Archive for March, 2012

The Stack Effect

March 30th, 2012

 When Buildings Act Like Chimneys

Drawing of Stack effect
As heat escapes a roof, cold air is sucked in through the basement and first floor windows, In summer, the opposite happens. [Click image for slideshow.]

Hot air rises, and cold air sinks, but stack effect ventilation reverses in summer

Like wind, the stack effect can move large volumes of air through a building envelope. In the winter, the warm air in a heated building is lighter (less dense) than the cold air outside the building; that warm bubble of air wants to rise up and out. The flow of air leaving the top of the building draws cold air into cracks at the bottom.

The reverse happens in summer when hot air outside of an air-conditioned house can push cooler indoor air down from the ceiling and out of cracks in the basement (see drawing). At least in theory, this can lead to moisture problems on the top floor.

But the differences in temperature and pressure aren’t as great during the summer as they are during the winter. When it’s cold outside, the pressure created by the stack effect is 4 pascals per story of height; when it’s hot, about 1.5 pascals per story of height.

Unlike most other pressures, the stack effect acts every hour of every cold day, and the pressures generated by the stack effect are significant.

Leaky buildings consume tremendous amounts of energy. Air leaks can contribute to condensation, compromising the quality of the indoor air. For high-rise residential buildings in cold weather, that isn’t the worst-case scenario — it’s the normal scenario (see “Why revolving doors were invented,” below).


If the stack effect is a big deal in two-story houses, imagine what kind of pressure it causes in high-rise buildings. This pressure is so significant in fact that “when skyscrapers were first developed at the turn of the century, people also had to invent revolving doors because you couldn’t open the front door due to the stack effect pressure,” says Straube. “The cold air was rushing in with so much pressure that it was difficult to push the exit doors open.”

Stack effect feeds on itself

“Air entering the building make the downstairs people cold, so they turn up the thermostat. When the people upstairs get all that heated air, they open the windows to cool off. This increases the flow of air leaving the building, which increases the flow of air coming up from the bottom floors — so the people downstairs plug in space heaters.

“You wind up with this merry-go-round — sucking air up the bottom, heating it up, and blowing it out the top,” says Straube. “There’s so much airflow in the elevator shafts that you can float! You can just put out your arms and you’ll float in the middle of winter in many of these buildings.”

Ten crazy German rules

March 26th, 2012

Germans rarely find a rule they don’t want to embrace. There is a saying in the country: “Everything is forbidden; apart from that, do what you like”. Here are some of the more quirky Teutonic laws:

1) It is illegal to build an office without a view of the sky.

2) It is an offence punishable with a fine and points on your license to run out of petrol on a motorway.

3) A “quiet time” is observed between noon and 3pm when it is forbidden to mow the lawn, wash cars, play loud music or hammer nails.

4) It is forbidden to hand washing out on Sunday.

5) A pillow is classified as a “passive weapon” and hitting someone with one can lead to charges of assault.

6) It is illegal to wear a mask while on strike.

7) It is illegal to tune pianos at midnight.

8) You can be fined 20 Euros for calling someone an “arse” but 5,000 Euros for calling an official a “little Hitler”.

9) It is against the law to deny a chimney sweep access to your home if he demands it.

10) It is illegal to have the ashes of your loved one stored in an urn at home after cremation.


Vented vs. Vent-Free Gas Logs

March 24th, 2012

When shopping for gas logs,  you’ll be asked to choose whether you want vented or vent-free logs. This decision comes down to several factors including looks vs. efficiency, local building codes and placement of the fireplace.

With vented logs, you’ll enjoy a large, realistic-looking flame that operates with an open chimney flue, or damper. These logs, which simulate a wood-burning fire, are more decorative than they are efficient as a heat source because much of the generated heat goes up the chimney.

