Tag Archives: Carbon Monoxide Detector

50 Tips For Enjoying Your Fireplace

There’s nothing better than a warm fireplace on a cold evening. If you haven’t got one yet you are most definitely missing out!  Here are 50 quick and simple tips that will help you safely enjoy that cozy fire even more.


1. For an open fireplace, the glass doors must be in a fully open position. Once the fire has died out, close the glass doors before you go to bed at night.

2. Always make sure that the fire screen in front of the fireplace is closed when the fireplace is in use. Even when the fireplace is not in use, keep the fire screen closed to discourage pets from going into the firebox. (Cats have been known to use the fireplace as a litter box.)

3. Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended, especially when children and pets are present.

Carbon monoxide detector4. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, especially close to the fireplace as well as near bedrooms and in the kitchen. Make sure to test them at least twice a year.

5. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, homes should have a minimum of two 5 lb ABC fire extinguishers. There should be one fire extinguisher per floor of a house and the fire extinguishers should be visible and accessible. A fire extinguisher should be close at hand when the fireplace is in use.

6. Never use kerosene, lighter fluid or gasoline to start your fire.

7. Keep combustible materials (like knickknacks, newspapers, firewood and Christmas trees) away from the firebox opening. This includes items hung from the mantel, like Christmas stockings and garland.

8. Inspect your landscaping near the chimney. Trees and vines should be kept a minimum of 10 feet away from the top of the chimney.


9. Be sure your firewood is aged and kept dry from the rain or snow.

Pile of firewood10. Hardwoods should be aged a minimum of one year while softwoods should be aged a minimum of six months. The moisture in firewood should be between 15%-20%. Aged and dried wood will provide you with more efficient fires, fewer smoking problems, and less flammable creosote build-up in the chimney.

11. Do not burn construction scraps or wood that have been chemically treated, such as plywood, paneling or particleboard. In addition, don’t burn paper with colored ink, cardboard, Christmas wrapping paper, plastics, fabrics made from synthetic materials, or junk mail. The chemicals can be toxic when burned.

12. To easily start a fire, use fat wood or fire starters if you don’t have a log lighter.

13. Buy your wood in the spring or summer to allow it to dry out before the burning season.

14. A cord of wood is 4 feet x 4 feet x 8 feet. A rick of wood is one third the volume of a cord of wood. A truck-load of wood would be dependent on the size of the truck bed and is not an easy way to determine how much wood you’re actually buying. A truck-load could mean anything from a short-bed pick-up truck holding 1/5 cord to a pulpwood truck that can hold four cords.

15. A cord of wood is a legal unit of measure. If you buy a cord of wood, have the wood cut to burning length, split and stacked and not just dumped in your driveway. Although you may pay more, you will know for certain that you weren’t cheated and that the wood will be aged in time for the burning season.

16. Stack wood on top of a pallet instead of directly on the ground to avoid pests and mold in your firewood.

Duraflame log and firestarter17. If you’re burning artificial fire logs (like Duraflame), do not place wood on top or below the artificial fire log.

18. Never poke or break open an artificial fire log while it’s burning.

19. Only burn one artificial fire log at a time.

20. Do not cook food over artificial fire logs because of the chemicals in this product.

21. Never burn artificial fire logs in free-standing stoves or stove inserts.


22. During cold weather, always prime your flue before lighting your fire to prevent smoking problems, especially if you commonly have a smoking problem at the beginning of a fire.

23. Airtight homes are more prone to smoking problems. This is especially true in newer homes or homes that have been retrofitted with new windows. If this is the case, crack open a window close to the fireplace.

24. Avoid having the heater/furnace or air conditioning on at the same time as the fireplace especially if the air intake register for the furnace is close to or in the same room as the fireplace. During a fire, you may lose the draw on the fireplace because the furnace can pull smoke and gases down the chimney and back into the living area.

25. Always use a fire grate in the fireplace. This allows airflow under the fire to help in the combustion process and will give you a better fire.

26. Place your firewood on the fire grate close to the back wall to prevent smoking problems.


27. Always check to make sure your damper is fully open before you light the fire.

28. Do you always forget which way your damper is open? Put a note on the underside of your mantel that says which way the damper is open. If you don’t remember which way the damper opens, you’ll remember where to look to find out!

29. Close your damper when you’re not using your fireplace so you won’t lose heat during the winter and air conditioning during the summer. An open damper is like having an open window.

