If your home has a wood or coal burning fireplace then you need to make sure that the system is in optimal working order.  First and foremost you should have the chimney regularly cleaned and inspected to ensure that all is as it should be.  But there are steps you can take to make the whole process easier as well as saving money in the long run.  Below are a few tips from your friends at Extreme Chimney to help you along the way.

  1. If you have a fireplace (not a free standing wood or coal burning stove), you may want to consider a fireplace insert.  Fireplace inserts are similar to a wood-burning stove that fits right into your fireplace.  From a budgetary point of view, these are ideal as EPA-certified models burn up to 70% more efficiently than a traditional open fireplace.
  2. If you already have an insert or stove that was manufactured before 1992, you might want to consider upgrading to a newer, EPA-certified model.  EPA-approved stoves and inserts not only produce less smoke and soot, they’re also 50 percent more efficient than pre-1992 models.  While the newer models might be a bit on the expensive side initially, you’ll end up spending less on fuel.  For several years, people who upgraded their fireplaces and wood stoves qualified for a federal tax credit, but that program has expired.  New York does offer some tax-incentives for updating or replacing existing equipment with EPA-certified equipment. (http://www.forgreenheat.org/incentives/states/new_york.html )
  3. Burn the right kind of fuel.  The cooler your fire, the more particulate emissions and soot it produces. In order to ensure that your wood fire is hot enough, we recommends using only seasoned wood that has been dried for at least a year. Hard woods (like maple, ash, oak, and beech) burn hotter than soft woods (pine and fir). Most importantly, never burn wet wood. Pellet stoves, which use bricks made of compressed wood or other organic materials generally burn cleaner and more efficiently than woodstoves or fireplaces.
  4. Use the right sized grate for your fireplace, one that keeps all of your logs condensed into a smaller area.  For the hottest and hence cleanest-burning fire possible, you want logs bundled together in the center of the stove or fireplace (also a good tip for those using fire bowls outdoors!)
  5. Skip the home chimney-cleaning remedies explained on DIY sites that are nothing more than unverified DIY chimney sweeping activities.  For newer model fireplace inserts and stoves, a professional inspection and sweeping about every two years is recommended.  Another milestone to determine when to have the chimney professionally cleaned would be to do so after going through a single cord of wood burned.  However, if your equipment is older or if you regularly burn wood that isn’t properly seasoned, you could end up needing a sweeping much more frequently.