Vent-free logs, which operate with the chimney flue closed, will not give you that roaring fire effect—the flame is not as realistic or as high as you’ll find with vented logs. But, vent-free logs are an efficient heat source because 100% of the heat generated stays in your home. You’ll often see vent-free logs referred to as “vent-free heaters” because that is essentially what they are. They consist of U-shaped burners with cement logs stacked on top of the heating element. Most sets have a thermostatic control that helps maintain a consistent room temperature. Vent-free heaters add moisture to the air, so it’s important to install them in a room with proper ventilation to avoid formation of mildew.

The convince of a remote control.

Before installing any gas log system, visit Hearth and Patio on Monroe Rd in Matthews NC.  In some localities, vent-free heaters are not permitted. Vent-free heaters are not permitted in bedrooms, bathrooms or recreational vehicles, and must be installed in an area where curtains, furniture, clothing or other flammable objects are at least 36 inches away from the perimeter of the heater. Vent-free heater installation also is not recommended in high traffic, windy or drafty areas.

Chimney Sweeps Are Lucky!

March 24th, 2012


Did you know that it’s good luck to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day, and most especially to shake his hand or be kissed by him? Many chimney sweeps today are still invited to weddings to help assure a good start to a happy marriage. The tradition goes back, so it is said, to a chimney sweep who lost his footing and fell from a roof. He was caught on the gutter and hanging by his foot when a young lass, whose hand was intended for another, reached through the window and pulled him in, saving his life. They fell in love and the two were later married


A Chimney Sweep is a sign of good luck, wealth and happiness. There are several legends why a Chimney Sweep is said to be “The” harbinger of good luck. One version of the legend has it’s origins in old England, where King George was riding horseback in a royal procession. A dogran from the crowd, barking and nipping at the King’s horse. The horse reared, and to the horror of the crowd, almost threw the King! A lone figure, shabbily dressed and filthy, stepped into the road. He caught the horse’s halter and calmed the animal.

As quickly as he appeared, the man faded back into crowd. The King, wanting to reward the man, asked his name. No-one knew the man’s name, but many told the King that he is just a Chimney Sweep.The King declared that from that day that chimney sweeps should be regarded as Lucky!


The chimney has been a part of family life since the early Romans first realized that it was better to live in a nice, fire-warmed home than in a chilly one. They needed a way to funnel off the smoke the fires caused. Centuries later, in medieval times, fireplaces were invented to heat individual rooms and provide a safe place for indoor cooking. They soon learned that fireplaces and their chimneys needed a cleaning as a house full of soot and fumes is unhealthy. And so, chimney sweeping developed into a necessary profession. People liked having the chimney sweep pay a visit as he brought clean, fresh air back to the home. Sweeps are associated with hearth and home, and thus domestic bliss. Chimney Sweeps became a sign of good health and prosperity

Woman Chimney Sweepers

March 23rd, 2012

Growing up, Gina Somerton, 42, of Wells-Next-the-Sea, Norfolk, had dreamed of becoming a hairdresser and went on to work as a shop assistant and in restaurants.

But a conversation about possible alternative careers with her partner’s mother got the mum-of-three thinking that chimneys might be an ideal source of income; six years on, her business, Lady Sweep, is thriving.

“I wanted to be my own boss, I wanted to be able to spend time with my children during the summer,” she says. “It might sound strange to some people, but to me it’s perfect.

“It’s true that I get dirty. But I can come home and have a shower afterwards, can’t I?”

Photograph by Horace Nicholls of a woman chimney sweep in wartime Kent, undated.

Horace Nicholls was one of two professional photographers who were commissioned in 1917 by the Women’s Work Committee of the newly founded Imperial War Museum to take photographs of women at work during the First World War. This photograph shows a woman chimney sweep in Kent, ‘carrying on the business of her husband who was a sweep before the war’ – one of the many examples of women stepping into previously male-dominated professions during the period between 1914 and 1918.

FORMER call center worker Dawn Peters gave her old job the brush off — to become one of only three women chimney sweeps in Britain.

She started last October and now cleans up to four chimneys a day.

The ex-BT worker said: “I had to change careers because I can’t use a computer after I developed medical problems.

“My partner said I could do a better job than our sweep so I gave it a go. It’s a fantastic business if you don’t mind getting a bit dirty.”