30. If your existing damper is broken or non-existent, and if you burn wood, consider installing a top sealing damper to prevent heat loss from the home.

31. If you have gas logs in an open fireplace, the damper must be locked in a fully open position.


32. You don’t have to clean out the fireplace after every use. In fact, a healthy bed of ashes below the grate can actually be beneficial. Once the ashes reach the bottom of the grate, the ashes should be spread out or removed since it’s important to have good airflow from under the grate.

33. Wait at least 72 hours after your last fire before cleaning out the ashes in your firebox.

34. When you’re cleaning out the ash and debris from the fireplace, spread slightly damp, used coffee grounds over the ashes before you clean it out. It’ll prevent the ash from becoming airborne and make it easier to clean out.

35. Wear a mask while cleaning out the firebox to avoid breathing fly-away soot and ash.

36. Don’t use your home vacuum cleaner to vacuum the ashes from your fireplace. You stand the chance of ruining your vacuum cleaner. Also, household vacuum cleaners and shop vacs don’t have good enough filters so you run the risk of “dusting” your living room.  Instead, use a small whisk broom and dustpan to remove the ashes from the fireplace.

37. Place ashes in a metal can with a lid. Make sure the can is not placed on a wood deck or patio afterward.

38. If you have artificial gas logs, it’s common to have a light sooting on the logs where the flames lick up over the logs. This is not a safety issue and is totally natural. Simply use a soft bristle brush (like a paintbrush) to dust off the soot. Never wash or scrub the artificial gas logs or you will remove the paint from the logs.

39. Don’t throw away used ashes. They have many beneficial uses, such as: providing necessary nutrients to gardens, composting, insect deterrents (snails and slugs), de-skunking a pet, shining your silver, controlling pond algae, melting ice, and even making soap.


black chimney cap40. A chimney cap serves three main purposes: 1) will prevent embers from landing on your roof, your neighbor’s roof, your solar panels, your car and your landscaping ; 2) will prevent birds and other critters from entering your home through the chimney; and 3) can prevent water intrusion into your chimney which will deteriorate your chimney prematurely and will also extend the life of your damper.

41. If your home is located off of a canyon or hillside, your chimney may be more prone to smoking problems. A specially-designed windcap can minimize smoking problems in this case.


42. Pre-fab fireplaces, typically in condos and homes built after the 1980s, are intended more for ambiance and romance than for heat. In this type of fireplace, you should not have a fire any larger than what you would get if you are burning one artificial fire log, like Duraflame. Having large or overly hot fires in pre-fab fireplaces may cause damage to the fragile refractory panels inside the firebox and those panels are expensive to replace.

43. Consider a heat shield or fireback to protect the backwall of your fireplace. It will extend the life of the firebox.

44. Odor problems, or as I like to say “stinky chimneys,” can be caused by smoking problems, animals in the chimney, a dirty chimney, the type of fuel you’re burning (especially wood that is wet or not aged), the pressurization in your home, or rainwater in your chimney.

45. Reconsider mounting a TV above your fireplace. Heat and dust particulates aren’t good for electronics and doing this may void the TV manufacturer’s warranty.

46. If you’re buying a new home, have your chimney inspected by a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep during the inspection period. If you have just bought a home, have the chimney inspected before using it for the first time. You never know what or how much the previous owner burned.

47. If you have a masonry chimney and you live in a region with a lot of rain or snow, consider weather sealing the masonry to prevent spalling and deterioration of the bricks and to avoid expensive masonry repairs later on.

48. Only use a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep to inspect or sweep your chimney. To find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, go to the website for the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

49. According to the National Fire Protection Association, chimneys should be inspected on an annual basis and swept if necessary.

50. To save money, do this important maintenance in the spring and summer when the rates are the lowest and when the schedule is less impacted.

Fireplaces are the best part of winter. Following these simple hints will give you the most enjoyment from a cozy fire.

10 Signs That You Need a Dryer Vent Cleaning

Woman looking at clothes in dryerThere’s nothing more annoying for a homeowner than when the clothes dryer stops working. Laundry comes to a complete standstill and there’s no place to put the basket full of sopping wet clothes. In this case, most homeowners automatically think there’s a problem with the dryer itself and so they call the appliance repair company. After several days waiting for the repairman to show up, he takes five minutes to determine that there’s nothing wrong with the dryer at all. The dryer vent is clogged.   So now the homeowner has paid for a totally unnecessary expense for an appliance repair. As a Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician, I hear this story almost daily from frustrated homeowners who just want to get their laundry done.

