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Home Safety For The Cold Weather Months

While the winter season brings plenty of holidays, parties, and get togethers with family and friends, it also means shorter days, less sunshine, and colder temperatures. While we can keep our houses warm and toasty all winter long thanks to fireplaces, furnaces, and more, there is an increased risk of house fire when heating your home.

Christmas trees, overloading outlets, not cleaning dryer vents, or failing to replace air filters can all lead to accidental house fires during the winter. The following tips can help you prevent and avoid safety issues related to heating around your home this winter.

Safety Tips to Avoid House FiresHome safety tips for colder weather

– Clean the dryer vents. The same lint that appears in your dryer’s lint trap can build up in the dryer’s vents. Over time, this can constrict air flow in the vents, affecting dryer performance and increasing the risk of dryer fire. Because lint is so flammable, overheated air from a dryer trying to compensate for blocked vents can cause an accidental fire. Dryer vents should be cleaned every few years or any time dry times or dryer performance begins to be affected.

– Have the chimney swept. Fall and winter are the most common seasons for fireplace use – and the most common seasons for chimney fires. Ensure your fireplace is ready to use in cold weather by having the chimney swept. Annual chimney sweepings remove soot, ash, and debris from the fireplace, as well as a flammable byproduct of combustion known as creosote. When allowed to build up over time in the flue, creosote can be ignited by a stray spark or ember and cause a chimney fire.

– Avoid overloading outlets. Of the approximately 5,300 annual electrical home fires, around 2,000 occur during the holiday season. With holiday decorations to plug in plus lamps, electronics, chargers, fans, and more, it can be easy to accidentally overload an outlet. Avoid overloading outlets by researching the circuits in your home; avoid running too many things on a single circuit by using extension cords, power strips, or additional plugs sparingly.

– Use space heaters with caution. Space heaters are a helpful way to quickly heat a room or provide additional warmth on particularly cold days. These heating appliances should be used with caution, however; make sure to research the specifics of your make and model to understand how to safely use it. As a general rule, electric space heaters are safer than their fuel burning counterparts. Before buying, look for space heaters with additional safety features such as tip over switch or touch sensors. If using a fuel burning space heater, try to crack a window in the room to prevent low oxygen levels and to help vent any byproducts of combustion.

– Check smoke detectors. Accidental house fires can happen year round. Make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly by testing and changing the batteries every six months; a good rule of thumb is to test your smoke detectors at the same time you change your air filters. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should also be replaced every 7-10 years to ensure they are up to date with the latest safety standards and technology.

Preventative maintenance, common sense, and a few easy to follow steps can help keep you and your family safe around heating appliances this winter. For more information on fire prevention tips or to schedule a chimney sweeping or dryer vent cleaning appointment, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

What Does It Mean To Be Scaffolding Set Up Certified?

Scaffolding isn’t just used for major construction projects; many chimney repairs require scaffolding too. However, only a few chimney companies are certified to set up scaffolding. This means that scaffolding set up is an added expense and a time delay to your chimney repair. At Jack Pixley Sweeps, our team is trained and certified to set up scaffolding. This will help you to save thousands of dollars while also saving you lots of time to keep your chimney repair project right on schedule.

Why being scaffolding set up certified matters

While scaffolding may look simple, setting it up is very complex. It can affect the safety of the chimney technicians and the stability of the repairs as well. Because of this, it is extremely important that the crew sets up the scaffolding is trained and certified.

At Jack Pixley Sweeps, our crews are trained in the proper setup of both ground and roof scaffolding. All of our repair technicians have been through Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training. Our scaffolding always meets safety standards. This ensures the safety of the crew, the safety of your family during the chimney repair process, and the structural stability of your chimney as well.

The scaffolding set up process

Setting up scaffolding is unique to every house. It depends on the location and height of the chimney, the repairs required, the pitch of the roof, and more. This can all influence how your scaffolding is constructed. Because scaffolding is customized for each home and job, setting up can take between two and four hours.