Dawn, 36, of Exeter, Devon, added: “There are only three women registered with the Institute of Chimney Sweeps.

“You have to be fit — but there’s no reason why a woman can’t do it.”

Chimney Sweep History

March 23rd, 2012

Chimney Sweep History
By Theresa Leschmann, eHow Contributor

Chimney Sweep History
Chimney sweeps are often associated with England, particularly the Victorian period. Our popular collective perception of chimney sweeps compares favorably with Dick Van Dyke’s portrayal of Burt the chimney sweep in the classic Disney film “Mary Poppins.” Chimney sweeps have been around much longer than that and are still with us today. Most of the work was done by children, until child labor laws came into being.
Other People Ar

Read more: Chimney Sweep History |

Why Should I Care About Chimney Liners

March 22nd, 2012

Why Should I Care About Chimney Liners

What you Need to Know About Liners

It may seem like just a part of the chimney that you don’t really need to understand, but a liner is actually a very critical part of every chimney. In fireplaces that burn gas, oil, or solid fuels, a liner helps guide the combustion by-products out and away from the chimney. Every chimney needs a working liner and during your annual chimney cleaning, your chimney professional may tell you that you need a new one or that you need to repair the existing one.

There are a few reasons why you may need a new liner; if your chimney currently has no liner, if it was installed improperly or if it is deteriorating or defective in some way. Before the 1940s, homes were typically built without a chimney liner and as a result, before this time, chimney and house fires were much more commonplace. A liner provides extra protection to the interior of the chimney and helps guide the gases and particles up and out of the structure.

There are three main types of chimney liners. These include clay tile liners, cast-in-place liners, and metal liners. While all 3 options provide adequate protection for your chimney flue, there are different circumstances when each variety may be the best option for you.

Clay Tile Liners – Usually Built During Home Construction

In many older homes you will find clay tile liners in the chimney. This method has been around since the 1900s and there is good reason why it is still used today. Clay tiles can withstand extremely high temperatures without damaging or hindering the performance of the liner. Clay tiles also hold up against the corrosive materials that are burned in and pass through the flue to leave the chimney. In addition, the clay tile material itself is relatively inexpensive to purchase and once installed, these tile liners last for about 50 years.

While there are many benefits to using clay tiles, it also has some drawbacks. The materials to create the clay tile liner are inexpensive, but the work that must go along with the installation can be rather costly if it is not built along with the home. Today, for the most part tile liners are installed during the home building process. To replace a tile liner that is falling apart is a more difficult task. Even with the simplest straight chimney, the old tiles must be chipped and broken out from the top of the chimney using special tools your chimney professional will have. Sometimes the chimney walls must be broken through every few feet to take out the old flue and install the new one. And when the chimney is crooked or contains “offsets”, it makes the process much more difficult. To reline the chimney effectively, the tiles need to be cut precisely to fit together within the flue. The installation process is tedious, especially for flues that are not simply perfectly straight. The tile shape is also not really the best shape to line a chimney. The tiles don’t create a smooth interior as each tile is in a square or rectangular shape. For this reason, air gets caught in the spaces between tiles and it may also affect the draft in your chimney. And the tiles can crack with age or if they are damaged. A round liner can eliminate these problems. Due to the difficulty of this job, it is recommended not to take this on as a home repair job. It definitely requires the skills of a chimney sweep professional.

Cast-in-Place Liner – To Reinforce an Existing Chimney

This option is perfect for creating a new flue inside of a chimney that is in poor shape. It works to reinforce the existing chimney and provides a sturdy and effective liner. Similar to the clay flues, cast-in-place liners are not affected by the heat or harmful gases put off from the fire below. For this reason, they are very durable. Cast-in-place liners provide good insulation value and higher temperatures within the chimney. This makes the fires burn cleaner and acquire less creosote buildup as a result. These liners also last a long time (up to 50 years in some cases), just like the clay liners.

