What’s less expensive, the cost of a chimney sweep or a chimney fire?
In Fairfield County, the frost is appearing in the morning and you can feel the winter upon us. What does that mean for most suburbanites? Fireplace season! What’s better than getting home from a long day or work and getting a fire going in your fireplace or wood stove.
Before you get too comfortable, ask yourself, is there something I should do before I start a season of cider and hot toddies?
Yes! Get your chimney cleaned.
If you’re like us, being told that we should do something is rarely a sufficient enticement for us to actually do it. As homeowners, we are tasked with a litany of annual maintenance projects that we are supposed to do. Cleaning the chimney is the least sexy of all of them.
There are many maintenance projects that you can do on your own, cleaning your gutters, shutting the water off to your hoses so you don’t have a water leak in the spring, but chimney cleaning is not one of them.
Many people set about the annual task of “cleaning” their chimney by sticking their head in the hearth and looking up the flue for animals, running a shop vacuum hose around the smoke chamber then washing the fireplace doors. Folks, this is not “cleaning” your chimney.
A Little Science Lesson
That crackling glowing fireplace you dream of is the result of combustion. When combustion happens creating fire, various byproducts remain (carbon monoxide, creosote, etc.) which the chimney flue vents to the outside. The flue liner creates a draft that pushes hot dirty air out and pulls cold fresh air in.
You know what carbon monoxide is: a colorless, odorless tasteless gas. When breathed in, carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen in your blood with poison. That poison distributes to your brain, heart and vital organs causing death if not caught immediately.
Creosote from wood smells like smoked meat. But before you snuggle up next to the fire, you should be aware that creosote is in fact oily tar.
In the heat of the fire, creosote is in a gaseous state but as it goes up the chimney, the temperature cools and solidifies, attaching itself to the flue liner. Higher up the chimney, the air is colder and more creosote deposits. A flue liner coated in tar is no longer able to perform its function of drawing the chemicals up and out.
Creosote is combustible, if left uncleaned, a funnel of flammable material loiters over your fire. This is what leads to chimney fires and house fires.
What is the impact of a fire on your homeowner’s insurance?
If you have any home insurance claims, let alone a fire loss, there is always a chance that the insurance carrier could either raise your rates or even consider non-renewing your insurance. Typically, most home insurers allow on average one claim in three years and two claims in five years. Any frequency greater than this will likely lead to an insurability issue. However, fire claims along with liability claims are viewed as being worse than most other losses. Fire prevention is critical to saving money and keeping your insurability intact. The alternative, if your policy is cancelled, is the “high-risk” insurance market where the coverage is half as good and cost is twice as much.
For a few hundred dollars at the beginning of the season you can save yourselves thousands of dollars in the long term. Be smart. Clean your chimney!
For more information reach out to Daigle & Travers Insurance. We have three convenient locations in Connecticut: Wilton, Darien, and Westport. One of our many experienced insurance professionals will be able to guide you throw the insurance process. Reach us at 203-655-6974 or at firstname.lastname@example.org