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Preventing Creosote

Preventing Creosote - Milford CT - The Cozy FlameAlthough the temperatures have begun to warm up, many homeowners like to continue using their fireplaces into the spring and summer months. In order to prevent overheating, many will run their fireplaces or stoves at a low temperature. While this prevents your home from getting excessively warm, it can have unintended consequences – excessive creosote buildup.

While creosote is created by all fuel burning appliances, improperly using your fireplace or stove can cause excessive creosote buildup. This can not only impact the efficiency of your fireplace or stove, but can also affect you and your family’s safety.

What is creosote?

Creosote is a substance that is created as a byproduct of fuel burning fires. While more prevalent in heating appliances that use wood, creosote can also be created by natural gas and propane.

When your fireplace is in use, small amounts of creosote may build up in your chimney and flue. Creosote can take many forms; it may be brown or grey, fluffy or flaky, or even shiny, hard, and black if it has hardened into glazed creosote. In any of its forms, creosote is extremely flammable. Accidental ignition of creosote is the primary cause of chimney fire.

Because creosote is so flammable, creosote removal is the primary reason it is recommended that all fireplaces and stoves have their chimneys swept each year.

Causes of excessive creosote buildup

While all fuel burning fires create creosote, it is not created in equal amounts. A normal wood burning fire using seasoned firewood  produces very little creosote; however, there are a number of things that can cause excessive creosote buildup.

Running stoves at low temperatures: One of the primary causes of excessive creosote buildup is running stoves at low temperatures. When the weather is mild, homeowners may use flue pipe thermometers to keep the temperature of their fire low. Without the hot air to blow the byproducts of combustion up the flue, a smoldering fire will cause them to linger in the chimney, quickly lining your flue with creosote.

Burning green wood: Because freshly cut firewood can have moisture content of as high as 50%, the fire must evaporate the water before the wood itself can burn. This causes both excessive smoke and excessive buildup of creosote.

Improperly sized flue: A flue that is too large for the fireplace can draw in too much cold air, causing the byproducts of combustion to prematurely cool on the walls of the flue. Likewise, burning a fire with restricted air flow can lead to additional creosote deposits.

Preventing creosote

Although creosote is an inevitable part of using a fuel burning appliance, there are a number of things homeowners can do to minimize the amount of creosote created. First, only seasoned firewood should be burned. Fires should not be allowed to purposefully smolder or burn at a low temperature; likewise, over firing should also be avoided. In addition, any new heating appliances such as stoves or inserts should be professionally installed in order to ensure that the flue is properly sized.

If you have questions about how creosote may be affecting the safety or efficiency of your fireplace or stove, contact The Cozy Flame today!

By Steve Sobczak | Tagged with: Tags: , | Leave a Comment

Creosote: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Creosote has always been described to be deadly and poisonous. Yes, creosote inside the chimney can be a very bad thing, but then again, like all bad things, creosote has its good side and there are many benefits it can give to other things. The Cozy Flame Hearth Shop would like to share what we know about creosote and how we can prevent it from harming our health and our property.

A natural byproduct of burning, creosote can appear flaky or tar-like.

A natural byproduct of burning, creosote can appear flaky or tar-like.

Brief History

Creosote comes from the Greek words kreas meaning meat and soter meaning preservation because it was traditionally used for that purpose. It is the result of generally burning combustible materials. It is also the result of the distillation of tar which is relatively heavier when compared to water. Where there is smoke, creosote is just around the corner because the smoke triggers creosote formation.

Creosote for Other Purposes

Creosote can be beneficial to people as well. There are two main types of creosote: wood-tar and coal-tar creosote.  Coal-tar creosote is used for preserving wood because it has preservative properties, but it is too toxic to use on other things. Wood-tar on the other hand is used for meat preservation and for medical purposes also. In hospitals, it is used as an anesthetic or a laxative. This is because of its antiseptic properties. However, creosote is not limited to these things only. Other types include water-gas-tar creosote and oil-tar creosote.

Creosote in Chimneys

In chimneys, creosote lingers in walls. At first it’s still called soot, but once it starts to thicken and it will start to have charcoal black colors, then that is already considered to be creosote. You will not know it’s already there unless you actually check the inside of your chimney. It can start rooftop fires in an instant because creosote is highly flammable. When there is already too much, layer after layer, it will now become glazed creosote.

The Best Solution

This process, however, cannot be avoided unless you never use your fireplace anymore which now defeats the purpose. But you can easily lessen the buildup with regular cleaning. The best way to prevent creosote formation from worsening is to have your chimneys cleaned by our licensed professional chimney sweeps. They are highly capable of taking care of your chimney once creosote starts to form. We are licensed by the CSIA and the NFI and have been offering the best of our human resources and services for over sixteen years to the beautiful people of Milford, Connecticut.


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