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Seasonal Reminder

Fall is in the air and the holidays are just around the corner. This is always an exhilarating time of year because it means we get to fire up the woodstove or the fireplace. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway… don’t light that first match until you have done your seasonal maintenance.
We have a woodstove (pictured above) located on the first level of our home and due to the placement, the flue makes two 90° bends. This is not an optimum design as it creates airflow issues, but the biggest problem is that such angles in the stovepipe attract soot and a microscopic particles in the smoke that build up very quickly on the walls of the stove pipe.
Many of us hire a chimney sweep to clean our flues and perform yearly maintenance, and some of us do it ourselves. I fall into the latter category. I typically clean my chimney flue and stovepipe at the end of every season. If you’re not aware, the brushes and fiberglass rods needed to clean a chimney or flue are quite inexpensive and available at most hardware stores.
If you have never cleaned your own chimney, I recommend that you pay close attention when your chimney sweep makes his next visit. When you see the amount of soot, ash and ‘junk’ that is removed from the walls of your chimney, you will become very aware of what a potentially hazardous part of your home this can be.
In addition to having a clean “exhaust system” for your woodstove, it is a good idea to monitor the temperature of your stovepipe. I learned the hard way that an overheated stovepipe even with minimal soot build up, can cause a chimney fire. A couple of years ago, we had just gotten home from skiing and were chilled to the bone. I built a roaring blaze in our woodstove and got distracted with other things (I know that has never happened to you). In just a very short time, the stove and heated to a point that’s the flu was glowing red hot where it joined the wall and sparks were shooting from our chimney.
I immediately closed the air supply to the stove, and draped soaking wet towels over the exposed stovepipe. I then went outside and used a garden hose to try and direct water toward the chimney cap. We regained control of our fire.. we were lucky. Unfortunately, chimney and woodstove fires are far too common and too often result in loss of property and human life.
Experience is a great teacher and as a result of that lesson our family is much more aware of the potential dangers associated with a woodstove or fireplace. We LOVE our stove and rely upon it for 95% of our heat, but we are much more respectful of the possible dangers.
If you have a woodstove with exposed stovepipe, I have a potentially life-saving recommendation for you. Buy a magnetic stovepipe temperature gauge and stick it on your pipe where it is visible from across the room. You’ll know at a glance if your stove is performing as it should, or if things are getting too hot.

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