Gas Appliance Barrier Screens

Direct vent gas fireplaces have grown in popularity in recent years. With more realistic looking flames, a multitude of style options, and incredible ease of use, gas fireplaces allow families to enjoy the ambiance and warmth of a fire without the hassle and work associated with wood.

While gas fireplaces are more convenient and easy to use, they still have safety risks associated with them. A primary concern with gas fireplaces – especially in families with young children or pets – is the risk of burns associated with the hot glass fronts of the fireplace units.

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New fireplace safety standards

Beginning on January 1, 2015, all newly manufactured gas fireplaces and stoves with glass fronts will be required to include an installed protective barrier. This will apply to all appliances that have a glass surface temperature of 172 degrees or higher when in use.

“While gas fireplaces, stoves and inserts are a great asset to any home, the glass can become very hot during operation and stay hot long afterwards, creating a potential burn hazard,” said Hearth, Patio, and Barbeque Association president Jack Goldman. “In the past several years, there have been reports of burns involving young children and others who may not been aware of the potential risk of touching the hot glass on gas fireplaces, inserts and stoves. While we believe these incidents are few, even one is too many. We believe the new safety standard will provide greater protection to young children and others with special needs.”

This new standard was originally approved in 2012 by the American National Standards Institute. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission worked with the fireplace and hearth industry to implement the standard in an effort to protect families from accidental burns. The standard will apply to all units manufactured after January 1, 2015. Retailers may continue to sell units manufactured before this date that do not meet the new safety standards.

Safety tips for families

If you have an existing gas appliance, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and your family from accidental burns. These common sense safety tips can help keep everyone in your home safe.

  • Don’t leave children or pets unattended in front of a fireplace that is in use or has been turned off
  • Teach children about fireplace safety and to never touch the glass of the fireplace
  • Keep the remote control of the fireplace out of reach to prevent it from being accidentally turned on
  • Install a switch lock to prevent children from turning on any gas appliances

Additional safety products

There are a number of safety products available to homeowners who already own gas appliances. Protective barriers or screens are the easiest and most common safety precaution. Safety screens come in a variety of styles and can be attached directly to the front of the fireplace or left as freestanding screens. Likewise, baby gates or barriers can be used to keep children and pets away from the fireplace when it is in use.

When installing aftermarket screens directly to the front of your hearth, please be aware that they may change the functionality of your fireplace. Check with a fireplace professional before installing something directly to the fireplace.

If you have questions about making your gas appliance safer, contact Lord’s Chimney today. Our expert staff is highly trained and ready to make sure you can enjoy your gas fireplace while keeping your family safe.

Proper Ash Removal

A roaring fire can be a welcome sight during the cold months of winter. To keep their fireplaces running properly, homeowners know to have their chimneys swept and inspected each year. However, few pay much attention to what they do with the byproducts of their wood burning fires – the ashes.

Regular ash disposal can improve the efficiency of your fireplace, and properly disposing of ashes can prevent accidental fires. Rather than seeing the measures needed to properly remove ashes as an inconvenience, homeowners should instead see it as taking steps to ensure their family’s safety.

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How can ashes be dangerous?

While ashes themselves pose little to no threat to you or your family’s safety, it’s what they can keep hidden that are the real danger. Small coals and embers can lay dormant when surrounded by ash, only to ignite later on. According to forestry officials, “Wood ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days.” Because of this, all ashes should be treated with caution, especially those from recently extinguished fires.

Improper ash removal methods

Unfortunately, many of the most common methods of ash removal are also the most unsafe. Ashes should never be mixed with garbage or trash; this even includes putting cold ashes into regular trash cans or dumpsters. Likewise, ashes should never be transported in cardboard boxes, paper bags, or other combustible containers. Lastly, vacuums should not be used to clean up ashes unless they have a HEPA filter. Without an appropriate filter to prevent dust particles from becoming airborne, even shop vacuums may leave carpets, walls, and other furnishings coated with a fine layer of dust.

Proper ash removal

The first and most important step in ash removal is ensuring that there are no remaining hot coals or embers in the ashes. This can often be achieved by letting a fire extinguish naturally overnight and stirring the ashes the next morning to ensure there are no remaining hot spots or pockets of heat. Ashes can then be transferred into a specially designed metal ash container that has a tight fitting lid. Ash containers should never be stored indoors, in garages or sheds, or near combustible materials in case there any remaining coals or embers.

Alternative uses of ashes

After using your wood burning fireplace all winter long, you may find yourself with a surplus of ashes. Luckily, there are several alternative ways that ashes can be used around the home. Two of the most popular uses for ashes are in the garden: as a fertilizer or as a bug repellant.

