If you only do five home care tasks in September, here are the ones that we recommend you do that will help you to save energy, maintain safety, and avoid problems this winter.
FURNACE AND WATER HEATER ANNUAL SERVICE
This task involves scheduling a trained service professional to do a thorough inspection, cleaning and adjustment of your furnace and water heater. There are two important reasons for having this done each year:
Helps maintain the energy efficiency of these appliances.
This is a task that is best left to a trained professional. However, here is a checklist of questions that you should be sure to ask your furnace service technician furnace questions checklist. We suggest that you do this task in September for two reasons, first because if a problem is found, you will have time to get it remedied before the heating season, secondly, your service provider will likely get very busy as the heating season approaches.
TESTING GFI OUTLETS
Have you ever noticed that the outlets in your bathroom, kitchen and outdoors have little “test” buttons on them? These are special outlets called “ground fault interrupters” or “GFIs.” They are placed in locations where there can be water present, and their purpose is to automatically shut off if there is a potential for an electrical shock. So for example, if you are using a hair dryer and you are on a wet floor, then rather than shocking you, the GFI will trip off. The problem is that over time, the mechanism inside of the outlet can stop working. So it is very important to test each of these outlets to be sure that they are working properly. To test a GFI outlet, just plug a small electrical appliance into the outlet, and then press the “test” button on the outlet. The appliance should immediately shut off. If it does not, then this outlet should not be used until the GFI has been replaced (helpful accessory: GFI testers).
CHECK OUTSIDE DRYER VENT FLAP
At least once a year you should check your outside dryer vent to be sure that it is not clogged and stuck in the open position. When your dryer operates it blows hot exhaust air out of your home through vent piping. This hot air carries lint with it which can accumulate around the vent where the pipe exits your home. This vent has a flap that opens when the hot air is blowing, and then closes when the dryer stops blowing the air. But as lint builds up around the vent flap, it can cause the flap to get stuck open, allowing pests to enter your home, and increasing your energy costs by allowing air conditioned and/or heat to be lost from your home.
OUTSIDE LIGHTING INSPECTION
If any of your outside light fixtures have bulbs that have burned out, then September is a good month to replace them before the weather gets bad, and daylight hours start getting shorter. While you are checking your outside lighting fixtures for burnt out bulbs, you should also take the opportunity to: clear away any dirt and debris; check for any broken connections or fixtures; and clean the glass fixtures so that you get the most benefit from the light bulbs. One last tip is that you might want to consider replacing your bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.
SMOKE DETECTOR INSPECTION
At least once a year you should clean, test and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Smoke detectors can only protect your family if they are working properly, and cleaning them, testing them and replacing their batteries is how to ensure that they will be working properly to alert your family in case of a fire emergency in your home (helpful accessory: cordless dust busters). To clean your smoke detectors, gently use an extension attachment for your vacuum cleaner to remove dust and cobwebs. Next, if your smoke detector uses a battery, then at least once a year you should open the detector and replace the battery. And finally, you should test your smoke detectors each month by pushing the button on it to see if the alarm sounds. But never use a match or smoke to test your detector, as this can shorten its life.
To schedule a chimney inspection, cleaning, repair & build out, or dryer vent cleaning & repair and duct cleaning & repair, contact Sweep Dreams Chimney & Ducts today at (320) 252-6242 online at https://sweepdreamschimneyservice.com/
All Clothes Dryers use electricity to rotate the drum that the clothes ride in and for operating the controls that allow you to set cycle times, the amount of drying to be done, etc. But an ‘electric’ Clothes Dryer is a model that uses electricity as the source of heat for drying the clothes as they are tumbling in the rotating drum.
If your Clothes Dryer has natural gas or propane piping connected to it, then it is a ‘gas’ Clothes Dryer. A gas Clothes Dryer burns natural gas or propane in a heating element, which produces the heat that dries the clothes as they are tumbling in the rotating drum.
All Clothes Dryers will have vent piping to the outside of your house, where hot air and lint from the drying process will leave the unit.
Some models of Clothes Dryers are stand-alone units, and some models are integrated with a Washing Machine. If your model has a Washing Machine unit with it, then you have BOTH Clothes Dryer (electric) and Washing Machine as your home features..
The heating element and tumbling action of a clothes dryer creates lint, which can build-up around your dryer and cause problems.
