RICHMOND — Encountering a soot-tinged chimney sweep was historically considered a good omen throughout most of Europe.
Modern Virginians can secure that good luck — or at least some peace of mind — and prevent disaster with an annual chimney inspection.
As autumn sets in and temperatures drop, it’s time for homeowners to assess the safety of their chimneys, fireplaces and heating units.
“Your chimney should be cleaned and inspected by a licensed, reputable service each year, which can help prevent fires,” said Dana Fisher, chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Farm Safety Advisory Committee. “Cleaning should include removal of accumulated soot, debris or animal nests.”
The Chimney Safety Institute of America asserts that even rarely-used chimneys should be inspected annually. Besides the buildup of combustible soot or animal nests, other types of structural deterioration can make a chimney unsafe to use.
“A thorough inspection of the chimney can locate cracks, which can cause fire to spread from the chimney to your home,” Fisher said.
The CSIA reminds residents that although gas is generally a clean-burning fuel, those using gas logs in a fireplace still need to take precautions. A chimney can still become non-functional when the flue is blocked, forcing carbon monoxide, fumes and soot into living spaces.
Regular maintenance on heating units also can save money on energy bills.
While a licensed chimney service can address clogs, buildup and structural problems, homeowners are encouraged to take extra precautions during the heating season.
Keep fireplace hearths free of debris, decorations and flammable materials. Remove any branches or leaves from the roof or anywhere that could block the chimney. Burn only seasoned, dry wood in fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, and always keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
Additionally, check all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are functioning. Replace the batteries once a year, and test each detector monthly.
To locate your nearest CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, visit csia.org/search.