As a fertilizer, small amounts of ash can be used on garden plots or in compost piles. Ash “improves root health and strengthens the very cellular structure of plants, helping them resist all kinds of stresses,” says Julia Gaskin. Likewise, when sprinkled around the edges of a garden plot or flower bed ashes can serve as a natural repellent for slugs and snails.

Lastly, ashes can be sprinkled on icy driveways or sidewalks as an alternative to salt or gravel to prevent slipping. However, homeowners and their guests should take special care to wipe the soles of their shoes off after walking on an ashy path. If not, you may accidentally track dirty footprints throughout the house!

Properly removing and disposing of ashes can protect your family against accidental accidents or fires, and ashes can also have a surprising number of uses around the home. If you have questions about ash disposal or how to help your wood burning fireplace burn more efficiently, contact Lord’s Chimney today!

How Winter Weather Affects Your Chimney

During the cold winter months, many families use their fireplaces as a gathering place, sitting together and enjoying the warm flames. But even as your fireplace is keeping you warm inside, the cold temperatures and winter weather could be damaging your chimney outside.

Winter weather conditions are notorious for destroying chimneys and causing existing damage to deteriorate even faster. Snow, ice, and freezing rain can wreak havoc on a chimney system, even one that is in seemingly good condition. Because of this, it is extremely important get a chimney sweep and inspection before the weather gets any colder. This ensures that your fireplace and chimney are safe to use and have not been damaged during the past year.

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Water damage

The main way that chimneys are damaged during the winter months is due to water damage. If water is able to enter a chimney structure, it can cause a multitude of issues including rusting pieces of the flue to damaging the masonry. Pinpointing how water is entering a chimney can often be difficult as there are many different places that can cause leaks. The trained technicians at Lord’s Chimney are leak resolution experts who can find and fix the water entry before it causes further damage.
Below are three of the most common causes of water entry in a chimney system:

Damaged chimney cap: Chimney caps cover the top of the chimney itself, keeping the water from rain, sleet, and snow from getting into a chimney. Improperly installed, ill-fitting chimney caps, or damaged chimney caps can allow water to enter the fireplace system. Damage to the chimney cap is often difficult to spot because they cannot be seen from the street.

Leaky flashing: Flashing is the metal band that connects the chimney to the roof structure. Nail holes, loose caulking, poor materials, or general wear and tear can all cause flashing to lose its waterproof seal. Damaged flashing can cause damage to both the chimney and the roof, which is why it is vital that it is properly installed and maintained.

Masonry damage: Although bricks are made to be porous, absorbing too much water can be detrimental. During the freeze/thaw cycle, water in the brick expands as it freezes, causing additional cracks and damage. As it thaws, this creates more space for additional water entry and the cycle continues, eventually causing the brick to break apart and crumble.

Preventing chimney damage

The best way to prevent damage to your chimney during the winter months is through preventative maintenance. An annual sweep and inspection allows any issues to be spotted and resolved before they become major problems. This can save both time and money as well as preserve the safety and structure of your safety.

Lord’s chimney can also apply a special waterproofing to bricks and mortar. The ChimneySaver sealant retains the porous quality of the bricks, letting toxic gasses pass through without letting moisture in. ChimneySaver also allows trapped moisture to evaporate, preventing deterioration, freeze/thaw damage, and the need for expensive masonry reconstruction.

If you have questions about the health of your chimney system, need to schedule an annual sweep and inspection, or would like more information on ChimneySaver waterproofing, contact Lord’s Chimney today!

What Not to Burn in Your Fireplace

Fireplaces are a beautiful addition to any room that can provide warmth and ambiance throughout the cold winter months. However, most homeowners pay more attention to what they get out of their fireplaces than what they put in.

What materials you burn in your fireplace can have a direct impact on fireplace performance. In addition, attempting to burn materials that are not meant for residential fireplaces can pose a safety hazard through unmanageable burning or the release of toxic chemicals.

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Garbage

More popular in rural areas and communities, burning garbage is not a safe way to dispose of your trash. While there are a growing number of waste-to-energy factories in the United States that burn trash to create useable electricity, these plants are specially designed to filter any toxins or chemicals out of the air supply. Homeowners simply do not have the technology to do this, causing the chemical byproducts of whatever is being burned to enter the atmosphere. Backyard burning has been found to increase the risk of heart disease, aggravate asthma and emphysema, and can also cause rashes, nausea, or headaches.