Safety: Lint is flammable, and can be touched off by the heating element in the dryer, or a spark from the motor, switch, etc.
Loss of Efficiency: A clogged vent pipe or stuck flap vent reduces the dryer’s capacity to dry clothes, requiring the unit to run longer, which uses more energy and shortens its service life.
Heat Loss: A flap vent that doesn’t close properly allows heat or cooling to escape from the house.
Pests: A flap vent that doesn’t close properly also leaves an opening for insects and other pests to potentially come through.
Extending useful life: An unbalanced dryer will cause its rotating components to wear out sooner.
Reminders for different tasks and timings in your recommended home care program for your Clothes Dryer.
Routine Care Task
Annual dryer maintenance involves the following 5 tasks:
Clean lint build-up from vent system. Out of the back of your dryer you’ll find a pipe, usually 4-5 inches in diameter, which goes through the wall of your house to the outside. Outside there is a “flap vent” that swings open automatically from air pressure when the dryer is running, then closes when the dryer shuts off. The entire piping and flap vent should be inspected and cleaned of lint or any obstructions.
Seal any hose joints with duct tape.
Clean behind and underneath dryer. Moisture, dirt, and lint tend to accumulate behind and underneath your dryer. Pull the dryer out from the wall and wipe these areas with a damp rag.
Scrub the lint trap. Chemical fabric softeners often clog the small holes in lint traps.
Remove the lint trap and scrub it with a soft bristle brush and mild soap or detergent.
Check the balance of your dryer. A dryer that is not level on the ground will cause its’ rotating components to wear out sooner. If the dryer moves, shakes, or is not level, adjust the feet at the bottom of the unit.
Clean and inspect burner (gas models). For dryers that heat with natural gas or propane, the burner should be cleaned and inspected according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Dryer Vent Closure
Prevents cold, heat, rodents, and other insects from entering the dryer
Lint build up causes fire in your dryer
Health & Safety
Avoiding Unscheduled Repairs
The benefits of this task are very, very high. Doing this task can help you improve safety, save money on energy, prevent damage by pests, and extend the useful life of your dryer.
The cost of this task is relatively low. It is estimated that this task should only take about 30-60 minutes to complete, and the task is relatively easy to do. However, if you have a model that uses natural gas or propane, then you will need to hire a professional to clean and inspect your burner.
Asking what’s the best way to waterproof a chimney or what are the best waterproofing products are both understandable enough questions, but they’re also too broad for a simple answer. Best way to waterproof what kind of chimney? Are we waterproofing a vertical wall or the breast of the brickwork? There are brick, concrete block, stucco, and stone chimneys and there are different considerations for all of them – meaning you might use different products on different types of chimneys. Let’s peel this back like an onion.
Choosing the Right Waterproofing Product
Before getting started, please understand that the less a waterproofing product costs, the less likely it is to do you any good. One major brand costs fairly little but lasts a rather short amount of time because it breaks down in with UV exposure (sunlight.)
You want a product that uses polysiloxanes or silanes. Basically, that means that it doesn’t use solids to block up the pores of the masonry, rather it sets up an electrostatic charge that outside water can’t overcome. At the same time, if the masonry has trapped moisture in it the day you decide to waterproof (and it very well may) the head pressure of the water inside will be able to overcome the electrostatic charge and escape. In other words, water can’t get in, but it could get out if need be. The good stuff does cost more – not prohibitively more – but it is oh so, so worth it.
Sealing Brick Chimney
Since about 99% of the people reading this have brick chimneys, let’s start there (I will address non-brick chimneys later). One of the central issues concerning waterproofing is the porosity of the material being waterproofed. This makes sense: you don’t have to waterproof steel or vinyl because water doesn’t penetrate them in the first place. While bricks are generally less porous than many other materials (like a cinder block) different types of bricks vary in porosity themselves.
This explanation is to set the stage for understanding that sometimes you have to waterproof a chimney more than once. You should know this too: though we don’t like to admit it, the fact is that sometimes professionals misjudge how much waterproofing a chimney needs and wind up coming back when they get a complaint. We sure don’t like that, nor do we like people being dissatisfied with our work, but where waterproofing is concerned, it seems to be a fact of life. The moral of that story is 1) ask your waterproof service to go over it twice just for good measure (even if it costs a bit more) and 2) don’t be too tough on your guy if you have to call him back. I thank you on behalf of all the guys who ever get caught in that squeeze! And please look below for special information concerning re-applications.