Another even worse scenario that we see too often:  When your dryer takes too long to dry, you automatically think that the problem is with the dryer.  Since the dryer is a few years old, you spend the big bucks to buy a new dryer.  The new dryer is installed and, once again, takes too long to dry.  You come to the frustrating realization that you just spent unnecessary money on a new dryer while throwing away a perfectly functional dryer.  The dryer vent was the problem, not the dryer.

 So how do you tell if your dryer vent is clogged?

1)  Your clothing takes too long to dry. It should not take any longer than 45 minutes to dry an average load of laundry.

2)  The Exhaust Termination (also referred to as a “Flapper,” “Wall Cap Termination” or “Roof Termination”) where the dryer exhausts to the outside doesn’t open when the dryer is on.

3)  The dryer seems to be overly hot to the touch when the dryer is on.  Also, the laundry room feels like a sauna when the dryer is on.

Carbon monoxide detector4)  In the case of a gas dryer, the carbon monoxide detector in the laundry room sounds its obnoxious alarm. Blocked or plugged up dryer vents may allow the carbon monoxide to back up into the home since the gases cannot exhaust properly. It is highly recommended to install a carbon monoxide detector in the laundry room when you have a gas dryer.

5)  More lint than normal appears around the dryer and in the laundry room.

6)  On more sophisticated dryers, the electronic read-out will indicate that there’s an issue with the dryer vent or lint screen.

7)  You notice a burning smell when the dryer is on. This is a sign of a dryer fire inside the dryer. According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2010-2014, the U.S. fire departments estimated that there were 15,970 fires involving washers and clothes dryers, resulting in 13 deaths, 440 injuries and $230 million in property damage.  The large majority of these fires were due to clothes dryers.

8)  The screen that surrounds the dryer exhaust termination is plugged up. Clogged dryer vent exhaustAlthough the screens are useful for keeping out rodents, the screens are actually against code because they tend to plug up with lint.

9)  Your clothes develop a musty or moldy smell.

10)  Your dryer stops working. If the dryer doesn’t vent properly, the dryer overheats and will damage expensive parts in the dryer in which case you will need an appliance repairman to fix the dryer after the dryer vent cleaning.

What NOT To Do With A Dryer Vent

Some DIY’ers choose to purchase a Dryer Vent Cleaning Kit from one of the big box home improvement stores.  However, because these kits are intended for dryer vent systems less than ten feet long and most homes have dryer vents far longer, using these kits actually creates a blockage, making it more difficult for a professional to remove the blockage.

Who do you call to clean a dryer vent?

Most appliance repair companies don’t touch dryer vents and most dryer vent professionals don’t fix dryers. To find a qualified Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician in your area, go to Chimney Safety Institute of America and look for a C-Det Certified Dryer Technician. Make sure that the technician uses a brushing method to scrub the vent clean and not just air pressure or vacuums which just removes the loose lint.


After the dryer vent is cleaned, you’ll be happy to get back to doing your laundry in no time!



Dryer in laundry room

18 Important Tips for Dryer Vents

Clothes dryer with basket of clothes on top of dryer

Many homeowners don’t realize just how potentially dangerous it is to do laundry. According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2010 to 2014, there were an estimated 15,970 fires due to washers and dryers in the United States each year. Interestingly, the innocent-looking clothes dryer accounted for 92% of those fires.

These fires resulted in 13 civilian deaths, 440 civilian injuries and $238 million in property damage.

With over 20 years of experience as only one of two women Certified Dryer Exhaust Technicians in California, I know the importance of safety as it relates to dryer vents. Here are important safety-related “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to reduce the chance of dryer fires

Nine Important “Do’s” for Dryer Vents

1) When installing a new dryer, always install a new connector hose between the dryer and the wall. This hose should be a metal connector hose, either rigid or Connector hose between dryer and wallflexible. If your connector hose is white plastic or vinyl, replace it immediately since those are potential fire hazards. In the case of a flexible hose, the hose should only be long enough to go between the dryer and the wall with a little slack so that if you pull out the dryer, the hose still stays connected to the wall. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends that this connector hose never be longer than eight feet. For tight spaces behind the dryer, here is a link for options for dryer vent hoses.

2) Always clean out the lint screen before each load. Never use your dryer without the lint screen installed.

