Lockdown 2: Why You CAN Still Have Your Chimney Swept

Lockdown number 2, same sort of thing as it was back in march 2020, but not exactly!

It’s all good news though.

Because unlike in March, when the government’s advice was much misunderstood – prompting many sweeps and installers to down tools – they have been more forthright this time.

They have now spelt out, in black and white that people ARE able to work in other people’s homes. End of.

gov website
From the gov website

Can a chimney sweep still visit in lockdown?

“Yes”

Whether that works is deemed ‘essential’ or not is neither here nor there. ‘Essential’ only relates to physical commercial premises in this context – which is why fireplace shops may have to close (although many have to undertake home survey visits anyway so in practice the disruption isn’t a deal breaker).

Similarly, whether the person carrying out the service is a ‘keyworker’ or not isn’t something which is being thrown into the mix this time, as schools aren’t shutting.

Even if schools did shut, being a keyworker never conferred any special rights on whether you are allowed to work or not. Plenty of non-designated keyworkers were able to carry on working last time.

The keyworker designation only gave you the right to be able to continue sending your child to school in the event of school closures.

So, please – disregard the words ‘essential’ or ‘keyworker’ when it comes to having a tradesperson in your home. They are massive red herrings.

It’s vital that your chimney is regularly swept to ensure there isn’t a fire, many people rely on their wood burners and open fires for their heating, especially if their central heating was to pack up.

Yes, it can be confusing when the government are telling you “you can have someone in your home to undertake a paid service, but you can’t have your friends around.”

But those are the ‘rules’ as they stand’ – basically if it’s a social occasion it’s banned; if it’s for work, it’s fine.

The explicit reference to working in people’s homes is good news and, to be frank, a bit of a relief.

The government has clearly listened to people like me who highlighted how their lack of clarity last time caused a massive, unnecessary upheaval for a lot of tradespeople.

Of course, some tradespeople may voluntarily shut down, as many did last time, but they are not legally obliged to.

Some may also have to rearrange appointments if they are self-isolating, and that is to be expected of any professional tradesperson.

2020 has been an odd year for pretty much everyone. Working in people’s homes enables you to get a sense of people’s views and mind sets. And most I speak to now accept that we have to learn to live alongside the virus.

Yes there measures we can take to minimise risk but life has to continue.

Chimney cowls and Brickwork

As winter draws in, with more people working from home, many will want to enjoy the glow of a roaring fire.

And given the sort of year most people have had the ability to enjoy this simple comfort safely and securely takes on even more importance…

If you have any questions or concerns please send me a message or call me on 07961 845837

Many Thanks, Guy

www.thesweepguy.co.uk

As we say goodbye to Summer!

So winter is just around the corner and our summer has been one that has been surrounded by Covid-19, lets try and forget about that for a second!

sunflower
Jenson my youngest son

Normally most of my Summers are spent entertaining children (not my own) with my other company www.krazykidz.co.uk but due to the new rules and regulations children’s parties have been put on hold.

So this summer I’ve spent most of it learning how to sail !!

sailing on the Blackwater

But when I’ve not been sailing I have been sweeping your chimney’s and flues. Having your chimney swept in the summer means I am much more flexible in offering you dates and times (currently my diary is pretty full and I’m trying to squeeze you all in.

Moving on to Chimney sweeping, If you don’t have a chimney/Bird cowl on top of your pot

Bird cowl
Bird cowl

Then birds could have nested inside your chimney and caused a blockage, so when you come to light your fire on that first chilly night your house might fill with smoke, because if the smoke cant escape up the chimney its coming back down in to your living room!

This is also why its important to have a carbon monoxide alarm in the same room as your appliance, as well as a smoke alarm.

The Sweep Guy
The Sweep Guy

Any fumes that dont make it out of your chimney could cost you your life! I have visited so many houses this summer and still in shock at the amount of people that don’t have one fitted.

I can have one of these fitted for you for £25 just ask me at the time of your sweep.

selfie
Selfie (looking grey)

So for the next few months life and sweeping is going to be a bit hectic, I give all my customers a 1hr window time slot & I will always do my best to get there within that slot but sometimes its just not possible, with roads such as the A12 & the M25! If I am running late I will always give you a call and let you know.


My final plea to you all is, please have your fire place/wood burning stove cleaned out ready for me, and the area around your fireplace clear. I am a chimney sweep and I’m not there to remove your rubbish out of your stove.

