to help keep embers in your fire.

HOW DO I SAFELY DISPOSE OF FIREPLACE ASHES?

Make sure you are using a metal bucket with a tightly-fitted lid to dispose of ashes.

Make sure you are using a metal bucket with a tightly-fitted lid to dispose of ashes.

Improper ash removal from fireplaces and wood burning stoves cause thousands of fires every year. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, 9870 house fires were caused yearly (1994-1998 statistics) due to improperly discarded ashes.

Hot coals, hidden in a pile of ashes and thus well insulated, can stay hot for up to 4 days.

Never empty ashes into a paper or plastic bag, cardboard box, or other similar container. The only suitable means for ash storage is a metal container with a tight fitting lid; this helps keep air from blowing through and disturbing ashes which can leave hot coals exposed for re-ignition. Many home fires begin from improperly stored ashes while the home’s occupants are asleep, as the evening breeze intensifies.

USING A METAL BUCKET

For optimum safety, wet the wood ashes prior to attaching the metal lid to the pail. DO NOT store your metal ash container on your deck, in your garage, or in any location that may allow heat to transfer from those hot coals to nearby flammable items. Untold wooden decks catch fire every year due to this simple oversight.

FINAL DISPOSAL

Wood ash, once completely cooled, can safely be disposed of in your garden because natural firewood ash makes a great soil additive that your plants will enjoy. Just make sure you have removed any mulching materials such as dried leaves and other dried plants first, so there’s nothing to catch fire in your garden. Spray the dispersed ashes with water as an added safety precaution. Do not add ashes to your soil if you burn coal, or ashes from burned wood that was painted, stained or treated with any chemicals as these chemicals may be harmful to your soil and plants.

Don’t forget: Can Your Ashes!

Maximizing Your Fireplace’s Efficiency

For many of us, our wood burning fireplaces create a comforting ambiance on a cold winter day, but the warmth it provides, unfortunately, is usually more show than substance. The explanation is simple enough. Warm air rises. Because of this scientific fact, the majority of the heat produced by your fire attempts to escape through your chimney rather than staying down in your house. Not only that, this rising hot air creates an updraft in its wake that pulls even more warm air up and out right along with it. If you’re in the market to maximize the heat output of your wood-burning fireplace, we can help!

Relax and enjoy the warmth your fireplace with no worries. Boost your fireplace's performance now.

Relax and enjoy the warmth of your fireplace with no worries. Boost your fireplace’s performance now.

Plan Ahead—Season Your Firewood

An easy first step you can take to increase the performance of your fireplace is to season your firewood before burning it. Non-seasoned (green) firewood burns inefficiently and produces a lot of smoke but little to no real heat. The vast majority of the heat energy produced from burning green wood goes into evaporating the excess moisture in the wood instead of going into heating your home. The excess moisture in the wood also attempts to extinguish the fire the whole time it’s burning. Seems a bit counterproductive, doesn’t it? The seasoning process, on the other hand, provides the wood with ample time for the undesirable moisture to evaporate prior to your ever burning it in your fireplace and burns much more efficiently than its non-seasoned brethren.

More Oxygen = Improved Combustion

Now that you’ve seasoned your firewood and have it neatly arranged in your fireplace, opening your damper—throat-mount, top-sealing, or both—as far as possible will increase the amount of oxygen to your fire. It’s science time: this will improve the combustion and, ultimately, increase the amount of heat produced by your fire. One drawback to this increased combustion, however, is that your firewood will burn faster. This will mean that you have to add seasoned firewood more often to get a continuous flow of heat and will therefore go through more firewood over the course of the heating season.

A Yearly Chimney Inspection and Cleaning is a Must

Having your chimney inspected and cleaned by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep yearly will also make it possible to boost your heating performance, as the cleaning process removes the creosote buildup inside your chimney system that can significantly restrict air flow. Once your fireplace and chimney have been cleaned, you can replace the mesh screen in front of your fireplace with tempered glass doors that you can keep closed while the fire is burning. Keeping the doors closed will increase the temperature of the fire in your fireplace and reduce the amount of warm air that the fire pulls from your living space.

Following the steps mentioned above will give your fireplace the kick-start it needs to provide your home with more heat than it might otherwise produce. Our experienced staff takes pride in the service provided to each and every one of our customers. Take a minute to call and ask one of our staff members what is available for your specific application that will help to maximize its performance. One call is all it takes!

Help! My Fireplace is Smoky!

If the chimney starts to produce a large amount of smoke when there is a fire burning, there is a good chance that there is a problem. In some cases, it may be an issue that is very easy to fix and in others it may be a more complicated situation. Whatever the reason ends up being, it is important never to ignore excessive amounts of smoke. It could be an indicator that there is a dangerous situation on the horizon. It is definitely time for an inspection.

It could be nothing. Or, it could be a sign of something very serious that could endanger your health, your home and your family.

It could be nothing. Or, it could be a sign of something very serious that could endanger your health, your home and your family.

The first thing that all homeowners with chimneys should keep in mind is that some smoke is perfectly normal during a fire. There will always be smoke, to some degree, when there is a fire burning. However, if the smoke is particularly dark or heavy, it may be a sign of a problem. Anytime someone is not sure whether or not the smoke is normal, it is best to be on the safe side and assume that there might be an unseen issue.

If it seems like the amount of smoke is dangerous, the first step is to check and make sure that the damper is open. The damper is a piece inside of the flue that opens up to let smoke out during a fire and closes to protect the chimney when it is not in use. It must be opened manually before each use of the fireplace. It is very common to forget this important step and, in many cases, simply opening up the damper solves the problem.

Another reason that a chimney and fireplace may produce too much smoke is if there is an excessive buildup of creosote. Creosote is the substance that is left in the chimney after treated materials have been burned to make a fire. There are many dangers to creosote, including a variety of health problems. One of the most dangerous effects of the substance, however, is that it is extremely flammable and can cause a great amount of smoke to come from the chimney during a fire.

In the most severe cases, a smoking chimney is a sign that a chimney fire has ignited. Chimney fires are extremely dangerous because they can quickly spread throughout the home and even onto the roof. There are many ways for a chimney to start, from embers left behind in the fireplace to a clogged chimney that cannot dispel combustible gasses. It is important to know the signs of a chimney fire so that they can be identified as quickly as possible.

If the chimney starts to produce too much smoke, it is best to treat it like a serious situation until the cause has been determined. Call a professional chimney inspector to take a good look and determine what might be causing the issue. Until this is done, it is important not to use the chimney or the fireplace for any reason. It may be that the chimney simply needs a good cleaning to get it back in working order.

Anytime there is a fire in the fireplace, some smoke is going to come from the chimney. However, if the smoke has a bad smell, is terribly heavy, or just seems to be coming in too large quantities, there may be a problem. It is important to suspend use of the chimney and fireplace until someone can determine and fix the cause of the problem. It may be an easy fix but it could also be the sign of a serious problem.

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The Cozy Flame | 116 Research Dr. Suite Q, Milford, Connecticut 06460