Green wood

Homeowners should avoid burning green, or freshly cut wood, whenever possible. While green wood will burn, it produces less heat than seasoned firewood because more energy is needed to evaporate the remaining water in the wood itself. In addition, green wood produces large amounts of smoke, which can easily backdraft and fill a room. Finally, burning green wood produces more creosote, a gummy, corrosive, and highly flammable substance that coats the inside of the chimney structure.

Paper products

While burning used wrapping paper or pizza boxes may seem like an easy way to dispose of them, it can actually create a chimney fire. Paper burns extremely quickly, which can cause an enormous increase in the amount of flames if too much is put into the fireplace. These large fires cannot be contained by the firebox, causing flames to travel up the chimney or out into the room.

In addition, most wrapping paper and other printed products are not designed to be burned. While companies based in the United States use approved chemicals and dyes in their paper products, most printed paper produced outside the country does not. Because of this, colored wrapping paper may produce toxic chemicals when burned. Instead of burning them, wrapping paper, cardboard, and other paper products should be recycled or thrown away in the regular trash.

Pretreated wood

After removing old fencing, decking, or playground equipment, many homeowners believe that using the old materials as firewood is an appropriate way to recycle them. However, any wood that has been exposed to glue, paint, stain, varnish, or other chemical treatments should never be burned. The EPA recommends that homeowners “never burn coated, painted, or pressure-treated wood because it releases toxic chemicals when burned.”

Styrofoam

Although Styrofoam burns quickly, putting it into the fireplace is an environmental hazard. When burned, Styrofoam and other packing foams erupt in a cloud of toxic black smoke, releasing chemicals that can damage the nervous system and lungs. In addition, the melted foam particles can stick to the inside of the firebox and chimney structure, creating a future fire hazard if they were to reignite.

Instead, homeowners should only burn properly seasoned firewood in their fireplaces. While different species of trees have different burn characteristics, being dry is by far the most important characteristic of any potential firewood.

Choosing the Right Firewood

While regular cleanings and maintenance are an important part of fireplace upkeep, many homeowners fail to realize that the firewood they use can also impact the performance of their wood burning appliances. Although the type of firewood you use is ultimately a personal preference, there are many different factors to keep in mind before making a large firewood purchase for the season.

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Hard woods versus soft woods

All firewood can either be categorized as a hard wood or a soft wood.

Hard woods: Hardwoods are heavy, dense woods from trees whose leaves change color in the fall. Because of this, hardwoods are known for creating more heat, having longer lasting fires, and creating more coal beds. The most popular hardwoods are often varieties of elm, birch, maple, and oak.

Soft woods: Softwoods are most commonly identified by their needle leaves, and includes species such as firs, spruces, pines, and evergreens. Softwoods are quick to ignite and produce more smoke than most hardwoods. Because they burn at a lower temperature, softwoods are often popular choices for fires during the milder temperatures of fall and spring.

Most homeowners favor hardwoods for the bulk of their fires, but many keep a small amount of softwood around to be used as kindling when starting a fire. Likewise, softwoods are extremely popular with those who use their wood burning appliances for smoking meats due to their strong flavors.

Buying local

Another factor to consider when shopping for firewood is where it was grown and harvested. Because tree killing insects and bacteria can still reside on firewood, transporting wood long distances can expose local trees to dangerous infestations. As a general rule, homeowners should try to buy firewood that was grown less than 50 miles from their home, while many experts agree that less than 10 miles is ideal.

Packaged, heat treated firewood is generally considered safe to move, and is ideal if you’re looking to purchase wood before an out-of-state camping trip. This wood is usually labeled with the USDA APHIS treatment seal.

Importance of proper seasoning

Equally important to the type of firewood you buy is how long it has been seasoned for. Seasoning is the process during which freshly chopped firewood is allowed to dry when exposed to sun and wind. This practice removes the majority of the water from the wood, reducing the moisture content from as high as 50% to as little as 15%.

Seasoned firewood ignites faster, burns hotter, and creates less smoke than freshly cut firewood. Most firewood should be seasoned a minimum of 6 months, while many experts agree that when done properly the seasoning process can take up to a year. Even wood that has been cut from dead or fallen trees still needs to be seasoned.

What to avoid

Although it may seem like an excellent way to recycle, old wood from decking, fencing, or playground equipment should not be used as firewood. Unlike regular firewood, these woods are typically treated with stains, paints, or other chemicals to make them more resistant to the elements. Because of this, burning pretreated wood can release a cocktail of poisonous substances into the air.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends “never burn coated, painted, or pressure-treated wood because it releases toxic chemicals when burned.”