When scaffolding is set up, it is required to be “tied off” or anchored to the home, every 20 feet. Oftentimes, scaffolding can be tied off onto the chimney. However, some cases it may needs to be anchored to the home itself using anchor bolts. Likewise, roof scaffolding is also required to be anchored to the roof using anchor bolts. Once properly anchored, then height can be added to the scaffolding structure.

Trust Jack Pixley Sweeps to set up your scaffolding!

Being able to set up our own is a direct benefit to you. This eliminates the need to find a subcontractor to help with scaffolding, which then save you time and money! Because our repair crews set up and maintain their own scaffolding, homeowners can also rest assured that the only people coming to the job site are our employees.

If you are preparing to have some major chimney repairs such as, rebuilding a chimney from the ground up or adding a new chimney onto your home. You should definitely take scaffolding into considerations, as it contribute to the safety and structural stability of the project. It is extremely important to work with a trained and certified team to set up your scaffolding. For more information on our professional scaffolding set up services contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

What Is It Like To Have A Chimney Fire?

During the fall and winter, we rely on our fireplaces to keep our families warm and to add comfort to our homes. Unfortunately, this high use time is also the most common time for chimney fires to occur. Chimney fires can wreak havoc on your chimney, damage your fireplace system, and can quickly spread to the rest of your home if not contained. Thankfully, there are several ways that homeowners can reduce their risk of accidental chimney fire.

What Happens During a Chimney Fire

Because creosote is so flammable, it will quickly spread throughout the flue. The fire creates a strong draft with a sound often equated to a freight train; loud cracking or popping from the mortar or cement may also be heard. Outside, flames shoot out from the chimney.

While a chimney fire is extremely serious, it is important to stay calm and act quickly. Begin by calling the fire department. Next, attempt to extinguish the fire in the fireplace either with a fire extinguisher or by throwing salt on the flames; this will not put out the fire in the chimney but can help control the high temperatures and lessen the strong drafts. After the chimney fire, it is important to call a certified chimney sweep to evaluate the condition of the chimney before attempting to use the fireplace again.

Preventing Chimney Fire

The best way to prevent future chimney fires is through regular annual chimney sweeping and inspections. Annual chimney sweepings protect your flue against excessive creosote buildup; accidental ignition of this flammable substance is the leading cause of chimney fire.

Because creosote is a naturally occurring byproduct of combustion, it is impossible to prevent it from forming entirely. However, there are several ways that homeowners can prevent excessive creosote buildup.

– Only use seasoned firewood. Seasoned firewood is wood that has been chopped, cut into logs, stacked, and allowed to dry in the elements. This seasoning process removes the majority of the moisture from the wood; wood with high moisture content such as green or freshly cut wood will produce more creosote than seasoned wood.
– Do not burn at low temperatures. Low burning fires smolder for long periods of time, and their low temperaturesr create more creosote. Letting the fires burn naturally hot and allowing them to quickly extinguish can minimize creosote creation.

A chimney fire can be a scary experience; however, it should not stop you from using your fireplace again. If you think you have had a chimney fire, contact the experts at Jack Pixley Sweeps today. Our highly trained staff can evaluate the damage caused by a chimney fire and make recommendations to repair any damage the fire may have caused.

How To Test Your Smoke Detectors

All homes with fireplaces and other heating appliances should be equipped with working smoke detectors. These small electronic devices are inexpensive and easy to install. In addition, they can help save you and your family’s lives in the event of an emergency.

Testing Your Smoke Alarms

Unfortunately, many homeowners simply assume their smoke detectors are still working the way they should instead of testing them regularly. If you can’t remember the last time you tested your smoke detectors. Also, changed their batteries or purchased modern replacements. It’s time to replace your smoke detectors!

