Efficient chimneys that are well-constructed and designed provide a way for smoke and other combustible products to escape. They also allow a vacuum to draw air down into the chamber to ensure that the fuel burns well.
Maintaining your chimney properly is necessary for it to draw in the most efficient manner. Thoroughly cleaning the chimney is crucial to its ability to draw and produce heat well.
- Check to ensure your damper opens fully. Over time soot builds up behind the soot shelf and does not allow the damper to open properly. Water damage also causes this problem. Hire a professional to clean it if the damper won't open correctly.
- Store your firewood in an area where it stays dry. Heat rises and green or wet firewood does not heat properly to enable the chimney to draw efficiently. This causes smoke to enter your home also.
- Hire a chimney sweep to clean your chimney once a year or more often if you have problems. Even a 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch buildup of soot prevents the chimney from drawing the amount of air into the chamber necessary to enable it to work well. The professional not only cleans the entire chimney, he also removes leaves, bird's nests, twigs and even small animals.
- Observe weather conditions when the chimney sends smoke into your home. Chimneys that are too short often cause smoke to infiltrate your home on windy days. The chimney height must be at least 10 to 12 feet tall overall. It must extend at least 3 feet from your roof and 2 feet higher than surroundings trees or other objects within 10 feet to work adequately, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
- Stoke the fire when necessary to keep the flames burning actively, particularly if the chimney is located on the outside of your house. A cold chimney does not draw as well as a heated one.
- Open a window an inch or two to allow extra air into the room with the fireplace, especially if your home is well-insulated and tight. Do this on the windward side of the room if possible. Fires require large volumes of air to burn well. If the fire is sluggish and smoky, this may indicate that your home is simply too tight.
The best time to have your chimney professionally cleaned is after the burning season is over in the spring months, according to the Chimney Doctors website. This prevents a soot odor from entering your home during the hot, humid summer. The professional checks to ensure that the chimney cap is on securely, thus preventing nesting of chimney swifts.