Thank you and stay safe http://www.thesweepguy.co.uk

yuk
yuk

When should I have my chimney swept

calendar

Many people ask “when is it best to have my chimney swept”

Although there is no definite answer to this question from a chimney sweeps point of view its actually best during the summer months, here are a few reasons why.

1, your appliance isn’t actually in use so this gives you and me more freedom of when I can sweep it.

2, Chimney sweeps are less busy which means you can literally pick and choose a time that suits you (in busier months the chimney sweep with have set times.

3, The soot inside your chimney/flue would have had time to dry out and therefore be easier to remove.

4, The knowing that the summer months you have a clean chimney/flue is quite satisfying.

5, More importantly when September comes and we have them chilly nights again then its safe to light your fire without having anything to worry about.  

For me I have many regular customers that like to have their chimney/flue swept in the summer months and it makes so much sense because from September I am out most days from 7am til 7pm sweeping and trying to find a slot for you is sometimes difficult.

It’s recommended that you have your chimney/flue swept every year, as a certified chimney sweep I don’t just sweep your chimney, I do a thorough check of your appliance, and this includes a smoke test.

By doing this thorough check in the summer months if I find any problems that gives you plenty of time to get some quotes and to get the work done.

Imagine if I came to your house in the middle of winter and I found an issue with your appliance that would mean a few weeks without your wood-burner or stove.  

So from a logical point of view the summer is the best time to have ‘The Sweep Guy’ visit you.

So please contact me to book an appointment that suits you.

 

Which Chimney Sweep association to choose?

Which Chimney Sweeps association to choose?

confused

These are my views and some other sweeps may not agree, I’m not blogging this to discredit anyone. 

For me it was simple, I wanted to choose one that stood out from all the rest, that’s why I chose the chimney sweep academy.  

Here is why, from the moment I approached them they were extremely friendly and answered all my questions. There were no hidden fees and it was a 1 on 1 training course. Right from the beginning I could tell that they weren’t in it just for the money.  

I don’t do well in large classrooms full of other people, I wanted to learn this trade and I wanted to do it 1 on 1. 

Many other associations charge over £1500 for a chimney sweep course and you could be in a class with up 15 other students, stood around watching each other sweep different chimneys and flues.  

The Chimney Sweep Academy was less than half that. 

Many other associations charge lots of extra’s like assessment fees £400 and other unnecessary costs. 

As a business starting out, I wanted to keep my overheads as low as I could, that way I could pass on my savings to my customers, keeping my prices competitive. 

So, the price of these different associations really does matter.  

There are so many to choose from and the rivalry between them all is, well let’s not go in to it today! 

NACS (national association of chimney sweeps – £1819, 5-year refresher £60, re-assessment on site, £474, smoke test course £270, cctv inspection course £200, thatch course £200. That’s nearly £3000 before you’ve brought the tools that you need! Oh and then its either £150 a year to stay a member or £300 a year! 

APICS (association of professional independent chimney sweeps) – No visible prices on their website you need to email them.

GOMC (guild of master chimney sweeps) Guild training course £1320, final assessment £400, yearly membership £284 

ICS (Institute of chimney sweeps) – No visible prices on their website, you will need to contact them. Yearly membership £210 

CHIMNEY SWEEP ACADEMY – £649 and their yearly membership is just £99. 

The Choice is yours! 

They all claim to be the best and offer the best training, but bottom line is….. (you are going to love this) 

“A chimney sweep DOESN’T have to be a member of any” 

That’s right, so why pay £3000 for the training and assessment fees to a company when you don’t need to? 

Here are the reasons I joined one of the above organisations, it looks professional, they offer the training I needed and the support I need, if I ever turn up to a job and I’m unsure of something they are there to answer questions. If I do end up in a legal battle, they will offer the legal support I need. 

You don’t get that when you out there on your own, now I’m sure all the associations offer this kind of support but why are they charging so much for the training? I will tell you why “Profit” yes, we are all in the world to make money but charging someone £2000 when there is another company that will do it for less than half that price is ludicrous.  

The Chimney sweep academy are the new kids on the block but I can promise you that all its members are happy.  

Final thoughts, these are my own views and nobody else’s, but go back 100 years ago when everyone had open fires, were there these training associations, no it was a trade that you learnt and became good at.  

Don’t forget if you have any questions please do contact me 

The Sweep Guy

Wet wood ‘Ban’ – Why the Government have got it WRONG

wet wood

The Government have decided to go ahead and ban the sale of wet wood under the volume of 2 cubic meters.  

