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Dealing With High Winds

Windy days can do more than just rattle your windows and shake your trees. Many homeowners are familiar with how high wind and weather conditions affect your ability to use your fireplace. Things like smoke blowing back into the room, to lingering smells and odors – strong winds often make it difficult to enjoy using the fireplace!

Dealing With High Winds Image - San Francisco CA - Fireplace Safety ServicesHow high winds affect your chimney.

Chimneys are designed to function in all kinds of weather. This includes wind. While a gentle breeze may do nothing to impact fireplace performance, strong winds can cause major problems.

There are a number of ways that high winds affect chimney performance. The most common wind-related chimney issue is back-drafting. This occurs when smoke blows back into the room when the fireplace is being used.

In regular weather conditions, back-drafting commonly occurs when the air pressure inside a home is lower than the air pressure inside. However, when combined with high winds the air pressure differences can be heightened. Unfortunately, this can happen even in homes with no previous problems with back-drafting. The phenomenon can also cause slow burning or sluggish fires, as well as lingering smoky odors.

Other ways to prevent back-drafting.

There are several chimney issues that can cause back-drafting, especially when exacerbated by high winds.

  • Chimney height:
    Chimneys that are too tall or too short can create drafting problems. While chimneys that are too short face back-drafts as wind blows across the roof-line, those that are too tall may not pull in enough air to draft correctly.
  • Improperly sized flue:
    The right sized flue allows the fireplace to draft correctly. A flue that is too small cannot pull up enough smoke, while a flue that is too large cannot combat the cold downdrafts from outside wind.
  • Damaged chimney cap:
    Chimney caps help stop gusts of wind; if the cap is missing or damaged, air can blow directly across and into the flue.

High winds and burn bans.

With more than 1.4 million wood burning fireplaces and stoves in the Bay Area, air pollution can be a problem. In poor weather conditions, such as high winds, a burn ban may be issued. This is done by the winter Spare the Air program which runs from November 1st to February 28th each year.

The purpose of the Spare the Air program is to reduce the particulate pollution created by wood burning fireplaces, stoves, and other heating appliances in poor weather conditions. Instituting temporary burn bans improves air quality for the entire Bay Area, particularly those with asthma and other respiratory issues.

With an average of 15-20 Spare the Air days instituted each winter, heating homes can be a concern for those who use wood as a primary heat source. While all wood and pellet burning fires are prohibited during burn bans, exceptions are available for those who only burn wood for heat.

High winds can have a negative effect on how you use your fireplace this fall and winter. Be prepared by taking the steps to avoid back-drafting, as well as staying up to date on Spare the Air days and burn bans. For more information on how high winds affect your chimney, contact Fireplace Safety Services today!

We Specialize In Sheet Metal Work!

When burning safely and efficiently, our fireplaces can provide year-round enjoyment! Unfortunately, burning issues can make a fireplace unusable.

We Specialize In Sheet Metal Work Image - San Francisco CA - Fireplace Safety ServicesOne of the most common complaints we hear from homeowners? Smoke coming back into the home while the fireplace is in use. This affects the air quality in your home and leaves behind unwelcome odors. It can also stain walls, ceilings, and furnishings. While some performance problems require more in-depth repairs, other can be quickly and easily fixed using sheet metal.

Common Causes of Smoking Issues

Smoking chimneys are more than a minor nuisance or inconvenience; it can cause damage to your home’s interior and leave a fireplace virtually unusable. Some common causes of smoking issues include:

  • Flue blockages
  • Size of fireplace opening
  • Size of flue
  • Chimney height
  • Air pressure
  • Competing appliances

While some smoking issues, such as chimney height, require major repairs or rebuilds, others can be easily remedied.

Repairing Smoking Issues with Sheet Metal

If your chimney’s smoking issues are being caused by the length of the flue or the size of the opening of the fireplace, they may be able to be easily repaired using sheet metal work. These repairs can often be done for just a fraction of the price of a major fireplace rebuild, too. This gives you more time and money, while allowing you to get back to enjoying your fireplace sooner.

  • Flue length.
    If the flue is too short to create the proper draft, smoke will back up into your home instead of being pulled to the outside. A sheet metal flue extension can be added to the top of the chimney to add height; the additional length encourages correct drafting and reduces smoking issues.
  • Flue extensions.
    Utilized to correct the negative air pressure created if the chimney is not the tallest point on the roof-line. Tall nearby trees, changes to the roof-line, or the addition of another story can all cause negative pressure; ensuring the chimney is at least three feet taller than the surrounding roof-line can help eliminate drafting problems.
  • Fireplace opening size.
    If the opening of the fireplace is too big for the size of the flue, air will not draw up the chimney properly. In this case, a smoke guard can be installed; smoke guards are pieces of sheet metal which reduce the size of the fireplace opening – without affecting the look of your fireplace.
  • Smoke staining.
    Smoking issues can leave behind stains on walls and ceilings – commonly seen directly above the fireplace. A metal hood enclosure can be created to protect the fireplace facing from future smoke stains, while creating a unique decorative finish.

A chimney system is more than just a collection of bricks, mortar, and metal! Because of that, it is important to work with fireplace experts who understand your entire chimney system from firebox to flue. The next time you need sheet metal work done on your chimney, contact the experts at Fireplace Safety Services to restore the safety and beauty of your fireplace system.

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