Have you looked up recently only to notice an alarming amount of snow and ice on your chimney cap? For many this immediately brings up some concerns in terms of venting and potential chimney damage. The good news is that many times there’s no need to worry about some ice building up on your cap. That said, there are times when this can cause some serious problems, and it’s important to know how to differentiate between the two.
Why Does Ice Form on Your Cap?
Well, it’s pretty simple. The bottom of your chimney is nice and toasty because it’s close to your fire, but as the smoke and fumes travel upwards (closer to the top and the outdoors), they cool down and condense. The condensation then clings to your cap and turns to ice.
When Is Ice on Your Cap a Problem?
So, when is ice on the chimney cap a problem? Here in Pittsburg and its surrounding cities, freezing temperatures aren’t exactly something we can avoid, so it’s inevitable that some ice will form – and this is totally okay.
What we urge homeowners to be wary of is when temperatures stay below freezing for days on end, and that ice never has a chance to melt off. This is when buildup can occur, which then leads to blockages that can put you at risk. When airflow and draft is affected, you’ll likely face smoke in your home, and it’ll increase the possibility of carbon monoxide entering your space, too.
Can I Stop Ice From Forming On My Chimney Cap?
So, it’s clear that ice forming on your cap can invite some serious risks, but can anything be done about it? Well, while it might not be possible to stop ice from forming altogether, there are things you can do to minimize the amount that builds up in the first place, which will help keep things in check. Keep these guidelines in mind.
- Burn only seasoned firewood. The less water in the wood, the less smoke and acidic water vapors going up your chimney, and the less condensation you’ll face in the long run. Look for logs that are lightweight, dark and split on the ends, make a hollow “clunk” when smacked together, and smell older and mustier. Or use a moisture meter! All the wood you burn should have a water content of 15 – 25%.
- Insulate your stainless steel chimney liner. If your liner isn’t insulated, doing so can keep your flue warmer, which will help to minimize condensation. As an added bonus, this will help keep your energy bills in check, too.
- Invest in a top-sealing damper. Like with the liner insulation, a top-sealing damper seals tightly at the top of your flue, helping it to stay warmer when not in use. No cold downdrafts will work their way in, and you’ll notice your fires are easier to start, too!
- Warm up your flue before lighting a fire. If you still have a throat damper, you may notice your flue is colder when you first light a fire. This can cause smoke to back into your home at first, and it invites more condensation (and therefore more ice) as smoke reaches the chilly top of your chimney. Warm the flue ahead of time by lighting a piece of tightly rolled newspaper and holding it up inside of your chimney for a bit.
- Schedule an inspection. If all else fails, get an inspection on the books, and we can see if your flue size potentially needs to be adjusted. Or you could benefit with some extra components that assist with ventilation and keep things flowing smoother and fasting (thus reducing fumes lingering at the top, condensing, and clinging to your cap).
Facts On Carbon Monoxide
Now, we’ve mentioned carbon monoxide above, but many don’t know much about it. What is carbon monoxide and why exactly is it so dangerous? We’ve got some insight on this harmful gas and just why avoiding it is imperative.
- It’s colorless, odorless, and tasteless. This makes detecting it next to impossible, and many don’t realize they’ve been exposed until health issues have already started to occur.
- It’s fatal when too much is breathed in. Every year hundreds of people in the United States die from unintentional exposure.
- More than 20,000 people per year visit the emergency room after exposure.
- Symptoms are similar to the flu or a cold. They include headaches, weakness, dizziness, upset stomach, nausea/vomiting, shortness of breath, blurred vision, chest pain, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
- If carbon monoxide is present, those sleeping or intoxicated are particularly at risk because they may not notice symptoms right away (or at all). This could lead to serious brain damage or even death.
- To avoid carbon monoxide building up, ensure you have proper ventilation when using the following: space heaters, furnaces, grills, gas ranges, vehicles, stoves, water heaters, fireplaces, and any other fuel-burning appliances and engines.
- If you fear you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, leave the area you’re in immediately and call the proper authorities for assistance.
Looking to minimize the risk of exposure? For fireplace owners, this means investing in annual inspections, and being wary of any signs of clogs or buildup in the flue. Basically, if smoke is billowing out when a fire is lit, issues are likely present, and you’ll want to get some professionals in to investigate ASAP. (And you won’t want to put your system to use in the meantime, either.)
We also want to stress the importance of having carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout the household. Have these (and smoke detectors) installed on every level of the house, and outside of all bedrooms to ensure they can effectively alert anyone in the house, even if they’re sleeping.
You’ll also want to test the units every month, change the batteries every six months, and replace the units entirely per the manufacturer’s guidelines (usually every 5 – 10 years).
Need Chimney Care? Give Us a Call!
If you need quality care, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of certified and experienced experts. We’re happy to serve folks all throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania, and we’d love to add you to our long list of satisfied customers.
Call 412-729-2446 or reach out online today!