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Jack Pixley Sweeps' Blog

Dryer Vent Cleaning: It’s More than Blowing Out the Vent

Most homeowners believe dryer maintenance is as easy as cleaning out the lint trap after use. Unfortunately, this only solves part of the problem; dryer vent cleaning by a certified professional is often the best way to ensure your dryer can run safely and efficiently for years to come. At Jack Pixley Sweeps, we specialize in dryer vent cleaning – and it is more than simply blowing out the vents.

The Danger of Clogged Dryer VentsDryer Vent Cleaning It's More than Blowing Out the Vent Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

Clogged dryer vents affect our dryers in two significant ways: they decrease efficiency and increase the risk of dryer fires.
As you use your dryer, the same lint that accumulates in the lint trap can escape into the dryer vents. In small amounts the lint is relatively harmless; however, buildup over time can constrict airflow to the dryer. As a result, the dryer is forced to work harder, producing hotter and hotter air. This super heated air can ignite when combined with the highly flammable lint buildup in the vents, leading to a dryer fire.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are more than 15,000 house fires caused by clogged dryer vents each year. These fires result in millions of dollars in property damages and losses – as well as unnecessarily put families at risk.

Clogged dryer vents also decrease the efficiency of the dryer. Many homeowners are shocked at how well their dryers work after simply having the vents cleaned. Getting the dryer vents professionally cleaned is often a good first step when a dryer begins losing efficiency.

Why Professional Dryer Vent Cleaning Matters

While some find it odd that a chimney sweep company also cleans dryer vents, the two are surprisingly related. Just like a chimney sweeping dryer vent cleaning requires specialized tools, trained professionals, and a thorough knowledge of building dynamics in order to be done correctly.

Professional dryer vent cleaning is about more than blowing out the contents of the dryer vents onto your lawn. Many modern vent systems include bends, twists, turns, and tight spaces that older homes did not have; because of this, rotary and vacuum systems should be used to ensure a thorough clean and prevent debris from getting left behind.

Is it Time to Clean My Dryer Vents?

Many homeowners struggle with when it is time to have their dryer vents cleaned. However, your dryer may already be telling you the vents need to be cleaned. The following are six signs its time to schedule a dryer vent cleaning.

  • Clothes take longer than one full cycle to dry
  • The drying time for a regular load is longer than 45 minutes
  • The laundry room is excessively hot when the dryer is in use
  • Progressively larger amounts of lint are found in the lint trap
  • The inside of the dryer or clothes fresh out of the dryer have a musty odor
  • Lint or debris can be seen on the exterior dryer vent

Dryer vent cleaning is about more than blowing out the lines; trust your family’s safety – and the longevity of your dryer – to a trained professional. To schedule your next dryer vent cleaning contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today.

Chimney Sweeping In The Summer

As temperatures soar and the sun seems to stay up forever, few homeowners would ever consider using their fireplaces in the summer. Instead of letting your chimney sit idle, however, think about having your chimney swept in the summer.

There are a number of benefits to summer chimney sweeping that cannot be found in any other season. From convenient appointments to no lag in fireplace usability, now is the best time to have your fireplace swept!

The Importance of Annual Maintenance Chimney Sweeping In The Summer Image - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

Chimney systems are like any other home appliance; in order to keep working its best, it needs regularly scheduled maintenance. For your fireplace, this means an annual chimney sweeping and inspection. The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that all homes have their chimney swept and inspected at least once per year.

“A chimney inspection is like an annual dental check-up,” says Ashley Eldridge, Director of Education for the CSIA. “It’s preventative maintenance that helps minimize potential hazards.”

Chimney sweepings ensure your fireplace and flue are clean, free from blockages and debris, and are safe to use throughout the burning season. Having these annual maintenance items accomplished during the summer allows you to use your fireplace system worry free all winter long.

Summer – The Best Season to have Your Chimney Swept

After a long winter season of burning, few homeowners think about their fireplaces during the warm months of summer. Be prepared for the first cold snap of fall, however, by having your chimney swept now. The following are three reasons to schedule your chimney sweeping this summer.

