Despite an efficient burning fireplace utilizing quality hardwood with low moisture content, one cannot avoid contaminant congestion and soot build-up within the unit and flue pipes over a period of time through normal use. It is thus recommended to regularly service your fireplace including a full chimney sweep.
Solid fuel fireplaces (wood log and wood pellet) create heat through the combustion of a fuel. Closed combustion fireplaces are designed to strictly comply with designation country quality standards and importantly comply with reduced carbon emission goals through highly efficient heat transfer designs. A high-quality fuel will lead to an improved user experience comprising, initial lighting, greater heat output, less darkening of the interior, an improved and efficient burn with less residual ash leftover. Ideally, well-seasoned or dry wood should hold less than 20% moisture content. Burning wet wood means using most of the energy to evaporate the water which results in an inefficient burn, causes condensation thereby blackening the glass and building up soot and contaminants inside the unit and flue pipes. Premium wood pellets sourced from a reputable supplier contains less than 6% moisture which consistently ensures a clean efficient burn in an automated wood pellet fireplace. As an approximate guideline, freshly cut wood has a moisture content of approximately 50%. Adequately seasoned for 6 months brings it down to 40%, 1 year to 30% and around 2 years of open-air sheltered seasoning brings the moisture content down to the recommended 20% and below.
Congested flues increase the risk of soot or creosote build-up causing the potential for increased poisonous gasses presence such as carbon monoxide. The flues act as a ventilation system and any blockages, build-up or restrictions mean that smoke, fumes, and toxins will not freely escape and could end up in your home. Prolonged dormant fireplaces could still become blocked through the accumulation of leaves and other debris. Birds and small animals sometimes nest or get stuck in chimney flues which also results in a blockage.
Aside from reducing the functionality of the fireplace soot or creosote build-up can be highly flammable and if ignited could burn at temperatures in excess of 1000°C. Chimney fires burn hot and fast and can cause substantial damage to structures and property.
It is recommended to regularly inspect and do a complete fireplace service including a chimney sweep. Best practice would be twice a year, once before winter and again at the end of the season. If that is not achievable then annually before winter would be recommended.
Closed Combustion Fireplace Service Steps
A fireplace service should address and cover the following tasks and functions tailored to the client and the unit set-up.
- Adequately prepare the work area to reduce the mess of an inherently messy task
- Disconnect any electrical fans or components
- If possible completely remove the unit and work outside to simplify movement and eliminate unnecessary mess and fine soot disbursement
- Using appropriate chimney sweep brushes and an ash vacuum cleaner thoroughly sweep and clean the full length of the flue pipe run. Check the integrity of the flue pipes, connections, gaskets, and seals and take actions as necessary
- Clean the interior of the stove with an ash vacuum and soft brush
- Remove baffle plates and other removable parts for cleaning and inspection. Steel and cast iron parts should be thoroughly cleaned with a steel brush or special sanding disks fitted to a power tool. Check and assess the integrity of the different parts. If in good condition they can be painted or polished or replaced if in poor condition.
- Brush and vacuum the interior of the combustion chamber limiting the dispersion of any dust
- Inspect the seals, door gaskets, glass gaskets, and all the fire-rope lengths. Replace and re-fit as appropriate. Poor seals result in excessive air inflow which compromises the unit functionality
- The internal chamber of the stove can be painted or polished with a graphite paste to recondition the interior
- External painting and refurbishment of a closed combustion unit is rarely necessary but could be commissioned due to certain external factors
- Clean the glass with an appropriate accredited product
- Ensure all parts are refitted, connected and sealed. Do a smoke test to ensure sufficient draw and smoke dispersal up the newly cleaned flues
A user can expect the following benefits from periodically servicing their closed combustion fireplaces. Improved efficiency resulting in burning less wood due to clear unobstructed chimney flues. Reduce the risk of soot fires. Early identification of components that may need repair or negatively impact the performance of your fireplace. Maintain original functionality and essentially improves the life span of your closed combustion fireplace.
Servicing and continued maintenance of your closed combustion fireplace will enhance your user experience, reduce unnecessary risk to you and your property and ensure a continued healthy heating experience for you and your family into the foreseeable future.