Good Housekeeping, with the help of Lorraine Carli of the National Fire Protection Association, this week published a necessary story entitled, “8 Bad Habits That Could Burn Your House Down.”
On the list are the usual suspects: over-use of extension cords, walking away from food on the stove, crowding appliances together, leaving appliances on while you run an errand, and these two that caught the attention of the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
6. Ignoring the lint that needs to be cleaned out from the dryer
Good Housekeeping’s comment: “According to the USFA, 2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause $35 million in property loss. Thirty-four percent of those blazes were caused because the homeowner didn’t clean the dryer. “Lint that collects on the filter, around the drum, and in the vents, can catch fire from the heat of the dryer,” says Carli. “Without cleaning, the lint builds up and then the heat can’t escape.” Clean your lint filter regularly, but also check your dryer hose for list clogs at least once a year.”
CSIA’s comment: Actually, the problem is much worse! According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission latest statistics posted on our CSIA’s dryer safety website, in 2012 there were 5,100 fires resulting in 10 deaths, 180 injuries, and an estimated $80.1 million in residential structure fire property loss. Follow USFA’s advice, but also call in a qualified professional, such as a CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician. You can search for a list of over 300 technicians using our directory.
8. Putting off cleaning the chimney
Good Housekeeping’s comment: “Creosote, the oily substance that builds up when you burn things in your fireplace, is a leading cause of chimney fires. Have chimneys inspected on a yearly basis and cleaned as needed.”
CSIA’s comment: Indeed, the CPSC reported in April (read CSIA’s blog post on the topic) that fires involving fireplaces/chimneys/chimney connections resulted in 20 deaths in 2012, with 60 injuries, and an estimated $93.6 million in residential property loss.
In regards to creosote, the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be swept at 1/8″ of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system.
This is considered to be enough fuel buildup to cause a chimney fire capable of damaging the chimney or spreading to the home. Factory-built fireplaces should be swept when any appreciable buildup occurs. The logic is that the deposit is quite acidic and can shorten the life of the fireplace.
In addition, the National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 says, “Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance, and repairs shall be done if necessary.” This is the national safety standard and is the correct way to approach the problem. It takes into account the fact that even if you don’t use your chimney much, animals may build nests in the flue or there may be other types of deterioration that could make the chimney unsafe to use.
Use CSIA’s free zip-code locator to find nearly 1,600 CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps from coast to coast. Now’s a good time of year to get an inspection. Don’t wait until the fall, when sweeps are the busiest and often booked out too far in advance.
View our video, “Spring Cleaning: Why an inspection of your chimney now is good timing.”
Takeaway: The clothes dryer and chimney are wonderful assets for your house, but they do require regular maintenance!