  1. More convenient appointments. Summer is considered the low season for many chimney sweeps. Because of this, it is often easy to get the right appointment time for your schedule – and to schedule it sooner rather than later. Instead of waiting for weeks and rearranging your schedule to be home for the chimney sweep, summer often gives homeowners the opportunity to find the most convenient appointment.
  2. Remove harmful buildup. Soot, ash, and flammable creosote build up in the hearth and flue during the burning season. Removing them over the summer can help your fireplace burn more safely and efficiently; the creosote removal during a chimney sweeping can also help reduce your risk of chimney fire.
  3. Be ready for fall. Be ready to use your fireplace on the first cold day fall has to offer by having the chimney swept now. This ensures there are no harmful blockages or dangerous buildup, and you can use your fireplace as soon as you want to – not as soon as you can wait for an appointment.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

While we are in the middle of the dog days of summer fall is just around the corner. Ensure your fireplace is ready for the upcoming burning season by scheduling your next chimney sweeping as soon as possible. For more information on the importance of annual maintenance or to schedule your chimney sweeping, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

Mud Dauber Wasps And Your Chimney

Summer is the season of flourishing plants and animals – and insects. Bugs run the gamut from minor annoyances to major pests, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between good bugs and their more malicious counterparts.

Mud Dauber Wasps And Your Chimney - Minneapolis MN - Jack PixleyOne insect that often suffers from a bad reputation is the mud dauber wasp. Although significantly less aggressive than other members of the wasp and hornet family, their penchant for building nests on the sides of man-made buildings – and chimneys – often bring mud daubers to the attention of both homeowners and chimney sweeps.

All about mud dauber wasps

Mud dauber wasps are solitary, rarely sting, and are known for eating other insects. Long and lean, these yellow and black wasps can be found throughout the United States. Mud dauber wasps get their name in part for their unique behavior around water. They are often seen around the edges of ponds and mud puddles collecting the mud needed to build their nests.

Mud dauber wasps are not known for being aggressive and rarely sting. They prey on spiders, collecting the insects and depositing them in their nests. The lack of aggressive behavior coupled with their ability to control spiders and insects make mud dauber wasps less of a nuisance than most other wasps and hornets.

Mud dauber wasps and chimneys

Mud dauber wasps prefer to build their unique nests on the sides of man-made structures. These rounded, tube-like nests are only home to one solitary mud dauber wasp. The females create the nests by carrying mud on their back before forming it into the easily recognizable nest shape. Mud dauber nests appear either individually or in rows. While rows of nests may look like the home of a swarm, it is all the work of one solitary wasp.

Mud dauber nests are often found on the outside of chimneys in the summer. While these little mud nests are not known for damaging the underlying masonry, they should still be removed with caution. There are several ways to remove mud dauber nests. The easiest method for nest removal is to simply hit it with a broom; the mud nest should easily fall away. If this does not work or the nest is not easily accessible, a metal scraper tool can be used to remove the nest.

Alos, caution should be taken to not damage the underlying masonry. While small amounts of water can help remove residue from the chimney it is not recommended to power wash the areas where nests are present; the pressure from power washers can significantly damage masonry.

Homeowners and those allergic to wasp, hornet, or bee stings should take caution when attempting to remove mud dauber nests. While they do not display aggressive tendencies – even when their homes are being removed – mud daubers do sting and can sting multiple times without dying.

Call Jack Pixley

If you see mud dauber wasps building a nest on your chimney or home this summer, don’t panic. These gentle insects control pests, and their nests can be easily removed. For more information on mud dauber wasps and how they can affect your chimney system, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today.

Garden Time! Recycle Your Ashes!

Homeowners with wood-burning heating appliances are often unsure of what to do with their excess ashes after a long burning season. In fact, burning a cord of wood can produce as much as 50 pounds of ash! Instead of throwing ashes away, consider recycling them in your garden!

While many homeowners consider ashes a necessary nuisance, they have a number of surprising alternative uses. In the spring and summer, this mineral rich substance can be used to keep your garden lush, green, and beautiful. The following are just a few of the ways that you can recycle your ashes.