The following four steps can help you quickly and easily test your smoke detectors:

  1.  Count your smoke detectors. Do you know where all the smoke detectors are in your home? Many of us know the general areas of a home the smoke detectors are in, but do not know their specific locations. All homes should have at least one smoke detector on every level, including directly outside or in sleeping areas. Other recommended locations include at the top or bottom of stairways, near fireplaces and furnaces, and in attics, crawlspaces, garages, and basements.
  2. Identify the type of smoke detectors you have. There are two kinds of smoke detectors: battery operated and AC powered. Battery operated units are inexpensive and can be easily installed anywhere in your home; however, the batteries must be regularly tested and replaced in order to operate safely. AC powered units are often wired directly into a home’s electrical panel in addition to a backup battery in the event of a power loss. Often found in newer or updated homes, these can be difficult to move or replace due to the wiring and damage to walls they cause.
  3. Test the batteries. All smoke detectors, regardless of type, have a test button that will cause the alarm to sound when pressed. Most will also have a blinking or solid light to indicate that the detector is receiving power. Using a small step ladder and a broom handle or other implement, quickly press the test button to ensure the detector is working and the batteries have not died; while most battery operated units will “chirp” under lower power, some AC powered units do not. Alarms should be tested at least every six months, replacing batteries as needed.
  4. Replace dated smoke detectors. Technology has come a long way in the last 5-10 years; if your home has older smoke detectors, you may not be protecting your family with the latest advancements in safety and technology. In order to stay current with technology and industry standards, the entire alarm system should be replaced at least every 10 years.

Let’s Re-Cap

Regularly testing and maintaining your smoke detectors may seem like an unimportant and repetitive task, but it is an incredibly important way to keep your family safe day and night. For more information about proper smoke detector usage and other fire safety tips, contact Jack Pixley Sweeps today!

Smoke Tests for your Home!

We conduct smoke tests to ensure your chimney is venting correctly

We conduct smoke tests to ensure your chimney is venting correctly

A new fireplace, insert, or stove is a great way to transform any living space in your home by bringing warmth and ambiance to the room. When having a new heating appliance added in your home, however, it is recommended to have them professionally installed and tested to ensure they are safely operating.

One recommended test for newly installed stoves, fireplaces, and inserts is the smoke test. According to National Fire Protection Association Standard 211, all new masonry chimneys must have a smoke test before they can be used.

What is a smoke test?

A smoke test is used when a new fireplace is installed to ensure that the fireplace is drawing and venting correctly. During the smoke test, a blowtorch is used to warm the flue and establish flue draw. Next a smoke pellet with a discernible odor is inserted. The smoke – and the odor – created by the pellet are one way we can tell how the fireplace is drafting.

Once the pellet has been lit, the first step is to wait and see if smoke is rising from the chimney. Once this smoke is seen, both the top and bottom of the flue will be sealed off, including closing all ash covers, doors, pits, and vents. This traps the remaining smoke inside the flue. Our chimney sweeps will then evaluate the interior and exterior of your chimney and home to ensure there are no leaks. If any leaks are found, repairs can be quickly made and evaluated.

During the smoke test process, we take the time to answer any questions you may have and explain each step of the process before we do it. We believe that this commitment to customer education allows homeowners to more fully understand and confidently and safely operate their heating appliances.

Why is a smoke test important?

While a smoke test may seem unnecessary, it is actually an important part of chimney safety. When a new fireplace is built or a stove or insert is installed, it is important to ensure that the byproducts of combustion are able to fully, easily, and correctly vent from the home. By using a smoke pellet, our chimney sweeps can identify any areas with defects or flaws; left unrepaired, these flaws could allow dangerous gasses such as carbon monoxide to silently seep into your home.

Smoke tests are also a tool for protecting your family against a chimney fire. Chimneys that vent incompletely are at greater risk for developing large pockets of creosote, a highly flammable byproduct of combustion that is the leading cause of chimney fire. By having the smoke test done on your new fireplace, you can rest assured that it is venting properly and minimal creosote will find its way into your flue.

If you’ve recently built a new fireplace or had a new stove or insert installed, call Jack Pixley Sweeps to schedule a smoke test. Not only will it make sure that your new heating appliance is venting correctly, but it can help protect your family’s health and safety. Contact us today to schedule your smoke test appointment!