The process for installing a cast in place liner, while less invasive than the clay liner, is still a difficult task to take on. One way this liner is created is by a certain mortar mix being pumped into the chimney around an inflated rubber bladder to create a smooth rounded surface within the chimney. Once the mortar has set, the bladder is then removed with the liner still intact. There are other proprietary methods used by chimney professionals to create this type of liner as well. One uses a bell shaped form that vibrates as it is pulled up through the chimney at the same time mortar is poured into the chimney. The mortar forms around the bell as it is raised the distance of the chimney forming a round flue opening in the mortar.

Metal Flue Liner – Liners that Works in Most Every Chimney

There are many different shapes and varieties of metal flue liners. Typically a stainless steel alloy is used. The metal flue liners come in two different forms; rigid and flexible. The type your chimney professional will choose to use depends on the shape of your chimney. Rigid liners are used in chimneys that are completely straight with no off-sets or bends. While both liners provide proper protection, one advantage of the flexible liner is that it may hold less buildup because it expands and contracts with the temperatures of the chimney which then knocks off any creosote or other buildup when it moves. Corrosion is the most common problem that occurs with metal flue liners. But by using the correct alloy to go with the type of fuel burned the corrosion problem can be addressed. Insulation can also be used with metal liners. Insulation material around the metal liner helps to keep higher heat in the chimney and also helps to get rid of condensation that may cause corrosion over time in the chimney. It also prevents heat from moving into the pipes within the home structure. Metal liners are the perfect option for already existing chimneys that do not have a liner or need a liner replacement. They are a relatively simple installation with almost all of the benefits of the other types of liners. Chimneys without bends and twists are the simplest to install a metal liner into but it can work in all chimneys with the flexible metal liner.

There are a few different types of chimney liners and they all have their benefits, the important thing is to have a chimney liner in the first place. Hire a chimney professional to take a look to make sure your chimney lining is doing it’s job – and if there are deficiencies, to determine the best option for you!

Wood Burning and the Carbon Footprint

March 20th, 2012

Wood Burning and the Carbon Footprint

How can you help save the environment, save money and still heat your home completely all winter long? Wood burning stoves use a replenishable and inexpensive fuel that is extremely efficient especially when modern appliances are used. Wood burning stoves may seem old fashioned, but the rustic, old fashioned look and feel comes with modern efficiency and capabilities these days. You don’t have to choose one or the other, the romantic blaze from a woodburnig stove or fireplace insert can also heat your home and save you money.

Is burning wood really a “greener” way to heat or supplement the heating of your home? Well, to begin with burning wood for heat does not add to your individual carbon footprint. Wood gives off the same amount of carbon whether it is burned up or decays naturally and is considered Carbon Neutral. Next point to consider is that wood is a “renewable” resource. Unlike oil, coal, or gas – when we run out of those fuel sources, they’ll be gone for good. Wood harvesting techniques are based on a sustainable model, so wood will be there for us in the future. We can’t grow oil, but we can (and do) grow more trees. Another point to consider is the cost of production and transportation associated with the non-renewables. Over all, wood comes out looking good from a “green” perspective.

As compared with fossil fuels and other energy sources, the benefits of wood far surpass its competition. New wood burning stoves and fireplace inserts are engineered with fuel economy in mind and health and environmental concerns kept as the highest priority. While fossil fuels contaminate the environment and then are used up and cannot be replaced, wood burning has made drastic improvements in burning efficiency and without emissions and can be easily used sustainably.

Still need more convincing?

Low Cost – Wood burning stoves and fireplace inserts are the most cost effective source of energy. Wood is abundantly available and homeowners can often find a source of wood to burn for free! Even without the extra effort of finding wood for free, wood is still a relatively inexpensive option. Wood costs roughly a third the cost of natural gas, electricity or oil. Coal, gas and oil are fossil-based, non-renewable resources. And in the last year, costs for these commodities have soared along with the electricity prices. Don’t get caught in these traps. A wood burning stove is your way out.

Low Emissions – Today, high efficiency wood burning stoves and fireplace inserts can maximize the heat dispersed from a burning log and these stoves leave behind little evidence of the wood burning as it is almost completely burned besides minor amounts of ash. The new stoves produce only about 2-5 grams of smoke per hour of burning. And even less ash. For this reason, some modern stoves are so completely clean burning that they are approved for use in smokeless areas indoors. A wood burning stove is designed to burn at much higher temperatures. This means gases present in the smoke are fully burned and not released back into the atmosphere. This results in a thermal efficiency of around 80%. Which means that a log burnt in a modern wood stove can get around 4 times more heat than one log in an open fire.

Carbon Neutral - The process of burning wood also does not emit any additional carbon dioxide than the natural biodegradation of the wood if it were left to rot on the forest floor. Over the course of a tree’s life it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then releases this carbon dioxide when it either decomposes naturally or is burned. For this reason, no CO2 is added to the atmosphere, it simply releases the carbon dioxide that was previously accumulated back into the environment. Wood is a very environmentally friendly source of fuel because it is carbon neutral. Fossil fuels on the other hand, are not carbon neutral. Fossil fuels have stored and accumulated carbon over hundreds of years and then, all at once, this carbon is released in its entirety when the fossil fuels are burned. This process adds substantial amounts of carbon dioxide to the environment.

Sustainable – Wood is an abundant resource in North America and unlike many of the alternatives, a renewable one too. Today we have more wooded acres than we did 100 years ago and the balance is carefully managed to preserve our wooded lands. To keep the wood supply at a sustainable state, there needs to be some maintenance that goes along with the wood harvesting.

Sustainable forests are the key to wood as a heat resource. The days where clear cutting was acceptable are over and the concept of planting more than you harvest is alive and well. Wood is an entirely renewable source of energy only when handled correctly, but the great news is that it is very simple to maintain a sustainable forest! The US Forest Service helps control the excess timber that is harvested and they work to ensure the companies are utilizing sustainable cutting practices. Another important factor in eco-friendly wood burning is using local wood. The costs associated with preparing wood to burn goes up when transportation is involved, so the best way to receive wood is from a local forest or producer. This local purchasing reduces the pollution emitted during the transportation process and ensures the entire process is sustainable.

With the energy crisis always on the upswing, any and every use of fuel is under high scrutiny. Overall, a timber-fueled system provides a great all around solution to a home heating fuel source. Avoid the stress. Go green and reduce energy costs at the same time!

Give me a call if you have any questions at Affordable Chimney Service / 704.526.6348.

Calif. Teen Gets Stuck In Chimney

March 19th, 2012


The California teenager who got stuck in the chimney of his family’s home was no Santa Claus trying to deliver holiday gifts.

Instead, 18-year-old Jorge Herrera was trying to get around his parents’ curfew, authorities say, by entering his home through the fireplace in his bedroom.

“He was going to miss his curfew, and then he had climbed down the chimney in an attempt to avoid the wrath of his parents,” said Van Riviere, battalion chief with the Stockton Fire Department.

Fire department officials responded to a call for help placed by Herrera’s family around 10 a.m. Thursday after they heard sounds coming from the chimney of their Stockton, Calif., home.

Firefighters found Herrera stuck inside.  An hour later, Herrera was freed from the chimney, but not before firefighters had to first break the chimney apart and then use ropes, and a little soap, to pull him out of the narrow chimney.  He was not hurt.

“He’s dirty and embarrassed and it remains to be seen what his parents will do with him,” said Battalion Chief Van Riviere.


A History of Chimney Sweeping

March 18th, 2012

The chimney sweep has been around for hundreds of years and still today is a necessary and important profession. The early Romans first made the switch from a single fire in the center of a room to an isolated fireplace to heat buildings and cook indoors, but it was not until 16th century England that the trend of fireplaces and chimneys really caught on. It was not long before people built fireplaces in each room of their home to use as a heat source. In 17th century England, along with all of the new fireplaces came a hearth tax, based on the size of the house and the number of chimneys the house had. To avoid these high taxes, builders would connect the flues of new fireplaces with those of an existing chimney, creating a complex maze of pitch black narrow tunnels inside the home.