3) Using dryer sheets or dryer pads may leave a chemical film on your lint screen, which makes your dryer harder to “breathe.” If you use these products, clean your lint screen using water, liquid soap and a toothbrush every few months.

4) Keep combustible and volatile materials away from your dryer.  Paper products like toilet paper and paper towels should not be stored too close to the dryer.  In addition, flammable or volatile chemicals such as alcohol, gasoline, motor oil, finishing oils and stains, spot removers, solvents, cleaning agents and cooking oils should not be stored in the laundry room. These chemicals are not only flammable but they can also give off toxic vapors and odors.

5) Always check pockets before you do your laundry. Paper products such as receipts, note paper, or cocktail napkins will get past the lint screen and land inside the dryer under the drum where the paper becomes a fire hazard. Dryer sheets or dryer pads can also get into the vent. Sometimes this paper, along with lint which you have no control over, will get passed from the dryer into the dryer vent where it mixes with moisture from drying your clothes and becomes paper mache inside the vent pipe. This will clog up the vent, creating a potential fire hazard for your dryer.

6) Just because the dryer venting system is clean, doesn’t mean you never have to worry about dryer fires. The lint and paper accumulation inside the dryer under the drum is the fuel that creates the dryer fires. Contact an appliance repair company to periodically have the lint and paper accumulation cleaned out from the body of the dryer, under the drum.

7) Due to the high incidence of dryer fires, an ABC-type fire extinguisher located close to the dryer is highly recommended in a visible and accessible location.

8) In addition to the fire hazard associated with dryer fires, there’s also the issue of carbon monoxide poisoning. Blocked or plugged up dryer vents for gas dryers may allow carbon monoxide to back up into the home. It is highly recommended to install a carbon monoxide detector close to the dryer when you have a gas dryer.

9) Have the dryer vents professionally brushed out on a regular basis. Professionals vary as to the frequency for cleaning out the dryer vents but the CSIA recommends that the dryer vent be checked on an annual basis. Of course, your laundry habits as well as how the dryer venting system is routed will be contributing factors in the frequency of the dryer vent cleaning. To find a qualified Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician in your area, go to www.csia.org. Make sure that the technician uses a brushing method to scrub the vent clean.

Many companies will only use vacuums or air pressure which will simply remove the loose accumulation from the dryer vent which is a waste of your time and money. A professional Dryer Exhaust Technician will also use a Magnehelic Gage or Vane Anemometer to measure the air flow of the dryer vent system after the dryer vent cleaning.

Nine Important “Don’ts” for Dryer Vents

1) Don’t push the dryer too close to the wall behind the clothes dryer. The connector hose should not be kinked or crushed which will reduce air flow. Not only will this create more lint in the dryer but your dryer will run hotter than it needs to, setting you up for a dangerous dryer fire.

2) Don’t close the door to the laundry room or laundry closet when your dryer is on. According to the Uniform Mechanical Code, a dryer needs 100 square inches of “make-up air,” the equivalent of a 10″x10″ window. Without this make-up air, the dryer will run harder and hotter than it needs to. This isn’t good for the dryer and it’s not safe for you.

3) Don’t use the exhaust fan in your laundry room if the dryer is on. The exhaust fan pulls air out of the room, which makes your dryer harder to bring in the make-up air that it needs.

4) Never dry clothes that have flammable or volatile chemicals on them. Instead, dry these clothes outside.

5) Don’t overload your dryer. It makes your dryer run harder and hotter than it needs to. This will create extra wear-and-tear on your dryer as well as expensive dryer repairs, and it will reduce the lifespan of your dryer.

6) Your dryer brings in make-up air from underneath and in front of your dryer. Don’t block this area with baskets of laundry. There should be a minimum of 18″ of open area in front of your dryer.

7) Never dry rubber-backed rugs or bathroom mats or other items with foam, plastic or vinyl materials. Not only does this potentially create a fire hazard, but it’ll ruin the items due to the high heat.

8) Dryers must always vent to the exterior of the house and never into enclosed areas like garages, attics, or crawl spaces.  Never use the indoor dryer vent box kits purchased from the big box stores. These are not to code and can be especially dangerous if you’re venting a gas dryer.

9) Lastly and most importantly, NEVER run your dryer if you’re not at home or if you’re asleep.  I receive several phone calls a month from people whose dryer caught on fire.  You want to be home AND awake in case it does.

Following these tips will reduce the chance of dangerous dryer fires and will keep you worry-free while doing your laundry!