Recycling AshesGarden Time Ashes Image - Minneapolis, MN - Jack Pixley Sweeps

  1. Block snails and slugs. Instead of using insecticides to keep pests away, reach for your fireplace ashes! Sprinkling ashes around the edge of a flower bed or garden plot keep pests such as slugs and snails away by creating a natural barrier. Refresh the ash barrier several times throughout the season.
  2. Add alkalinity to the soil. Because they are naturally alkaline, adding ashes to soil can change the pH. Mixing in a few ashes with potting or gardening soil can create a more alkaline environment, ideal for many flowering and ornamental plants.
  3. Reduce pond algae. If you have a water feature such as a fountain or pond, fighting against algae can be difficult. Ashes can be used as a natural alternative to harsh chemicals to keep pond algae away, making them ideal for homes with pets or small children who may come in contact with the water. Only a small amount is needed; adding as little as one tablespoon per 1,000 gallons of water adds enough potassium to control algae growth.

Storing Ashes

No matter how you plan on using your ashes, it is important that they are stored correctly. First, a special metal ash container with a handle that does not sit directly on the ground should be used. This is important because “Wood ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days”. Ash containers should be placed away from other combustible materials to prevent accidental fires. If you have more ashes than you could ever use in alternate ways, check with your local sanitation company on the guidelines for safely disposing of ashes.

It is important to note that ashes from treated wood and other commercial wood products should not be used in gardening or other alternative uses; this is due to the chemical compounds in the wood that can remain even after burning. If you use commercial wood products such as fire starting logs, keep those ashes separate from those where only wood was burned. Likewise, check with the individual manufacturer to see if the ashes are safe for use in the garden.

There are a number of alternates – and surprising – uses for your remaining wood ashes. Help naturally improve your garden by recycling your ashes outside this summer! For more information on alternate ways to use your wood ashes, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today.

What Is A Cord Of Firewood?

While it’s warm and sunny now, cooler weather will be here before we know it. Summer is the perfect time to start thinking about firewood for the fall.

What Is A Cord Of Firewood img - Minneapolis MN - Jack Pixley SweepsHow much wood you purchase can depend on a number of factors, such as how often you use your fireplace, the number of wood burning appliances in your home, the availability of firewood in your area, if the fireplace is a primary heat source, and more. Many homeowners, however, are surprised to learn how they can benefit from buying a cord of wood.

What is a cord of firewood?

When sold in large quantities, wood is typically sold by the cord. However, many people are unfamiliar with how large – or small – a cord of wood is. Unfortunately, many wood dealers capitalize on this confusion by cutting corners and underselling on cords of wood. The following measurements of the different cords of wood can help buyers ensure they are getting the correct amount of wood in their cord.

  • Standard cord: Also known as a full or bush cord. 4’H X 8’L X 4’ Deep, 128 cubic feet
  • Face cord: Also known as a rick or short cord. 4’H X 8’L X 1’-2’ Deep
  • Long cord: 4’H X 8’L with a depth greater than 4’
  • Unit: 1/24th of a standard cord; can fit in the trunk of most cars. 2’H X 2’L X 16” Deep

When buying wood, especially in quantities of a cord or larger, it is important to ensure you are getting wood that has been seasoned. Seasoned wood has been cut, stacked, and stored for at least six months or longer to reduce the moisture content in the wood.

Additional tips for buying firewood

The following tips can help ensure you are getting the best possible firewood.

  1. Find a reputable dealer. There are a number of places to find firewood; hardware stores, fireplace dealers, tree trimmers, and independent sellers are just a number of places to find firewood. A reputable seller should be able to answer questions about the wood, such as when it was cut, what type of trees it came from, and how long it has been seasoned.
  2. Pick the right wood. While the type of wood you use often comes down to personal preference, not all woods were created equally. Hard woods such as ash, maple, and oak burn at hotter temperatures and with less smoke, making them ideal for indoor fires.
  3. Store your firewood correctly. After spending – and money!- finding the right firewood, don’t ruin your investment by storing it incorrectly. Wood should be stored off the ground in a neat stack; while the top should be covered to prevent moisture from seeping into the wood pile, leave the sides open for ventilation.

Finding and buying the right amount of firewood can ensure you and your family enjoy cost effective fires all season long. For more information on firewood cords, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today.

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