DEFRA (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) is bringing in the mandatory certification scheme next year 2021 

The smaller wood manufacturers this certification scheme is going to be delayed until 2022. This is because the government says it realises that smaller producers may struggle to hit the deadline. 

So what does this all mean? 

From now til 2021 – There is NO ban and you can continue buying any wood for your fire or wood-burner. There is NO ban on wood-burners.

From 2021 – Larger manufacturers of wood can only sell ‘Dry’ wood with a moisture content of less than 20% if the volume of wood sold is less than 2 cubic meters. You can still buy sacks of logs from places such as B&Q. There is NO ban on wood-burners 

From 2022 – All wood sold under 2 cubic meters has to be ‘Dry’ a moisture content below 20%. (Paces like B&Q that sell the sacks of wood) There is NO ban on wood-burners.

I mention B&Q because they often leave their sacks of logs outside soaking up all that British rain that we get!

When was the last time you checked the wood you are burning?

If you ask me ‘The Sweep Guy’ I can check the moisture content of your wood, when I come to sweep your chimney.

 

Dry wood
Here’s my thoughts on this 

Have you ever tried to burn wet wood? It gives off no heat and no flames and it’s a nightmare to try and keep alight.  

Where I live there are lots of people selling sacks of logs, bags of kindling – are all these driveway sellers going to sign up to this scheme? 

It’s likely these ‘driveway’ sellers will just stop selling, even if their wood is dry (or maybe they will go underground & start selling on Ebay, Facebook etc etc) 

This brings me on to ‘Enforcement’ 

If we are honest, we all know there just aren’t enough resources to police this. It will be just like the ‘clean air act’ which doesn’t get enforced. There are lots of people burning coal in built up areas when they should be using ‘smokeless coal’ but when was the last time the police or the environment agency knocked on their door? 

As a chimney sweep, I know dry wood can also be massively polluting to the environment if it’s not burnt in the correct manner, this brings me back to ‘Dry’ wood. We’ve all been sat in our gardens when your next-door neighbour has cut down their hedge and tried burning green wood, because they are too lazy to put it in the garden waste bin. 

Banning the sale of wet wood under 2 cubic meters sounds like a great idea in theory, but it’s actually the wrong solution, it would just lead to more kiln dried wood being imported, resulting in a bigger carbon footprint from all the lorries delivering it.  

Sweden is a country that burns more wood than us & they don’t have these silly regulations like us.  

Final thought 

Just make sure the wood you burn is dry (under 20%) cos you are wasting your time, the heat you do get out of the fire you’ve got isn’t heating your house, it’s just trying to dry out the wet wood you’ve got on your fire. 

Burning wet wood will result in more soot up your chimney also. 

If you want to check you moisture content of your wood have a look on Amazon for a ‘moisture meter’ they are less than £10

Any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me ‘The Sweep Guy’

Chimney Sweep myths

Fact or Myth
man on roof

Chimney myths and preconceptions 

There are a lot of myths surrounding fires, chimneys, stove as well as fuels and what to burn; from their construction, how they work and how they are cleaned. Many of these are simply based on assumptions, but most are because people have been badly advised & have listened to someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. 

So here are my Top myths which people ask me about on a fairly regular basis… 

DIY Chimney sweeping is free & easy 

DIY chimney sweep can be cheap especially if you have the tools needed. But they aren’t easy and you get what you pay for. In fact, our technicians have gone through some serious training in order to spot problem areas in chimneys. An untrained eye may overlook areas of damage to the fireplace or chimney, or will cause damage and essential repair they will cost more than hiring a chimney professional. 

Regular sweeping is no longer needed once I get a steel flue liner 

For some reason, many people think that having a steel flue liner removes the need for an annual sweep. The fact is that soot & creosote do not care what kind of liner you have, nor do animals, don’t forget the risk of a bird’s nest. 

Burning Softwoods Causes Excessive Creosote Damage to Your Chimney Lining 

There’s a common myth that burning softwoods, like pine and cedar, can cause excessive damage to the chimney because they produce more smoke. This was actually dispelled by the University of Georgia (whom I hate; Go Gators!) when they found that softwoods do no more harm than other types of firewood. The wood just needs to be properly seasoned. The culprit was low temperature fires and burning green wood. 

My downstairs fire connects to the fire upstairs in my bedroom 

This is largely false. Apart from some very old cottages, most fires are served by one flue only (within the chimney stack) and go into separate chimney pots. 

Since I have a multi-fuel stove, I can burn both wood and smokeless coal 

Don’t mix two types of fuels at the same time. The moisture from the wood will mix with the sulphur in the smokeless fuel to create acidic deposits. Those deposits can cause rapid deterioration and corrosion of your chimney liner. Also, the two fuels need different conditions to burn correctly meaning in one of the fuels burning inefficiently. Only burn one fuel and burn it hot! 

We had an open fire as a child, so we’ll know how to use our wood burner 

Open fires and wood-burners are two different animals. They’re about as similar as a typewriter and a computer. Your old open fire was probably connected to a masonry flue and you probably used house coal on it. You probably also tried to keep the fire in for as long as possible by “banking” it up with fuel. If you do these things with a stove, you’ll wreck the liner, forcing you to dish out a lot of money for a replacement. Read the instructions or ask your chimney sweep how to operate the appliance. 

The sweep will need to go on the roof to sweep the chimney 

It’s not unreasonable to think this, but top-down sweeping is very uncommon (outside of parts of continental Europe & Scotland). Most chimney sweeps elect to clean from the bottom because they are in better control of the dust/soot situation. When you are on the roof you don’t know what is going on inside!! 

It is best to get my chimney swept before the burn season 

I actually like to recommend to our customers to book their sweep at the end of the burning season. Preferably in the spring time. This way there is plenty of time to arrange any repairs to be done and will prevent the risk of a soot fall over the summer 

It’s easy to get a chimney sweep at short notice 

Maybe in the spring and summer since most people don’t adhere to my advice from aboves myth. We are busiest during the autumn & winter, starting in August and early September. And this is the case for most reputable chimney companies. By October, it’s likely that we will be taking bookings for 4-5 weeks ahead. You may be lucky to find someone who is not fully booked, but you will need to ask the question why? 

Home Remedies work well to clean chimneys 

Don’t trust any articles that brag about having a “cool home remedy” to keep your chimney clean. Maybe you’ll get convinced that burning a particular substance with your logs will keep the creosote level down.  The only way to clean your chimney or flue is with a brush & set of rods. 

Burning Wood is Bad for Air Quality 

Modern wood stoves are actually more efficient and cleaner than ever, especially if operated correctly. There has been much talk recently of the government banning stoves and the sale of wood this is incorrect, the sale of certain polluting fuels is to be stopped but as long as your stove is used according to the manufacturers it can be less polluting than many other forms of home heating. 

 Bigger is Better when it comes to choosing your stove 

You only need as many kilowatts as the room you are heating requires. Oversizing causes waste and unnecessary expense. It’s just not efficient- in fact it can increase your chances of a chimney fire because of under firing and production of flammable creosote. Efficiency comes from matching the size of your stove to space you are trying to heat. 

Chimney Sweeping is an Unskilled Job 

This one just hurts. Sweeping might be an old profession, but in the UK today is a skilled trade which requires years of experience and training to perfect. I strongly advise that you only use the services of a registered chimney sweep who will not only have been trained to a nationally recognised standard but also carry the correct levels of insurance and experience you should demand 

The Sweep Guy is a certified chimney sweep covering all of Essex

Choosing a stove installer

Hetas

Some questions we often hear are “Who will fit my stove?  Which stove installers are the best?  Why should I use a HETAS engineer?

Well, when it comes to choosing stove installers, recommendation is always king, but it pays to also look for a couple of check points.  Stove installers should always be HETAS engineers, to whit, they should have passed the relevant nationally recognised tests to demonstrate competence.  HETAS stands for Heating, Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme and is the Cordon Bleu of the industry, so to speak.

Stove installers have to be HETAS engineers, because the job that they do can kill you.  A stove installation that is incorrectly installed can allow monoxide fumes into the living space, which if only mild can affect your health over a long period of time.  If serious, then death can ensue.

Then there’s the risk of fire.  There are several aspects of a log burner installation that can be a fire risk.  The distance of the stove or the flue to anything combustible, like a wood mantelpiece or a fire surround is of enormous importance, as if they get too hot, they can ignite.

Chimney fires are also important.  An incorrectly installed liner can be a fire risk, and having your chimney alight is not the joke that many people see it as.  For example, a chimney fire can invalidate the guarantee on your liner, as well as damage it seriously.