The last item before moving onto specific information: If you have spalling brick, i.e. the faces of the brick are popping off, don’t bother to waterproof the chimney; it’s too late. Instead, kick yourself for not having done it ten years ago and have the brick structure rebuilt. Then waterproof it so it doesn’t happen again.
Now for some specific information, still with bricks:
How is chimney waterproofing applied?
Waterproofing is applied with a sprayer. On the vertical walls, i.e. most of the chimney, waterproofing should be applied from bottom to top because as the waterproofing material comes out of the sprayer it runs down the chimney and gets absorbed into the chimney below the area that is being worked on. It sort of amounts to doing it twice. Obviously, the top needs extra attention or it’d only get one pass. And as mentioned before, I’d do it twice. After you finish about 10 minutes’ worth, do it again just to make sure the whole structure gets a good soaking.
Special considerations should be given to breast walls, re-application, the crown, the flashing area, and the mortar joints. The breast wall is where a chimney doesn’t go straight down to the ground, rather goes around something (almost always a fireplace.) They aren’t usually outright horizontal areas, a 30°-60° angle is pretty common. These areas should get different treatment.
Sealing the Chimney Breast
Because the chimney breast has a more severe exposure to rain and particularly snow, it needs more coats of waterproofing. Most waterproofing used these days is water-based material. This is for a couple of reasons: one is that water-based materials cost considerably less than solvent-based materials. They are safer to ship, store and use and they are perfectly adequate to the task. The exception to the advantages is on non-vertical surfaces.
One way to deal with a non-vertical surface is to waterproof it over and over and over. Another is to use a solvent-based material, still with polysiloxanes, because it soaks deeper into the substrate. For a chimney with a breast below, opt for the more expensive solvent-based waterproofing.
A special note about re-applications. If one needs to re-apply waterproofing after the water-based material has already dried, solvent-based waterproofing should be used. This is not common knowledge, even among the trade. Whether re-applying the next day or ten years later, use solvent-based waterproofing. Don’t be alarmed that if after reading this article you know more than the people you hire to do the job; most people don’t know all this. Just patiently insist on getting what you ask for.
Sealing a Chimney Crown
The chimney crown is an almost flat surface and it’s made of concrete or mortar. It shouldn’t be made of mortar, but there’s a good chance that it is anyway. Based on what you’ve just read about waterproofing the chimney breast, you’d reasonably think that you’d just use a solvent-based waterproofing material there. But that is not so: a crown requires more than ordinary waterproofing.
The crown is rather porous. If you’re lucky the crown will be made of concrete and will have been worked in a way that makes the top quite smooth
and non-porous. But on average, crowns are fairly porous and have more exposure to rain and snow than all of the rest of the chimney, and accordingly more problems (e.g. leaks) that the rest of the chimney as well.
There are coatings made specifically for crowns (the two major brands are Weather Tight and Saver Systems and both are generally available to the trade only.) Regardless of the brand being used, crown preparation is key. All the moss and dirt must be wire-brushed away. The crown should be wet down before the material is applied. Crown coatings applied to dry surfaces don’t develop the necessary bond you’re looking for. Large cracks should be caulked with high resin filler before the crown coat is applied.
A note on horizontal surfaces which are not chimney crowns, such as driveways, etc. Siloxanes are not the best choice here because driveways are made of concrete. A similar material (silane) is appropriate in order to get proper bonding with the substrate. It’s not that chimney waterproofing material won’t work; it’s just that silanes will last longer in this instance.
The flashing area needs special attention.
Traditional flashing, which 99.9% of all of us have, is not actually so great. I’m sure traditional in-the-mortar-joint-flashing was a huge improvement over whatever was before it a hundred years ago, but don’t imagine it keeps water out the way you wish it did.
There are terrific flashing products which, in my opinion, are sadly underused. Flash Seal and Flash Tight (once again, Saver Systems and Water Tight products) are high-resin coatings specifically for this purpose. To waterproof the flashing really well, ask for one of these products. Your sweep may or may not even know what you’re talking about, but don’t hold that against him. In this case you’ll be educating him. As I said, they are still under-appreciated products at this point.
Now for the big one: the mortar.
