Our Company Blog

What Is Creosote?

Has it been a while since your chimney has been professionally swept? If so, you could likely have a dangerous fire hazard in your home! One of the main reasons why national fire safety organizations like the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommend scheduling a professional chimney sweeping at least once a year? To have deposits of creosote removed from the inner walls of the flue.

What Is Creosote Image - Chicago IL - Aelite Chimney SpecialtiesSince the hazards are involved with creosote, you want to hire an experienced chimney sweep to do this important maintenance service. You can trust our sweeps at Aelite Chimney Specialties. We have years of experience with making sure that every bit of creosote has been removed from every chimney we sweep. In addition, we have also received certification from the CSIA as professional chimney sweeps. We would like to tell you more about creosote and why it is so dangerous.

What exactly is creosote?

Creosote is a natural compound that develops during the combustion process of burning wood. When smoke, gases, and the other byproducts of combustion exit the chimney, condensation occurs. This is because the upper chimney walls are so much cooler. Therefore, this causes the byproducts to leave behind deposits of creosote, a residue that sticks to the inner walls. Over the months of winter, these deposits can build up to the point of becoming a dangerous fire hazard.

Why is creosote such a fire hazard?

This substance is extremely flammable and can easily ignite into flames, if the internal temperature of your chimney gets hot enough. In fact, the CSIA has named creosote as a leading cause of chimney fires.

What can I do to reduce the development of creosote?

One of the best steps to take that will decrease the amount of creosote accumulating inside your chimney? Only burn seasoned firewood! This is wood that has been allowed to dry for at least six months after it has been cut. Burning freshly-cut wood will produce a large amount of this hazardous compound. This is due to the energy that’s used to burn away all of the moisture within the wood, which causes more condensation.

Restricted air supply is another cause of a larger than normal production of creosote. To avoid this situation, you should keep your glass fireplace doors open. Also, make sure your damper is completely opened every time you light a fire in your fireplace. This should provide enough make-up air to enter through your fireplace to speed up the exhaust process. The longer smoke remains inside the chimney, the likelihood of accelerated creosote production increases.

To avoid this dangerous fire hazard, you should have your chimney professionally swept every year. Contact us at Aelite Chimney Specialties today to schedule an appointment for your annual chimney maintenance services!

By Nick Wagner | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Comments Off on What Is Creosote?

Hidden Cause of House Fires

Every so often, a residential fire will occur with no obvious cause. Fire investigators sift through the ashes and study the burned-out or fire-damaged structure to look for the reason behind the fire, and many times, they can find the origin of the fire as well as its probable cause, such as improper maintenance of the fireplace and chimney system and improper or careless usage of the heating system. Although fire investigators can generally always determine the origin of the fire, they cannot always find concrete evidence of what exactly caused the fire. In these situations, pyrolysis is usually the cause due to improper installation of fireplaces, solid-fuel stoves, fireplace inserts, or furnaces, which is why Aelite Chimney Specialties strongly recommends professional installation of these heating appliances. We know that many of our customers have never heard of pyrolysis, so we would like to take this opportunity to tell you more about this dangerously combustible phenomenon that could start a devastating house fire when given the right circumstances.

House Fire Causes - Chicago IL - Aelite Chimney

What exactly is pyrolysis?

According to Sintra Engineering, a Canadian forensic engineering firm, the definition of pyrolysis is chemical decomposition caused by heat. When combustible materials are exposed to high temperatures for a prolonged period of time, they begin to dry out, break down, and eventually burn. Installing fireplaces, solid-fuel stoves, fireplace inserts, and furnaces with inadequate clearances are the main reason behind pyrolysis. Not requiring a burning flame to ignite a fire, pyrolysis does need certain conditions to be present for it to occur.

What are the special conditions needed for pyrolysis to develop?

Again, pyrolysis does not need a burning fire to begin developing; however, the following conditions can cause this process to occur: 

  • a heat source over 194 degrees Fahrenheit
  • proximity of a combustible to the heat source
  • prolonged time of exposure to heat
  • limited air flow

How long does the pyrolysis process take to ignite a fire?