So, don’t take risks.  Ensure your stove installer is a HETAS engineer, and you and your wood burning stove installation can live happily ever after. To read more about HETAS click here 

Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

Chimney Balloons

The Sweep Guy

How it works

Having an open chimney is like leaving your window open all the time.

Fitting a Chimney Balloon to an open chimney is like fitting the gap with double glazing. The Chimney Balloon is designed to inflate and push against all four walls of the chimney, holding itself firmly in place. There is a small vent in the side of the product which allows some airflow, permitting your chimney to “breathe”.

The rubber bands hold the top and bottom together, enabling it to push outwards as it’s inflated. Being stretchy, they allow far greater range of flex than some other inflatable chimney draught excluders with inflexible central cores. This means each size will fit a greater range of chimneys.

However chimneys do vary a lot so it is worth taking the time to measure yours carefully before selecting the appropriate size balloon.

Being effectively a double barrier with the top and bottom of the balloon, air is trapped inside, insulating the chimney against cold air sinking down, while simultaneously preventing warm air from rising up.

Fitting a chimney draught stopper like the Chimney Balloon stops the stack effect created by a chimney syphoning all your expensively heated air out of your home.

The balloon also insulates against sound, prevents debris and wildlife from falling in, and reduces weather ingress.

Chimney Balloon fitted in the flue.

If this is something that would be beneficial to you here is the link to buy one.

Keep warm air in and cold air out with Chimney Balloon!

Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

Open fires v wood-burning stoves: The grate debate

The Sweep Guy

Wood-burning stove or open fire? Arabella Youens examines the pros and cons of both options.

In the country, most houses need a powerful source of heat in the depths of winter to boost or counter the cost of having the central heating on all day. However, the role of fire isn’t just about warmth; there’s no doubt that dancing flames – in an open grate or behind a glass – is a sure-fire way of bringing atmosphere into a room.

As interior decorator Emma Sims-Hilditch says: ‘Fireplaces appeal to all the senses, with the illumination of a flame lighting a room on a cold winter’s evening and smoke gently pluming out of the chimney. There’s nothing more inviting than returning home from a walk to a gently burning fire.’

Emma Burns of Sybil Colefax & John Fowler goes as far to say that a room isn’t ‘complete’ without a fireplace or stove. She’s a particular advocate of the tiled stoves used throughout Northern Europe and Russia, having recently installed one, covered in intense blue ceramic tiles, in the upstairs room of a log building. ‘I like fires burning in grates all year round – the flickering flames give such life to a room.’

Open fires

sights and sounds of our natural world

The warmth from a roaring log fire permeates the entire house with a delicious aroma – aficionados can get quite obsessive about which wood cocktail creates the best results, including apple, pear and cherry or, if you can get it, olive, which has an excellent slow burn with a hint of the Mediterranean.

The fireplace in full splendour also acts as the focal point of the room, drawing guests into its space in a convivial manner that’s perfect for entertaining. ‘Nothing beats a classic fireplace in my opinion,’ says designer and decorator Joanna Wood.

‘A statement mantelpiece gives you the opportunity to create a structured seated group around it.’

Although they come out on top in terms of atmosphere, open fires are, however, an inefficient method of heating. The uncontrolled airflow draws air from the rest of the house up the chimney at the same time as the heat from the fire.

  • Unbeatable for ambience
  • Sets a tone throughout the house
  • Ideal for a traditional drawing room

Wood-burners

Wood-burners deliver a constant radiant heat. Most agree that they’re 80% efficient and come with both the ability to regulate the heat they provide and how fast they burn their fuel.

Because the wood is shut away within the cast-iron casing, providing the flue is checked and cleaned on an annual basis, they can be left to burn without constant supervision. And, as they don’t require any surround and can be fitted into a corner, they create a less formal focal point than an open fire – a solution that, according to Joanna, is particularly suitable for a kitchen/breakfast room or family room.

Edward Bulmer, a Herefordshire-based interior designer with his own range of paints, is currently replacing an old boiler in the office and replacing it with a wood-burning stove. ‘Stoves burn more efficiently than open fires, but neither is, frankly, eco-friendly as they emit more CO2 than gas,’ he says.

 

‘However, managing trees for fuel is significantly better than using gas as it’s potentially carbon-neutral overall.’

Aside from the environmental aspect, wood-burners have another strength, adds Edward: ‘Inserting a stove into a historic fireplace should not involve the loss of a period grate ideally. They can, however, solve the performance issues in big fireplaces without the need for structural alteration.’