Since most leaking occurs at the joints, you want to be extra sure you soak them real well with the waterproofing. You should know that as a rule mortar joints are often not as well bonded as you might think they are, and there are actually small cracks in the mortar (usually not visible though.) The joints themselves have different properties on different chimneys depending upon whether mortar cement or Portland cement was used, not to mention the particle size of the sand used and the pH of the water that was mixed to make the mortar.
How long does chimney waterproofing last?
Before moving on, let me answer another FAQ. The question is how long does chimney waterproofing last? The answer is, as a general statement, probably about 20 years for most people. If you have the wind blowing sand at your chimney a lot, perhaps in the desert or by the sea, the brick surface can wear away, but most people don’t have that. There are guarantees, generally about 10 years. When those guarantees were instituted they were basically guesses from studies done in wind tunnels and freeze-thaw cycles. After a lot of years of observation, 20 years seems to be a generally good answer. Having it redone every 10-15 years is reasonable maintenance.
What is the difference between beading and repelling water?
A related subject: there’s a difference between “beading” and repelling water. Right after anything is waterproofed, there is a very satisfying effect called beading. This is where you see beads of water just sitting on the surface, kind of like seeing water sitting on oil. As neat as it is to see, at effect is temporary. I don’t know why, but the fact remains that waterproofing remains effective for many, many years beyond the beading effect is gone.
How to waterproof chimney cinder block
Now concerning waterproofing concrete block chimneys. Concrete block chimneys are the most porous of all, and they are at the same time most in need of waterproofing and most difficult to get a good result. But not impossible – you just need extra passes, and it’s a good idea to use a solvent-based waterproofing material here as well. As you know, I trash-talked solids in your waterproofing at the beginning of the article. I’ll backtrack just a little here.
Polysiloxane waterproofing material is still the superior technology, but for pores this big, you might do well to outright seal them. You can do that with stucco or by using a waterproof paint. Boat paint might be overkill, but it should work like a charm. There’s also a special hybrid product from Saver Systems that has some solids in it (Chimney Saver for Concrete Blocks).
Stucco chimneys are a bit trickier.
(Disclaimer: I know less about stucco than I do about bricks) Old stucco was made with gypsum and I can’t help you with what kind of waterproofing material, if any, should be used. Modern stucco for plastering a chimney however would be made with Portland cement. Porosity would be “not too bad” so you could use a waterproofing material on it, i.e. – it will bond to it.
That said, I’m not sure it’s necessary as I believe stucco is pretty good at keeping water away from the surface below. It’s applied almost an inch thick and it’s pretty good at drying out. I suppose there is the danger of several days of rain and the stucco getting saturated; again I don’t know enough about stucco to comment on how long it will hold how much water. My observation in life is that most stucco surfaces are not falling apart, yet it seems that freezing and thawing should destroy them. Sorry to be of so little help here.
How to waterproof stone chimneys?
Finally, there are stone chimneys. Depending upon what kind of stone, the surface may be quite dense or quite porous. Regardless, stone usually doesn’t waterproof well with chimney waterproofing materials. The reason is that siloxanes and silanes bond to silica, and stones may or may not be silica. If they are, it’ll work, and if they aren’t, it won’t. Faux stone on the other hand, is made with Portland cement, and you can waterproof it.
If you only do five home care tasks in August, here are the ones that we recommend you do, that will help you to save energy, improve indoor air quality, keep things safe, and looking nice.
CLOTHES DRYER: Annual Cleaning & Maintenance
One of the most important maintenance tasks that you can do for your home is to clean and inspect your dryer’s vent pipe. Lint build-up is one of the major causes of the over 15,000 dryer fires that occur annually, so you will want to be sure to do this task at least once per year. You can read our tips for improving the energy efficiency and ensuring the safety of your dryer in our article here: Clothes Dryer Safety and Energy Tips
If you have an asphalt driveway, you should check its condition to see if it needs sealant. Routinely sealing your driveway will help prevent very small problems from turning into bigger problems, which are more expensive to repair.
MATTRESSES: Rotate Mattresses
August is also a good month to remember to flip or rotate the mattresses on your beds. Your mattresses will last a lot longer if you flip them every 6 months, and then 6 months later, rotate it from head to toe.
FIREPLACE: Check Firewood Supplies
And finally, if you have a fireplace or woodstove, August is a good time to check your firewood supplies. First, you will want to check to be sure that your firewood is being properly stored away from your home, elevated off the ground, and covered on the top (but open on the sides). And if you find that your supply of firewood has gotten low, then you should consider lining up additional supplies now, before prices rise as we get closer to the winter.
