Your chimney is an important part of your home heating system. The National Fire Protection Association’s 211: Standard for Chimneys, Fireplaces, Vents, and Solid Fuel-Burning Appliances (NFPA 211) recommends an annual evaluation of all chimneys, fireplaces and vents and defines three levels of inspections. For safe and efficient operation, your chimneys should receive at least a level one inspection annually by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep®, and maintained as needed. Each year improperly maintained chimneys cause significant numbers of injuries and deaths, and accounts for millions of dollars in property losses. Make chimney inspections a regular part of your home maintenance schedule.
During the winter, oil-fired appliances are subject to long running cycles. These long run times produce oil soot that may adhere to the sides of the chimney and eventually fall to the base of a masonry chimney or directly into the top of the oil-fired appliance. This fallen soot build-up may restrict the flow of flue gases which consist mostly of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor.
The combustion process also produces carbon monoxide (a tasteless, odorless, poisonous gas). Carbon monoxide may spill back into the house instead of going up the chimney if appliances are not adequately vented or when the chimney base is not properly swept.
A common misconception is that your oil service technician takes care of the chimney. The reality is that the oil burner company may shovel out the base of a brick chimney and they may brush out the connector pipes, but likely will not clean the chimney system.
Additionally, some oil burner technicians may tell the homeowner that the system is okay without even inspecting the entire chimney. This includes going to the roof and inspecting the interior as well as the exterior masonry (if applicable), flashing, chimney cap, etc.
The National Fire Protection Association 211 states that chimneys shall be “inspected annually and cleaned and repaired if needed”. Just as the oil furnace is serviced annually, so should your chimney system be serviced annually by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep®.
Many homeowners are not aware that the chimney’s interior, when not properly maintained, will decay and break down. Failing to have an annual chimney inspection allows such deterioration to remain undetected. What would happen if you didn’t change the motor oil in your car for 50,000 miles? Regular maintenance always pays off in the long run. The same applies with your chimney.
Soot, a byproduct of combustion, is comprised of carbon and sulphur. This sulphur, when mixed with rain water or moisture from the flue gases is absorbed into the flue tile and starts a deteriorating process called flaking or spalling. Just like regular visits to the dentist to remove tartar on your teeth, annual chimney service will remove these soot deposits and keep deterioration to a minimum.
In metal chimneys, the chimney lining is constructed of stainless steel, which will not rust, but can corrode from the oil soot’s sulfuric acid reaction. This corrosion causes small pinholes to form which ruin the integrity of the liner. When these pinholes form, the liner is unable to properly contain the byproducts of combustion. When a clay lining in a masonry chimney flakes, or a metal chimney or lining system corrodes, they are unable to contain the heat and the flue gases, thus creating a potential hazard.
When your CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep arrives at your home to perform the annual inspection and sweeping of the oil-fired appliance chimney, you can typically expect: