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Prescott Valley Tribune | Prescott Valley, Arizona

home : features : features February 26, 2015

1/3/2014 8:21:00 AM
Ask the contractor: Fireplace inspections help ensure efficiency, safety
Sandy Griffis
Yavapai County Contractors Association

Old man winter has been in town and is surely going to stick around. He's got us sleeping underneath blankets at night, and we crank up the heat with not much delight. Our toes get cold and socks we must wear, and we wonder if the attic insulation is bare. The fireplace huffs and puffs with a warm glow - is warm air going out the chimney? Oh no!

Chimney and fireplace maintenance maximizes warmth, eliminates drafty conditions, and helps ensure home safety. This is the time of the year when fireplaces are in operation to the max, and ignoring annual inspections and needed maintenance can impair functionality and performance. This leads to precious heated air going out the chimney along with dollars, and poor performance can lead to a chimney fire.

Every year there are more than 25,000 chimney fires nationwide, and these blazes often cause house fires. The best way to avoid a chimney fire is to get your chimney inspected annually, at which time the buildup of highly flammable creosote will be removed.

Creosote is a combustible tar-like substance which is a natural byproduct of burning wood. The more wood you burn and the greener the wood, the more creosote is produced.

Creosote is not soot; however, these two in conjunction can cause a chimney fire if your chimney is not properly maintained.

A fireplace/chimney inspection includes a visual check of these units and, according to Builders Wholesale, it is wise to have your fireplace and chimney inspected at least once every year depending on how much wood you burn.

Burn only dry, cured wood - logs that have been split and stacked for 8 to 12 months. Do not use lumber, construction scraps, painted wood or other treated wood. Do not burn wood in a gas fireplace. Always close the damper when not using the fireplace to prevent warm air from escaping out the chimney. Make sure you have a chimney cap installed. This will prevent, rain, debris and snow from falling into the fireplace.

If your furnace is blowing full-blast or the fireplace is heating away and you still have those cold toes, maybe your attic or crawl space is short on insulation. Proper attic and crawlspace insulation reduces heat loss in your home, saving you money and energy. Adding attic insulation or crawl space insulation to your home reduces energy waste. Most experts estimate you save enough money in reduced energy bills over five to six years to pay off the cost of the insulation. The type of insulation you use depends on the area needing insulation so it is recommended that you contact a licensed insulation contractor to inspect your attic and crawl space for recommendations. The contractor will determine the type of insulation you have and compare it to industry standards. Manufacturers determine the value by the "R" value or number; the higher the "R" value, the better the insulation works.

By keeping your heat in your home longer, home insulation can keep your energy bills from getting too high. Insulation is placed in a variety of applicable locations in a home such as inside the walls, in the floor and rafters of the attic, under floorboards and in the walls and floors of the basement. The insulation absorbs the heat, providing a resistance to slow the movement of the heat to the outside. The resistance is measured by using an R value and again, the higher the R value, the more resistance is provided which results in better energy efficiency.

So check your chimney and insulation now and start to spread the warmth and cheer around before old man winter blows back into town.

From YCCA, our members and Board of Directors: Time is like a flowing river, no water passes beneath your feet twice, much like the river, moments never pass you by again, so cherish every moment that life gives you and have a wonderful New Year.

Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. Call YCCA for information on hiring a contractor at 778-0040. Submit questions to or through

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