To schedule a chimney inspection, cleaning, repair & build-out, or dryer vent cleaning & repair and duct cleaning & repair, contact Sweep Dreams Chimney & Ducts today at (320) 252-6242.
A gas fireplace can be a very clean, energy-efficient way to heat your home, while adding a special charm. Whether you have one, or are thinking about getting one, here are some safety tips and maintenance tasks you should consider.
Types of Gas Fireplaces
There are three different types of gas fireplaces, and each has its own set of advantages and operating needs: Fireplace Inserts; Direct Vent Fireplaces; and Vent-Free Fireplaces. Each type can have additional features such as fans which circulate the heat into the room, automatic thermostats, remote controls, etc. And most will operate during power failures, which is a nice plus (although the electric fan will not work until the power comes back on).
If you are thinking about getting a gas fireplace, here’s an important tip: if you enjoy watching the flames, then do not get one that is too high of capacity (BTU/hour heat rate) for the size of your home, otherwise, because they are so efficient, it may only need to operate for a short while and then shut off after quickly bringing your room up to temperature.
Gas Fireplace Inserts are installed in the opening of an existing wood burning fireplace, and they are vented through the existing chimney with a special vent pipe that carries the exhaust to the outside. Depending on the particular model of insert, the combustion air can either come from a pipe layer which is around the exhaust pipe, or it can come from inside of your home (it is more energy efficient to have a style that uses outside air), and some models have outside air vents.
Direct Vent Fireplaces
Direct vent fireplaces can be vented directly through an exterior wall, and do not require a traditional masonry chimney. Like fireplace inserts, direct vent gas fireplaces come in styles which can either bring combustion air from the outside, or from the room inside. And again, the models which use combustion air from the outside are more efficient, because you are not burning heated air from your home. These models can operate at or near 90 percent efficiency. Some models can even produce up to 45,000 BTU/hour, which can be as much as some furnaces.
Vent-Free fireplaces are designed to operate without the venting of exhaust fumes to the outside (sort of like a gas oven which burns gas in your home without a vent). Some models are free-standing in a room, or other models can be in a corner or wall of the room. Vent-free models draw room air for combustion and deliver the combustive hot air back into the room. Vent-Free fireplaces are highly efficient, burning at an efficiency rate of more than 90 percent. However, there is some debate regarding the air quality impact of having combustion gases returned to the room, and installation may require exterior ducts and improved room ventilation.
Gas Fireplace Safety Tips
Have your fireplace inspected and serviced by a trained professional at least once a year. This is best done just before the heating season begins.
If you’re moving into a newly constructed home, clean the area around the fireplace thoroughly of drywall dust and other debris before turning it on. Contaminants and dirt can damage the burner, fan, and motor. Before you turn on your newly installed fireplace, read the manufacturer’s instruction manual carefully. If you have questions, contact a heating contractor or contact the manufacturer directly.
Never modify your fireplace or the mantle before checking with a heating contractor.
Always wait for at least five minutes before lighting a pilot light that has gone out (to allow time for gas to dissipate).
Even if your gas fireplace is vented to the outside, consider putting a carbon monoxide detector in the room where your fireplace is located (see types, costs, and reviews of CO alarms).
If you notice unusual flames, odors or the smell of natural or propane gas, turn off your fireplace and contact a heating contractor or your local gas company.
Always keep your fireplace fan clean.
Always keep outside air vents clear of leaves, debris, ice, and snow.
Do not keep combustible materials such as newspapers, paint or other flammable liquids near the fireplace. In addition, keep furniture, curtains, and rugs away from the fireplace.
Keep children away from the fireplace. Even though the flames are behind glass, the glass can get very hot and can stay hot even after the fireplace is turned off. Make sure children understand that the glass can burn them. Use a safety gate or screen to keep children away from the fireplace (helpful accessory: child safety fences).
Do not use the fireplace if the glass doors are broken or cracked. Keep the gas turned off and refer to the owner’s manual for how you should proceed.
If you have a Vent-Free Gas Fireplace (which vents exhaust to the room they are in) then there are some special safety issues which you should be sure to address:
Be sure that the unit is not too large for the room that it is in, or it can dangerously remove too much oxygen from the room.
