Having a heat source for the winter is actually one of the best things in the world. If you do not believe it, go home on a particularly cold night, and delay getting your heater started for a few minutes. The sense of gratitude that fills your entire being when heat finally permeates the whole house is enough to never underrate the effect of your heater ever again. This is also the reason why you should take proper care of your heaters, whether they are gas or wood powered. When operating at optimum, wood heaters look good when in full roar. They are also a great source of wholesome warmth, especially if you are burning hardwood.
Before you run any sort of maintenance on wood fireplaces however, you have to make sure that it is off and that the fireplace is completely cool. This is important to prevent injury when cleaning. No one wants a bad burn from a hot fireplace!
Here are some of the normal servicing tips that will do wonders for your wood heater this winter:
Clean the fireplace
A clean utility is one that works well. It is also easier to notice any defects with your heater when it is clean, since everything is visible and easy to reach. The first step is to remove all the debris and ash from the fireplace. This can be done using a normal household cleaning wire brush and metal dustpan, or using specialised firebox cleaning products such as an ash vacuum cleaner. Another reason why we clean ash and debris from the fireplace is to avoid an accident that might occur when embers spill over onto the floor. It also makes it easier to load wood when the fireplace has been cleaned.
To prevent any possible fires in the home, you should put away the ashes in a sealed metal container, and avoid all contact with flammable materials until you are sure that all the embers have gone off. When cleaning, you should also pay attention to the viewing glass and the screen. This is cleaned using normal household cleaning supplies.
After you are done cleaning the entire heater, you should then make the effort to clean around it. If it is a free standing fireplace, make sure you remove anything that might catch fire should embers land on it. This includes paper, plastic, and carpeting.
Go over the flue and door seal
The flue will over time and with regular use be coated with soot and creosote, especially if at any time you used wood that is not completely dry. This build up leaves your hearth in danger of catching a chimney fire which is very destructive. This is when left over soot and creosote catch fire in the process of the heater being in use. To avoid such an occurrence, it is advised that you retain the services of a professional chimney sweep at least once a year. This is because a professional sweep has the proper equipment including masks to prevent him from inhaling the harmful elements in the flue system.
The optimum is about 3 times a year, or when the creosote is about 1/8 inch thick, especially at the end of the winter season. It should however be completed before the summer gets here, since the humidity in the air could combine with the creosote to form acids which have a very pungent smell, and could even damage your flue.
Before cleaning the flue however, you should run a smoke exercise to check for any gaps in the door seal. This means you burn something that smokes properly like slightly wet wood; if the smoke all goes up the flue, your door seal is functioning properly. Should any smoke leak into the home, your door seal may require changing.
After cleaning both the flue and the firebox, you should then carry out the routine maintenance on your wood heater. This includes repainting areas on the fireplace where the paint may have chipped. As usual, when dealing with surfaces that interact with fire, you should avoid using oil based paint, since this is highly flammable, and can be a fire hazard. Any areas that have contracted rust should also be cleaned with rust neutraliser and then painted over when this is done.
Replace damaged parts
There are certain parts in the firebox that wear out and break. These however require an expert technician to replace. These include the door seal, the firebricks, the baffle, the air bars, and the door hinges. To find out if anything is broken, you should have the technician go over your heater once a year to pinpoint any possible breakages. The repair and replacement of all these should happen before the winter gets here, to allow you to use your fireplace for its intended purpose.