  • Flexible position: can fill a corner or an existing fireplace
  • Safer for young children
  • More contemporary look
  • No mess
  • More flexible and consistent source of heat
  • Can have them in towns at present

If you are thinking of buying a stove but not sure which one to buy, then have a look here

https://www.realhomes.com/buying-guides/15-best-stoves

Good luck with your choice.

Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

Roasting your nuts on the fire this year? Don’t get burnt!

Ahhh, chestnuts… When most of us think of the festive season, there are a few things that instantly come to mind; sparkly tinsel, Mariah Carey, mince pies, and of course supressing the agonising screams while you pick the burnt skin off your still smouldering nuts. Ouch.

In fact, there aren’t many activities that evoke that same cosy, nostalgic Christmassy feeling that roasting chestnuts on an open fire can. The comforting feel of the fire burning combined with the warming smell of the chestnuts cooking is a truly sensory experience,and it’s a great activity to enjoy with your loved ones.  Right up until it comes to trying to eat them…

Don’t worry folks… we have some tips to make sure you (and all your family) get to enjoy your nuts this year!  jh

 

How to roast chestnuts on an open fire

The Sweep Guy

Roasting chestnuts is extremely easy, whether you’re roasting them over a welcoming open fire or in the oven! Here’s the best way to do so:

Step one: start off by rinsing the chestnuts in cold water.

Step two: score the flat side of each of the chestnuts with an ‘X’. Make sure this is done deep enough to prevent them from popping too violently in the pan.

Step three: put the chestnuts in an iron skillet or roasting pan (ensuring they’re spread evenly) and cover the pan before placing this over your open fire or in your oven.  You can cover it with aluminium foil if you don’t have a fireproof lid.

Step four: roast the chestnuts until their shells begin to split – their insides should also be soft.

Step five: wrap the roasted chestnuts in a damp towel to steam them and allow them to cool.  This makes them both less painful and easier too peel.

Step six:peel off the shells and enjoy with your loved ones!

What else can you roast?

If you don’t love the taste of chestnuts, don’t despair! You can still get into the festive spirit(and make the most of your home’s open fire) by roasting other treats. Some options include fruit, marshmallows, seeds, and other nuts, such as pecans and hazelnuts.

If you have an open fireplace in your home, then you’ll want to ensure that your chimney is regularly swept to maintain its efficiency and prevent the risk of fire. For more information about our chimney sweeping services in Essex please contact ‘The Sweep Guy’ on 07961 845837

 

Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

Is it safe to burn your Christmas tree?

The Sweep Guy

It’s that time of year again, we are all packing our Christmas decorations away. The big question is –  How are you going to get rid of that over-sized tree standing in your sitting room? If you have a wood burning appliance it may make sense to chop it up and burn it during a cold January.

Is it safe to burn your Christmas tree?…………no!

As a professional chimney sweep it is very common for us to see a few chopped branches of a Christmas tree sat next to the fire ready to be burnt but burning the tree can have very dangerous consequences.

Christmas trees were probably only felled a maximum of two months ago, added to which you may have been watering it to keep it alive, meaning it is not nearly dry enough to be burnt. The sap from fresh trees can sometimes create a fire hazard in your chimney and the flammable turpentine oils can cause flare-ups or even chimney fires.

The wood from firs, pines and spruces can produce a lot of creosote, causing a build-up on chimney walls. Creosote is a flammable and corrosive substance created from the gases that are produced when burning wet wood. The dried needles can burn in a flash, causing a fierce fire. The needles can produce sparks that can fly into your room or go up the chimney and cause any creosote deposits to ignite, resulting in a chimney fire.

“Recycling is a safe and environmentally way to dispose of your tree.” – Matt Antonino, Head of Operations for Digital Eagles

Local authorities often arrange drop-off points or special collections of ‘real’ trees in early January and advertise the dates this will take place with any other changes to collections over the Christmas period. Check your local authority website for more information. Remember to remove all tinsel and decorations and any pots or stands.

Below is a video from YouTube that shows how dangerously fast a Christmas tree burns.

Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

How will the Clean Air Strategy affect wood-burners?

The Sweep Guy
There have been a few attention-grabbing headlines recently “Homes face ban on wood‑burners”. There are NO plans to ban wood-burners.

