Keeping your chimney liner clean is an important factor in maintaining and safe and efficient chimney system. If your chimney liner vents only gases from appliances that burn natural gas or fuel oil, frequent cleaning is not necessary as long as your system has proper fuel combustion, but if you have a wood or coal burning fireplace or stove you should clean your system at least once per year. Whatever type of fuel you burn, you should have a chimney or heating system specialist inspect your system annually to ensure that it is operating safely.
If you take a few steps to minimize buildup of creosote, water and other contaminants in your chimney liner, it will reduce the cost and frequency of cleaning it. A properly insulated chimney liner will have a slower rate of creosote buildup than a liner that is not insulated. Insulation keeps flue gases hot all the way to the top, so less water and creosote condenses inside the chimney.
Selecting the proper fuel for use in your heating appliances will also help to keep your chimney liner clean. If it is available at reasonable prices in your area, hardwood is the best choice for firewood. Soft woods such as pine produce more creosote than hardwoods such as oak or hickory and also burn faster while producing less heat per cord. Whether you choose hardwood or softwood, be sure your firewood is dry and well-seasoned. Wet firewood burns smokier and produces less heat than dry firewood while sending unnecessary amounts of moisture up your chimney.
Installing a screened chimney cap or top sealing damper on your chimney will prevent trash, leaves and small animals from entering your flue. A cap or damper also keeps rain and snow out of your chimney, so your chimney liner will be subjected to less corrosive action caused by moisture.
When you are using your woodstove or fireplace, you can employ products like Anti-Creosote and Creaway to inhibit creosote buildup inside your chimney liner. But, no matter how careful you are in selecting firewood and burning it efficiently, you will have to clean your chimney liner periodically. A clean flue is safer and more efficient than a dirty flue.
If you enjoy working with tools, don’t mind climbing on a pitched roof and don’t object to getting dirty, you might save money over time by investing in chimney cleaning tools and cleaning your chimney liner yourself. You will need a brush that is sized correctly for your chimney liner and connecting rods to push it into and pull it out of your liner. Be sure to carefully clean inside your fireplace or woodstove to remove ash and creosote that falls down from the chimney liner as you brush it out.
Even if you choose to do most of your chimney system cleaning yourself, it is still a good idea to have a professional chimney sweep clean and inspect your system periodically. Chimney professionals have the specialized tools necessary for complete cleaning and inspection of every component of your fireplace or woodstove and chimney. They also have the experience to recognize when problems may be developing that need your attention. The relatively small cost of a thorough annual cleaning and inspection is a very good investment in keeping your home and family safe and your fuel burning appliances operating efficiently.