Feelin’ the chill? Fall inspections make for warmer winters

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

Autumn’sshorter days and cool nights have left grass white with frost and leaves colored. As the region enters the heating season, Better Business Bureau urges residents to have their central heating systems, any wood heating appliances and chimneys inspected.

“There’s a whole lotta things people need to do to prepare to use their fireplaces, but they don’t do it, and that’s why I have a job,” says BJ Singer, owner of BJ’s Chimney Masonry and Foundation Repair, in Meridian.

A chimney sweep should clean the chimney if the inspection reveals 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 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 decide whether the system is properly installed. Always run 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.

Singer says homeowners should consider – certificates, license, past work history and references.

“Just because someone gives you a low price, don’t feel compelled to go with that person,” he says. “Make sure you check out their certification.”

Heating contractors do not normally inspect chimneys and flues, but do check venting and inducting systems. Consumer Product and Safety Commission states 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.

Homeowners can do some simple inspections and maintenance. Look for external blockages such as birds’ nests, mortar and other materials dislodge from chimney walls. This 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.

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 at BBB.org

Obtain at least two estimates for the work. All bids should be in writing and should give a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used.

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