In this same time period, coal became a popular substitute for burning wood in fireplaces. As a result of this switch from wood to coal, the need for regular cleaning became increasingly necessary. The use of coal left large sticky soot deposits on the walls of the fireplace that had to be cleaned off regularly for the chimney to remain cleared. If the fireplace was left uncared for, the coal residue would cause the chimney to back up and pollute the home with harmful fumes. At this point the profession of the chimney grew rapidly. With the rise in coal use, regular chimney sweep visits became a safety necessity. In London at this time, Queen Victoria mandated that all chimneys be cleaned regularly. At this time, chimney sweeps became known for bringing clean and fresh air back to the home and they became associated with good hearth and good health.

Many times in literature, movies and artwork child sweeps were portrayed as having fun and the cheerful young apprentices of accomplished older sweeps. The truth was a bit different of course. Many orphans were forced into child labor and treated poorly as they worked long, hard hours as chimney boys.

Cleaning the inside of the soot-filled chimney flues was a difficult and dangerous job because of the narrow chimney flues and the amount of soot the sweepers were exposed to. For this reason, the job was left to poor orphan boys brought in by the chimney master or children sold by their parents into the trade. The children served as indentured servants to their master; in exchange for a home and food and water the children were taught the trade. The children climbed into the chimneys to scrape off the coal deposits and brush the walls with little scrubber brushes. The conditions were harsh and the work was hard. Children were often scared to climb into the narrow passageways, so to give them a little extra encouragement the chimney masters would light a small fire under the child to coax him up the interior walls, hence the start of the expression, “to light a fire under you”. The life of a ‘climbing boy’ was not just undesirable but dangerous as well. Because they worked and lived in the soot and grime of the chimneys, the children often developed respiratory problems and other related issues. Fatal falls from rotting chimneys were not uncommon either. William Blake, an English poet, illustrates the difficult life of a chimney sweep boy in his poem, “The Chimney Sweeper”.

Finally, in 1864, Parliament passed the “Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers” which ended the use of young boys to clean the chimneys. At this time, various cleaning devices were invented to aid the chimney sweep in cleaning and bushing the walls from one end of the chimney. One method of chimney cleaning invented around this time used a heavy lead or iron ball and rope system used to clean the chimney from the top all the way down to the fireplace. And, in the 18th century, a man named Joseph Glass invented chimney cleaning equipment consisting of a set of canes and brushes that could be used from the fireplace to clean all the way up to the top of the chimney. More modern variations of both of these inventions are still used today.

In the 1960s, gas and electricity have replaced coal and fireplaces as the main heating source for homes. This change in fuel type has mandated a revision to the role of the chimney sweep. In the 1970s though, when the price of fossil fuels rose dramatically, people went back to burning wood in their fireplaces rather than to use other more costly methods of heating. But when people used fireplaces that had been left unused for a long period of time without proper cleaning and care, house fires and carbon monoxide poisonings from clogged chimneys became commonplace. This switch back to the use of fireplaces after years of non-use was very dangerous if the proper provisions were not taken care of beforehand. Presently, the professional chimney sweep has made a comeback with fireplaces getting regular use rather than just used for a decoration and this old profession is still growing today.

Although the life of the early chimney sweeps including children has often been dramatized and romanticized as being cheery and fun in stories, movies and artwork, the reality was quite different and the sweep’s life many times was one of toil and hardship.

One of the most famous literary works about Chimney Sweeps is William Blake’s poem, “The Chimney Sweeper.”

The chimney sweep today has come a long way from sending children armed with brushes up the chimney flues. Professional chimney sweeps are educated in the codes and science behind chimneys and fireplaces. Chimney sweeps now do more than simply clean a chimney; they diagnose and service problems, repair all types of chimneys and install fireplaces and hearths. Through it all, the chimney sweep remains an important profession that will continue to grow and bring good health and good hearth to every home they service.

Today, the chimney sweep is a well respected professional that helps to provide homeowners and businesses to maintain safe operation of heating systems, fireplaces, stoves, flues and chimneys of all kinds. Organizations like the North Carolina Chimney Sweeps Association  hold members to very high ethical and educational standards of performance as well


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