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Summer Time Chore - Check Your Furnace Chimney

With record-breaking heat waves baking much of the country, it seems like an odd time to be thinking about your furnace or it's chimney, but this is the season to get your furnace chimney checked by a qualified chimney sweep or furnace maintenance company. Failing to do so could cause carbon monoxide poisoning problems in a few short months when the weather turns chilly again.

Why is that?

In the spring many creatures large and small make their homes in fireplace and furnace flues, to nest or have their young in the relative comfort of the cool, quiet, and dark "cave" that is open on the roofs of many homes across the country. These creatures like birds, squirrels, raccoons and bats can bring a mess of nesting materials with them, or create a mess of droppings left behind, potentially clogging the chimney either at the top (with a bird nest) or at the bottom (near the thimble where your furnace connects).

What happens during the summer is that the young have grown, left the chimney, and left behind a potentially deadly situation for the people living in the home.

That nesting material, along with any other mess left behind, can reduce the ability of your chimney to exhaust the deadly carbon monoxide fumes generated from your furnace or non-electric water-heater. (Hint: If your furnace or water-heater uses fuel like natural gas, propane, or oil - then it creates carbon monoxide.)

If the chimney flue is partially blocked, then the odorless but dangerous carbon monoxide can escape into the home. In the worst-cases, the mess left behind may actually block the chimney completely, causing all of the carbon monoxide to dump into the home, possibly building to concentrations high enough to cause death.

So what to do?

The best advice is to call a qualified chimney sweep or furnace technician to check your chimney and clear it of any obstructions that may be there. Summer time is typically "slow season" for most professional chimney sweeps, and some offer discounts or more flexible scheduling this time of year. If there are any repairs needed to your chimney, you'll have plenty of time to get those done before the colder weather rolls in.

Averting Tragedy

Every fall, with the night of the first cold snap you'll hear news of another family that has one or more of it's family members perish in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning. More often than not, you'll read that a stuffed up chimney was to blame.

The real tragedy is that all of these deaths can be prevented if the family had the chimney checked and/or installed carbon monoxide detectors near the sleeping and living areas within the house. Summer is a great time to install a few carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommend a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, including the basement. A detector should be located within 10 feet of each bedroom door and there should be one near or over any attached garage. Each detector should be replaced every five to six years.

So take some time out from the sunshine, and get your chimney checkup - replace the batteries in your fire alarms - and outfit your home with a few carbon monoxide detectors as inexpensive insurance against a senseless tragedy.

For more information:
For much more information about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and what you can do to protect your family, review the resources at the Carbon Monoxide Alert.

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