Having your chimney cleaned regularly is very important. If you can’t remember the last time your flue was flushed, then it’s probably about time you had it done. Without cleaning, dangerous levels of creosote can build up within the chimney, causing fires to break out.

When we think of chimney sweeps, an ashen and dusty faced man with a long-bristled stick conjures in our minds. In reality, chimney sweeps are regular people like you and me. The only difference is they are specialists in removing chimney soot.

Can you clean a chimney yourself?

Most chimney fires, caused by a build-up of creosote, start in the smoke chamber/smoke shelf area. These areas are hard to reach in some fireplaces, so chimney sweeps have to manoeuvre a brush around some tight angles in order to reach them.

Next up, the chimney has to be accessed from the crown. Gaining access to this part of the chimney is the most hazardous as it has to be accessed from the roof. Some houses are built with steep roof pitches, making for a hazardous DIY job for those who try to clean their chimneys themselves.

Inspecting the chimney

With the ashes removed from the firebox, a chimney sweep will use a flashlight to inspect the smoke chamber, assessing the soot that has built up in there. If the soot has a matte black finish and a poker will scratch about 1/8-inch-deep gouge or less, the cleanup job will be fairly simple. If the build up is deeper and the soot has a tarlike appearance, you have a heavy creosote build up which can only be cleaned by a professional chimney sweep.

You can inspect your chimney yourself in a similar fashion to ascertain whether you will need to call a professional chimney sweep service to come and clean it out. Burning house coal can cause creosote to build up quickly through winter months, so make sure you have your chimney cleaned regularly.

 

 

More and more people are turning to wood burning stoves to heat their homes. Burning wood is not a novel idea; after all, we’ve been burning wood to heat our homes, and to cook with, for the majority of human history.

If you are looking at making the switch back to wood burning for home comfort, then you are in luck – we now know the best ways to burn wood much more efficiently than we used to:

  1. Know How To Build A Great Fire

Throwing some logs, kindling and a match in the grate and hoping for the best might actually work from time to time, but you are going to end up with an inefficient fire. The key is to start with a smaller fire and add logs gradually to build up to a strong and steady heat output.

  1. Get To Know Your Wood

Knowing which woods are best for burning (and which are not) will mean you won’t waste money on poor wooden logs. Oak is one of the best woods for burning due to its high density and high heat output.

  1. Season Your Wood

Wood needs to be cut, split and stacked well in advance of winter. When wood is well seasoned it can provide up to four times as much heat value than uncured green wood can. It takes around six months to properly season your wood; climate and wood type can change the amount of time it takes to season so make sure you give yourself plenty of time if you’re unsure.

  1. Keep Everything Clean

Stoves should be cleaned out after every use and your chimney and flue should be inspected and cleaned yearly to avoid build up. It takes just one-tenth of an inch of soot in your fireplace to reduce the heat-transfer efficiency by about 50%.

  1. Make Sure Your Fire Has Good Air Flow

Ensure the air intake is clear so air can flow freely to your fire. Fires need a lot of air to burn hot and clean, so keep your air intake open for the most efficient burn possible.

Wood is a cleaner option over house coal, which is why many people are making the change. Following these tips will increase the efficiency of your home stove even more, saving you money in the process.

To make it through the winter it’s best to have a good store of coal. Without it you might find yourself taking trips to the shop every weekend to restock. Coal bunkers come in many different shapes and sizes, colours and materials, so how do you choose the right one for you?

Most fireplace owners buy their domestic coal from coal merchants, who normally deliver in quantities of 50kg bags. The range of coal bunkers are usually sized small, medium, and large. Small bunkers hold around 150kg of coal, equivalent to 3 bags; a medium bunker holds around 5 to 6 bags, which is between 250 and 300kg; the larger models can hold between 400 and 500kg which is about 8 to 10 bags.

You want to aim to have enough coal to comfortably make it until your next delivery. If you live in a remote area, it is recommended that you stock more in case something affects your delivery date.

The next thing you need to consider is how much space you have available. Luckily all models only take around a metre square of floor space; medium sizes take up a metre square, with small sized models taking up slightly less and a large one, slightly more.

Coal merchants may tier their prices depending on the quantity and the time of year, so it may be more beneficial to store more coal than you normally would, saving you money over the year.

Deciding on your perfect coal storage can be tricky, but to narrow it down you need to think about; how much fuel you burn on average, how often you have your coal delivered, how much space you have available to commit to storage, and money saving options if you decide to buy in larger bulk from your coal merchants.

It’s always good to plan ahead. With the weather becoming balmier by the day you’re not going to be thinking much about your home fireplace. You might have thought through the winter months that you are definitely going to install a fireplace for next winter, but again, you leave it until the weather turns frosty before thinking of making the purchase.

Why Summer?

It is these summer months that are best for purchasing a new fireplace; most fireplace installers will be less busy through the hotter seasons, meaning they will have plenty of time to aid you in choosing and installing your new fireplace. When winter hits, people all over the country will be scrambling to have a fireplace installed, or checked, and companies will have a lot of customers to deal with. To ensure that every customer gets equal service, you may end up waiting a long time before engineers or other staff can get to you.

