With cooler weather upon us, Fireside Hearth & Home, the nation's largest hearth retailer, urges homeowners to get their fireplace ready for the heating season. By having a professional service the fireplace annually and taking a few proactive steps on their own, homeowners can ensure greater heating efficiency and safety, as well as prolong the life of the unit.
Many homeowners mistakenly believe their fireplace does not require any maintenance. The fact is all fireplace types from wood to gas to electric should undergo annual maintenance. For example, gas fireplaces need the fan, pilots and burners checked each year. And wood fireplaces require an inspection and chimney cleaning to remove creosote, which can build up and cause chimney fires. Homeowners should also check the chimney or vent before the season's first fire to see if birds or animals have built nests in it, or if leaves or other debris have accumulated. At a minimum, homeowners should also install a carbon-monoxide alarm in the same room as the fireplace and another one near the bedrooms.
Homeowners can handle much of the day-to-day maintenance however, most tasks are better left to a professional. Here are some tips for getting the fireplace ready and keeping it in tip top shape this winter:
• Clean out the firebox at least every week when using the fireplace regularly, but leave an inch of ash in the bottom to act as insulation. NOTE: Never use a vacuum to clean out the firebox as coals can stay hot for several days after extinguishing a fire.
• Before removing ash, open the damper so loose ash is drawn up the chimney rather than out into the room.
• Remove all ash during the months the fireplace is not in use.
• Burn only seasoned or hard wood in the fireplace. This will help minimize creosote buildup in the chimney. Burning small, controlled, hot fires rather than smoldering fires will also help keep creosote under control.
• Vacuum the firebox and heat exchanger regularly (only when the fireplace is cold, of course) to keep efficiency and air quality high.
• Consult a professional to clean the pilot assembly, purge trapped air from the gas supply line, and then test-fire the fireplace.
• Use only a soft brush to remove dust or spider webs from gas logs since they can be fragile. Make sure to position logs properly after cleaning to avoid sooting.
• Use glass cleaner made especially for gas fireplaces to clean the glass front &ndash never use oven cleaner or abrasives.
• Clean the firebox and control compartment with a brush and vacuum.
• Never use glass cleaner to clean the back of the glass, use only mild soap and water. Remove dust particles from glass by simply buffing lightly with a clean, dry cloth.
• Replace the light bulbs about every two to three years or when the flame and/or ember bed is dark on one side.
• Follow the manufacturer's instructions or consult a professional on cleaning the heater system to extend the fan's life.