The entire process of pyrolysis takes a lot of time, possibly even years. Since there are no physical signs of pyrolysis developing, it is extremely important to ensure all of your heating appliances are up to codes regarding the correct clearances.

What is the best way to avoid pyrolysis from ever occurring in my home?

Having all of your heating appliances professionally installed to ensure the minimum clearances are met is the best way to prevent pyrolysis from being the cause of your house experiencing a damaging fire. When the necessary clearances to the structure of your house are not met, combustibles on the other sides of your chimney walls are subjected to the pyrolysis process. If you experience a chimney fire due to large deposits of creosote, the intensely high temperatures of the fire will speed up the pyrolysis process. This is one of the reasons why it is crucial to have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected every year. Our expert sweeps at Aelite Chimney Specialties can immediately detect improper clearances and repair this problem to keep you, your family, and your home safe. 

Have more questions about pyrolysis? Contact Aelite Chimney Specialties or click here today to ask our experienced staff what you need to know.

By Nick Wagner | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Comments Off on Hidden Cause of House Fires

Cleaning Your Wood Stove

Keeping It Clean

Wood-burning stoves are top-notch mood-enhancers, but they also have plenty of practical benefits — they’re great zone heaters, and the units on the market today are highly efficient, too, giving off much more warmth and wasting much less fuel.

Owning a woods stove does require a certain amount of work to keep the system running properly and as safely as possible, though. There’s the work involved with any wood-burning unit — cutting and stacking wood, building fires — and then there’s the regular upkeep that keeps your stove clean and prepped for regular use. Aelite Chimney Specialties can help with a big part of your regular wood stove maintenance, removing creosote and other deposits from your flue during chimney sweeping appointments . (For a regularly used wood stove, it’s recommended to have the chimney swept twice a year.)

Ash removal is a critical step in maintaining your wood stove at an optimum level.

Ash removal is a critical step in maintaining your wood stove at an optimum level.

In between chimney sweeping appointments, though, there are a few things you can (and should) do to keep your wood stove clean.

Keep on top of ash removal

Ash builds up every time you use your wood stove, and it’s important to keep on top of cleaning it out. If you’re using the stove regularly, it’s a good practice to clean out ash every few days, before it’s allowed to build up to the level of the loading doors.

To remove ash, make sure to wait until the fire has completely died down — if any burning embers are still present, they add a potential danger to the process. Scoop the extinguished ash into a non-combustible container with a lid so you can dispose of it properly and safely, but leave about a half inch to an inch of ash on the bottom of the stove. That layer helps insulate, and will make it easier to start your next fire and achieve a nice uniform burn.

Clean your wood stove door

Keeping the door of your wood stove clean will lengthen its life, and just help you enjoy looking at your fire and your appliance. It’s also easy to do. Aelite technicians can recommend a good fireplace glass cleaner, which you’ll apply to the door when the stove has had time to cool completely, and wipe with a clean, soft cloth. Buffing after the cleaner has dried (again, with a clean, soft cloth) helps it shine and sparkle.

Make cleaning easier by using the right fuel

Always use seasoned or kiln-dried hardwood in your woodstove — green wood leads to a cooler fire that produces more creosote and more waste. Other materials — like trash or brush — have their own issues, from more mess to potentially giving off toxic gases (treated wood and plastic are a particular worry with the latter).

Start off with a wide-open damper

When you start your fire, open the draft control as wide as it will go and leave it that way for 10-15 minutes. It’ll help you achieve the kind of small, hot fire that’s optimum — large, smoldering fires lead to more creosote build-up.

With a little bit of diligence and effort, your wood stove should provide warmth and ambiance for years to come. And Aelite Chimney Specialties can help you enjoy your stove and chimney system as efficiently and safely as possible — just give us a call whenever you need us!

By Nick Wagner | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Cleaning Your Wood Stove