We hate to see what reportedly occurred this week at a Taco Bell in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania regarding air quality — but the incident is illustrative of an important public safety issue that CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps are qualified to tackle!


Photo screengrab taken from Lancaster Online

Photo screengrab taken from Lancaster Online

The incident? Carbon monoxide from a chimney vent, which sickened employees at the fast-food place, a fire official told Lancaster Online. [view the full story here]

“There was a problem with the chimney for the hot water heater, a malfunction with how it was venting,”  Lancaster Township Fire Chief Ron Comfort told the newspaper.

Wait — a chimney provides support for a fireplace or wood stove or outdoor pizza oven.

But water heaters?

You bet.

Most homeowners are aware of the need for chimney cleaning and inspection if they own a wood-burning stove or regularly use their fireplace. But many don’t realize that a gas heating appliance – whether it is a furnace, boiler or even a water heater – relies on the chimney for proper venting of the exhaust.

Appliances fueled by natural gas or propane may not produce the visible soot that appliances burning other fuels do, but they can deposit corrosive substances in your chimney. In many cases, these acids may wreak havoc on your chimney without producing any external symptoms until the problem has become dangerous or expensive to repair. 

A proper heating appliance/venting system match will help ensure adequate draft in the system. Draft is important for a number of reasons, according to Chimney Safety Institute if America Education Director Ashley Eldridge. 

Inadequate draft can reduce the efficiency and safety of the appliance. Complete combustion requires oxygen – combustion of one cubic foot of natural gas requires more than 10 cubic feet of air to provide sufficient oxygen. Adequate draft ensures that enough air is pulled into the appliance for complete combustion.

MORE: Homeowner resource tips on our website

Incomplete combustion is also responsible for the production of carbon monoxide in the first place. If the appliance brings in the required amount of oxygen for complete combustion, carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced instead. The less complete the combustion, the greater the amount of carbon monoxide produced and the less heat delivered to the home.

“We inspect every chimney flue and vent in the house. We consider the furnace flue the most important flue/vent in the house and take draft readings after our inspection and/or cleaning of the furnace flue,” says Derek Carmichael, of Horizon Chimney Services, Inc., in Franklin, Mass. He has been a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep since 1992. [view his profile on csia.org]

“We do a Level 1 (inspection) on all chimneys and connected appliances. We’ll also check the dryer vent and will comment on other vents if something is obviously wrong and we see it,” adds David Kline, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep since 2003. David is with Chim Cheree, the Chimney Specialists, in Greer, South Carolina.   [view his profile on csia.org]

“When we have an appointment to clean, we always tell the customer we are here to at least inspect all other appliance vents and chimneys,” says Jonathan Myers, a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep since 2009. “We don’t ask them if we can, we tell them that we have to.” Myers is with A Ace of Hearths Chimney Service, LLC in Westfield, New York. [View his profile on csia.org]