You must have either an oxygen depletion sensor (“ODS”) built into the unit or one in the same room it is in.
Don’t run your Vent-Free fireplace for long periods of time, as this can lead to oxygen depletion and carbon monoxide build-up
Gas Fireplace Safety Tips
Shown below are the routine maintenance tasks which you should be sure to perform on your gas fireplace.
As mentioned above, before each heating season be sure to have your gas fireplace inspected and serviced by a trained professional.
Things you will want to be sure they check are:
clean the glass and check for irregularities
inspect, clean and adjust pilot system
check and clean the control compartment
inspect entire venting system
check on/off switch and thermostat
check and clean blower (if applicable)
adjust the primary air shutter
check combustion chamber for any cracks
adjust the primary air shutter
check the valve pressure
inspect the heat-exchange area
verify the log positioning
check the tightness of all electrical connections
sweep and vacuum the firebox to remove any loose soot
replace ember material as necessary
conduct a gas sniffer test to detect any gas leakage
Be sure to check your room carbon monoxide detector regularly.
And never clean the outer glass if the glass is even the slightest bit warm because the pores in the glass will expand and draw the glass cleaner into the pores, which may cause the glass to become cloudy.
To schedule a chimney inspection, cleaning, repair & build out, or dryer vent cleaning & repair and duct cleaning & repair, contact Sweep Dreams Chimney & Ducts today at (320) 252-6242.
The National Fire Protection Association estimates that each year almost 400,000 homes catch on fire, and these fires claim the lives of 3,500 people and injure approximately 18,000 more. And unfortunately, children are one of the highest risk groups for deaths in these fires. Keeping your home and family safe from fires involves focusing on three areas: prevention, detection and emergency actions in the case of an actual fire.
Prevention covers the steps you can take to make sure fires don’t break out in your home. So let’s take a look at the household danger areas that can be prone to starting fires.
The leading cause of household fires is cooking, particularly the stove top. And here are several steps you can take to minimize your risk of kitchen fires. Grease accumulation can be dangerous. So keep your stove and oven clean, and also check your vent hoods, regularly clean your filters, and make sure that, if you have an exterior vent, there is nothing in it that impedes the airflow to the outside. If you have a gas stove, make sure your system doesn’t have any loose fittings, leaking valves, faulty pilot lights, or improperly stored flammable materials in areas nearby. Keep all flammables, such as dishtowels and curtains, a safe distance away from the stove. Don’t cook when you are very tired or under the influence of alcohol or medications; as you are more likely to do something careless that could lead to a fire starting. And never walk away from the stove until you have turned off the heat.
The second most common cause of fires in the home is heating. Furnaces, space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves all can present a risk of fire. In the winter months, when heaters are run most often, this is of particular concern. Make sure your furnaces get a yearly inspection and cleaning by a trained professional to catch any potential troubles before they start. If you use space heaters, make sure they stay at least three feet away from anything flammable, such as curtains or bed linens. Be certain to turn them off before you leave the room or go to bed. For fireplaces and wood or coal stoves, have them inspected by a service professional every year. Don’t store flammables such as newspapers or matches anywhere nearby, or have them too close to exposed rugs or wooden floors. Clear them of ashes and unburnt debris on a regular basis. Have glass doors or a wire mesh spark screen across the front of the fireplace to keep the fire safely contained. And install a chimney spark arrester to prevent roof fires (see types, costs, and reviews of chimney spark arresters).
Smoking is not only the third most common cause of home fires, it’s the top cause of home fire deaths. Almost a thousand people are killed each year due to smoking-related home fires, so it is important to exercise caution when smoking cigarettes in your home: don’t put yourself in a position where you could fall asleep while smoking; never smoke in a home where oxygen is used; And douse cigarette and cigar butts with water before dumping them in the trash. Or better yet, don’t allow smoking at all in your home.
Electrical and Appliances
When electrical systems fail they sometimes can result in house fires, but more often the danger lies in incorrectly installed wiring, or from the overloading of circuits and extension cords. Be sure to properly use and maintain your electrical devices. Do not overload your outlets or extension cords. Check the power cords on your appliances. Look for missing grounding prongs of the plugs, damage to the insulation, or frayed wires. Repair or replace them before continuing to use the appliance. Check your house wiring in unfinished areas for damage by pests. Be on the lookout for insulation that has been chewed through by rodents or insects. Check the hot coils of your clothes drying for an accumulation of lint or other flammable materials. Be sure to keep the lint trap, vent piping, and other areas of your dryer clear of lint, as it is very flammable.
