The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 29, 2013

Fall heating inspections make for warmer winters

From staff reports

ATHENS — Last Sunday was the first day of fall, which means that cooler weather and the heating season are not that far away.

The North Alabama Better Business Bureau recommends having central heating systems, wood-burning appliances and components inspected before they are fired up for daily use in cooler weather.

A qualified heating contractor should inspect home heating systems annually, the Consumer Product and Safety Commission recommends.

Sometimes overlooked, chimneys, flues and venting systems should also be checked for possible blockage. Birds’ nests and loose mortar are materials commonly found clogging passages.

Make sure the flue, all joints and connectors fit together tightly and are rust or crack free to prevent a back-up of toxic gases. Rust and cracks can cause toxic fumes to leak into homes, resulting in possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

If the inspection reveals an accumulation of soot on chimney walls, a chimney sweep should be hired to clean it. Chimneys should be checked and cleaned, if necessary, on an annual basis. Also, the BBB advises it's a good idea to check out chimney sweeps before hiring one.

For owners of wood stoves, be sure the stove and stovepipe were installed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and local codes. If there is any doubt, a building inspector or fire official can determine whether it has been properly vented and installed an appropriate distance away from any combustible surfaces.

Always operate the stove within the manufacturer’s recommended temperature limits. Too low a temperature increases creosote buildup which could cause a chimney fire. Too high a temperature may eventually cause damage to the chimney and may also result in a fire.

If work is needed on the heating system, hire a contractor with a good reputation for dependable, reasonably priced work. Ask friends, neighbors and colleagues for recommendations and check out any company being considered with your the BBB.

Get at least two estimates for the work. The bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used.

The U.S. Department of Energy also offers a free checklist of home heating and other energy-related measures that can be taken to improve efficiency that may also help save money.

For more information, visit