Now that most of the country is about to enter the heating season, the Better Business Bureau urges consumers to have their central heating systems, any wood heating appliances and chimneys inspected.
According to the Consumer Product and Safety Commission, a qualified heating contractor should inspect the home heating system annually. Checks should be made of the furnace or boiler, and its electrical and mechanical components, thermostat controls and automatic safety switches.
While heating contractors do not normally check chimneys and flues, you should ask that their inspection include venting systems. Possible blockages such as birds’ nests, mortar and other materials dislodge from chimney walls and debris may prevent toxic gases from escaping and can result in carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, check flues and flue connectors for tight secure fittings and for signs of rust or cracks that could allow toxic gases to enter your home.
A chimney sweep should be done to clean the chimney if the inspection reveals an accumulation of soot on chimney walls. Chimneys should be checked and cleaned, if necessary, on an annual basis. Homeowners converting to gas from oil should have their chimney inspected at the time of the conversion and then yearly thereafter.
If you are using a wood stove this season, be sure that the stovepipe was installed correctly according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and local codes. If there is any doubt, a building inspector or fire official can determine whether the system is properly installed. Always operate your appliance within the manufacturer’s recommended temperature limits. Too low a temperature increases creosote buildup, and too high a temperature may eventually cause damage to the chimney and may result in a fire.
If it is discovered that work needs to be done on your present heating system or chimney, be certain to hire a contractor with a good reputation for dependable, reasonably priced work. Ask friends, neighbors and colleagues for recommendations and check out any company being considered with the Better Business Bureau.
Obtain at least two estimates for the work. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used.