If you already have a fireplace, it can be easy to neglect it through summer when it isn’t being used. Failing to get it regularly checked and maintained can cause it to become filled with dust and other detritus that will cause problems when you light it again in the winter.

Special Offers

During winter, fireplace stocks fall low due to high demand. In summer, when demand is low, there will be special offers on ex-display items as well as discounted prices.

Businesses want to keep providing products and services during these quieter months and will be willing to do it much cheaper than when business is booming.

Having a fireplace installed in the summer means it might not see action for a few months. However, the savings will make the process worth it when winter arrives, and your new fireplace is ready to go. The money you save can even go towards stocking up on firewood and smokeless coal to keep you warm throughout the winter.

A common question from those wishing to install a wood-burning fireplace into their home is: what is the difference between fireplaces and fireplace inserts? Although they both look similar, and both perform the same function, there are in fact some clear differences between the two:

  • Fireplaces

Fireplaces are self-operating systems capable of burning fuel for heat. They have their own chimney and flue system and come in two main types:

  1. Factory Built Fireplace

Pre-engineered fireplaces are constructed together with the chimney system and combustion air inlet along with controls for both. The factory-built fireplace is set in the home before being built around with framing and masonry.

  1. Open Hearth fireplace

Typically, these types of fireplaces are built on site by a mason. They provide a lot of ambience to your home, but their efficiency rating is much lower than a factory-built fireplace. Open hearths use an average of 300 cubic feet of air per minute, pulled through the chimney flue, so your home will need an adequate make up of air.

  • Inserts

These fireplace units are constructed and designed to fit inside an existing fireplace. Most homes that have an open hearth and wish to change tend to opt for an insert to help make their fires burn more efficiently.

Custom inserts can be costly due to the specific design process. They require a lot of steel, called flashing, which is installed around the insert to close off the area between the insert and the fireplace opening.

Now you know the difference between factory-built fireplaces and inserts you can make an informed decision about which would be the best option for you and your home. Visit Pearson Fuels coal merchants for your supply of smokeless coals and imported firewood to use in your own fireplace.

Smokeless coal – and what we will be referring to as ‘normal’ coal (any household coal that isn’t smokeless) – are the two types of coal that you can buy domestically for home stoves and fire places in the UK.

There may not be too many differences between smokeless and ‘normal’ household coal upon first glance. But if you take a much closer look, the characteristics of each become evident.

Depending on where you live, it may be a requirement to use smokeless coal in your home stove or fireplace. So always be sure to check online with your local council if your home falls under a smoke control area.

Heat Output

One of the most obvious reasons for using smokeless coal – even if you don’t live in a smoke control area – is that they simply burn much hotter and longer than ‘normal’ coal. This means your stores of coal will go a lot further. You will also find your fire burning for much longer before you need to get up and apply more coal to feed the fire.

Costs

You might find that bags of smokeless coal and ‘normal’ household coal from your local supermarket are roughly the same price, but with a longer and hotter burn time you will be getting much more value for money with smokeless.

If you have substantial storage space, buying coal in ½ tonne quantities of normal coal may turn out to be cheaper than constantly purchasing 25kg bags, even when ordering 20 at a time.

Stoves and Fireplaces

Having a quality fire is vital to creating a fire that will efficiently heat your home. If your home fire is more decorative than functional then you may find yourself with a raging fire that will completely burn out completely in minutes without constant attention, or a fire that is hard to light in the first place.

Sellers

You can buy both smokeless coal and ‘normal’ household coal from your local supermarkets, from garage forecourts or from specialised suppliers and coal merchants in larger bulk, if you have the required storage space.

 

 

Wood is wood right? Wrong. Having a fireplace or home stove installed doesn’t mean you can now fill it with any wood you can lay your hands on in order to cheaply heat your home.

There are a lot of woods out there which are very poor burners. They may either have a very low density, meaning they burn up quickly without creating much heat; they can produce lots of smoke and ash or they may retain lots of water, making them difficult to light.

We recently looked at the best woods to burn in your home fires, but what are the woods you should look to avoid?

Alder – Avoid this wood as it will simply be a complete waste of money. The fire it produces is very low heat and lasts for a very short amount of time. If you’re trying to heat your home with Alder, you’ll be waiting a long time.

Chestnut – This wood is common for furniture design due to its sturdy nature and appealing aesthetic, but in a fire this wood produces a small flame with a very low heat. Not to mention, it is expensive wood, so you’ll be splashing out a lot of cash for some very poor firewood.

Douglas Fir – As well as producing a very small flame with a low heat output, this wood comes with the added drawback of producing sap deposits in your stoves that can cause damage.

Elder – Another waste of time and money: small flame, low heat output -everything you don’t want from your fire.

Eucalyptus – Although it produces a lot of heat, it is near impossible to dry eucalyptus because it has a very efficient moisture retention. It takes around 2 years to get the wood dry enough for suitable burning.

Holly – Burns very quickly and produces little heat in the meantime. It has some positives though, it will burn in dry and wet conditions, so it is very easy to start a fire in a pinch.

Laburnum – Do not use in a fire at any point as it produces acrid, thick smoke even on small fires.

More advice can be found at your local coal merchants and firewood providers.