Candles, Matches, and Lighters
Candles cause an estimated 15,600 fires in residential structures, 150 deaths, 1,270 injuries, and about $539 million in property damage each year. To use your candles safely, do not leave them unattended, or allow children to light them unsupervised. Store matches and lighters in a safe, nonreactive place where children cannot get to them. Always use stable candle holders made of a non-flammable material. Extinguish candles if you’re going to be leaving the room.
Gasoline and Combustible Chemicals
Gasoline vapors can explode with even a small spark. If you must store gasoline in your garage, use a special safety container specifically designed for gasoline. But never bring gasoline inside your house. Tightly seal the lids on all combustible chemicals and put them away in a cool location after using them. Store them in a safe place, with a lock if possible.
The next aspect of fire safety is Detection. Improving detection is about increasing your awareness of the potential for the outbreak of fire in your home, so that you can act quickly. Examples include:
Install smoke alarms on every floor of your house (see types, costs, and reviews of smoke detectors/alarms). There are two kinds of smoke alarms, photoelectric and ionization. For maximum protection buy some of both kinds, or if possible, buy “combination” detectors that have both kinds of sensors. Keep your detectors free of dust and replace the batteries at least once a year. If they begin making a chirping sound, that means their batteries are low and should be immediately replaced. If your detector is wired directly into your electrical system, watch for a blinking red light, as this indicates that the sensor is active. If it is not blinking, then it should immediately be serviced.
Monitored Home Security
If you have a monitored home security system, you might want to consider having your smoke alarms connected to your security system. Talk to your security company to see if you can have this done, so that you (and the fire department) can be notified when your alarms go off when you are not at home.
Keep an eye out for flickering lights, or intermittent power surges. These can be indications that you may have a short in the circuit, which can trigger a house fire.
Frequently Tripping Circuit Breakers
Note circuit breakers that trip, or fuses that frequently blow. This is almost always a sign of an overloaded circuit or another wiring issue, which should be solved before it can become a fire hazard.
Finally, we will talk about the actions you should be prepared to take in the case of an actual fire.
First, make sure that everyone in your family knows what to do if there is a fire in your home. Prepare an escape plan and have your family practice it several times a year. Make sure all family members know not to put their lives in danger trying to save property, but instead just take the most direct way outside. And if they must exit through smoke, then drop to the ground to move beneath it and to try to cover their mouths to avoid breathing smoke directly in. Also, if a door feels hot to the touch, do not try to open or go through it.
If you have a two-story house, each bedroom should have a rope ladder easily accessible, so that your family members can climb down the outside rather than be being trapped (helpful accessory: fire escape ladders). Designate a meeting location outside the house and take attendance so that you can tell right away who has gotten out safely. This will keep people from endangering themselves going back to look for someone who has already escaped. If someone is missing, alert the firefighters. Do not re-enter the house once you have left it.
Make sure everyone in your family knows how to “Stop, Drop, and Roll.” If your clothes catch fire, drop immediately to the ground, cross your hands over your chest, and roll back and forth until the flames are smothered out. Cool the burned area with water and call for immediate medical attention for serious burns.
Be sure that high-risk areas of your home, such as your workshop or fireplace, have fire extinguishers nearby, and that each family members know how to properly use it to fight a fire. See that your extinguishers are inspected regularly and re-charged or replaced as needed (see costs and reviews of ABC fire extinguishers).
It’s also useful to know how to deal with a small pan fire that may occur in your kitchen. Immediately suffocate the fire by placing the lid on the pan, turning off the stove, and allowing the pan to sit unmoved until the flames are smothered. Small grease fires can be put out by throwing baking soda on them. But never use water to put out a grease fire, as it will either explode into steam, which can also cause burns, or cause oils to splash and spread the fire.
Now you know the three areas you need to focus on to fireproof your home: Prevention, Detection, and Action. We hope that this has motivated you to take the appropriate steps to keep your family and home safe from the dangers of fires.
To schedule a chimney inspection, cleaning, repair & build out, or dryer vent cleaning & repair and duct cleaning & repair, contact Sweep Dreams Chimney & Ducts today at (320) 252-6242.