Cleaning Dirty Chimney

4 Dangers of a Dirty Chimney in Arlington, VA

February 21, 2022

We tend to forget about soot and creosote risks in the chimney when relaxing before a warm fireplace. But a clean chimney doesn’t pose hazards like fire or respiratory complications. In this article, we’ll explore the dangers of a dirty chimney in Arlington, VA.

The Dangers of Soot Accumulation

One of the dangers that lurk in a dirty chimney is soot accumulation. Soot is a by-product of the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. It builds up around the walls when the wood burns at low temperatures.

It contains metal, chemical compounds, dust and oil. Wind can blow those compounds into your house, compromising your comfort and safety.

Soot can cause many ailments in both humans and pets. Black carbon, the primary component in the compound, causes premature mortality or disability. It often leads to skin and respiratory irritation.

The black carbon particles are small enough to get into the bloodstream and lower respiratory system. Soot contributes to approximately 20,000 deaths per year, according to one study.

Irritation From Creosote Buildup

Creosote is another hazardous by-product of burning wood or fossil fuels. It is often present where there is combustion but with minimal airflow. The black residue sticks to the side of the chimney through distillation.

When the smoke rises, the residue solidifies when it hits the colder walls of the chimney. The process repeats every time you burn wood in the fireplace. Eventually, the creosote can become several inches thick.

Creosote is highly flammable and a fire hazard for your home. Flames starting from the chimney quickly spread to other parts of the building. That’s why at Rooftop Chimney Sweeps, we recommend planning for routine chimney cleaning in Arlington every year.

Creosote on your chimney can accumulate faster due to airflow restrictions. An oversize chimney can also allow the smoke to hang around for longer. The delay facilitates the production of the tar-like substance through distillation.

Therefore, keep an eye on the airflow in the fireplace, ensuring the damper is completely open. Avoid using unseasoned wood, as it burns at low temperatures that encourage creosote formation.

Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Another danger of a dirty chimney is carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas. A report by the CDC indicates there are 50,000 visits to the emergency room every year due to CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a by-product of a combustion process that occurs in the absence of oxygen. When the flame is burning efficiently, there is minimal risk of CO poisoning.

However, obstructions in the chimney can cause the smoke to ‘back puff.’ That is when the fumes find another route for escape. In the process, the smoke gets into the house, and some of it goes back to the combustion chamber.

Nesting birds can cause a reverse airflow problem that introduces carbon monoxide into the building. The problem could also be a broken pipe or a defective flue system. Carbon monoxide is a ‘silent killer,’ and therefore, we recommend a thorough chimney inspection.

Dirty Chimneys and Histoplasmosis Disease

Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that affects the lower part of the lungs. The fungi often thrive in soils as well as bat and bird droppings. The disease spreads by inhaling spores from infected dust and debris.

If you don’t remove the bird droppings, your chimney could be a host for Histoplasmosis fungi. Since droppings can cause diseases, it’s advisable to wear protective equipment when working on the chimney. Ideally, an experienced professional should perform the inspection and cleaning tasks.

Some Histoplasmosis patients don’t notice any symptoms. However, it can cause severe illness for people with suppressed immunity. If someone in your home has an autoimmune condition, it’s advisable to clear the bird droppings and nests promptly.

You should schedule cleaning annually to prevent the dangers associated with dirty chimneys. An inspection is necessary even if you don’t often use the fireplace. You can rely on Rooftop Chimney Sweeps for exceptional chimney services in Arlington.

Image provided by iStock

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