Chimney sweeping is important. It helps to prevent chimney fires and reduces the risk of dangerous fume emissions from blocked heating appliances, flueways and chimneys.
Regular sweeping and maintenance of chimneys and flues eliminates the build-up of soot from coal, wood, oil and gas fired systems. It also clears obstructions such as birds nests, leaves and debris.
- chimneys using oil or gas should be swept once a year
- chimneys using smokeless fuel or coal should be swept at least once a year
- chimneys using wood should be swept quarterly when in use
Am I at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning?
Heating and cooking appliances fuelled by coal, smokeless fuels, wood, oil and gas can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if they are poorly installed, incorrectly used or if they are not properly and regularly maintained.
Make sure you are not at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by:
- having appliances installed and properly checked by competent engineers
- getting your chimney or flue regularly inspected and swept
- not overloading a fire and only burning the fuel it is designed for
- fitting a carbon monoxide detector
- not blocking chimneys, flues or air vents in any rooms where combustion appliances are installed and used
Remember that if you have had building work done recently, such as double glazing installation, or if floodwater has caused the build-up of silt or debris, this may also affect your property’s ventilation.
Fire safety advice for open fires
If you have an open fire at home, there are a few things you can do to stay safe:
- don't light fires using flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin
- don’t burn paper or rubbish on fires in the grate
- don't overload the fire with fuel
- use a spark guard when the fire is unattended to prevent embers setting fire to furnishings or carpets
- go into the loft occasionally to check the chimney when the fire is alight. Check for smoke from cracks, defective brickwork or mortar joints
Heating appliances must be able to ‘breathe’ in order to function efficiently, whatever type of fuel they burn. They require a constant and sufficient flow of air, so make sure the room is not completely airtight. If you have draught-proofing or double glazing fitted you may need vents or air bricks in an exterior wall of the room. Also follow these safety tips:
- never block air bricks or vents, or the outside grille of a flue
- make sure new water heaters in a bathroom are fitted to a balanced flue
- if you fit an extractor fan or hood, make sure it doesn’t suck toxic fumes back down flues or chimneys
- have your gas or oil fired boiler serviced and the flue checked once a year