 

The Environment Secretary Michael Gove has published a Clean Air Strategy. The new strategy, which is now out for consultation, includes plans for banning the sale of INEFFICIENT stoves and polluting fuels, and putting more restrictions on Smoke Control Areas. You can still have a fire, but we must make some changes.

 

There is a problem with air quality in the UK which can cause health issues for all of us.  Wood burning stoves and open fires are responsible for a part of this problem. According to the government report, burning solid fuel (such as wood and coal) currently produces 38% of the UK’s emissions of particulate matter.

Peter Ticktin founder of the Global Warming Foundation adds “Wood is a renewable form of energy. Like Oil, Coal, or natural gas, even the cleanest burned fuel converts chains of hydro-carbons into CO2 and H2O, carbon dioxide and water.Hence, those who are burning wood for heat should not be encouraged in any way to convert to fossil fuels, even if the wood burning is not as “clean” as the burning of fossil fuels.”

 

How does the new strategy affect domestic combustion?

 

• Only the very cleanest stoves can be bought and installed

All stoves must be at least 80% efficient. Ecodesign is the European-wide programme to lower emissions. It is due to come into force for stoves in the UK in 2022. The PM emissions limit for Ecodesign is 55% lower than for DEFRA exempt stoves.

EcoDesign stove emissions

 

• Only the cleanest fuels are available for sale

Restrict the use of bituminous house coal and high-sulphur smokeless fuels. There is already a limit in Smoke Control Areas on burning fuel containing more than 2% of sulphur. It plans to extend this nationwide and ensure that there is more clarity around the sulphur content of fuel when sold.

 

• New powers for local government

For areas with high pollution, local authorities will have powers to go further and could introduce ‘no burn days’ during periods of high pollution.

 

How does this affect you?

For now, nothing has changed.  The strategy is still in draft form and will be out for consultation until 14 August 2018. Findings from this will feed into the final long-term strategy that will be published in March 2019.

 

Wood burning stoves and open fires are responsible for a part of this problem and if we understand why, we can make a big difference to local air quality. For example, with correct use, the impact of a woodburning stove can be reduced by a whopping 80%!

 

Burnright is an excellent campaign created to be a source of impartial advice and information on how to use a domestic fire correctly, lower emissions and save money on fuel.  

Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

The importance of testing your smoke and CO alarms

The Sweep Guy

The Silent and Invisible Killer. Ken Knight from Knight Security Inc “Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas that has no colour, taste or smell, making it impossible to detect without an alarm.” Carbon monoxide alarms must be audible – they make a loud noise if gas is present.  Install one for each fuel-burning appliances within your home – including stoves, fires, boilers and water heaters.

According to Department of Health figures, every year about 40 people in the UK are recorded as having died of carbon monoxide poisoning.  A further 4,000 or so attend A & E, Hundreds more suffer ill-effects as a result of exposure to carbon monoxide: sometimes they are permanently disabled. Carbon monoxide can be emitted from faulty domestic heating and cooking appliances. For the latest data see http://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/

As an extra safeguard buy a CO alarm to European Standards EN50291. Remember a smoke alarm is NOT a CO alarm. When we burn any solid fuel and CO is produced this is not normally a problem as all the smoke and gasses should pass harmlessly out the top of the chimney. If however the chimney is blocked or leaky, the appliance is faulty or if the ventilation to the fire is inadequate, CO gas may enter your property. This can happen in a different room from the location of the fire. Please be carbon monoxide aware!

We enlisted the help of Kieren O’Brien, a fully licensed gas plumber and director of Lexity. Who advises:-

“Carbon monoxide, you cant see it, smell it or taste it this is why it has been named the silent killer. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a dangerous gas that can be produced in a home from gas appliances and flues that are faulty, incorrectly installed, unmaintained or are inadequately ventilated.

Homes are constantly becoming more efficient by reducing the rate air can be exchanged from inside to outside. In addition to becoming more energy efficient homes are having more powerful exhaust fans installed in bathrooms and range hoods in kitchens. The mix of less air entering the property and a stronger suction from exhaust fans can cause what is called a negative pressure within the home between internal and external environments. When a negative pressure is present it can then suck combustion gases including carbon monoxide (CO) back down the flue and in to the home having a deal effect.”

Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

The early symptoms of CO poisoning are usually similar to common ailments such as upset stomach, tiredness and flu. The common symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Breathlessness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Dizziness or Collapse
  • Chest and/or stomach pains
  • Erratic behaviour and/or Visual problems

Actions to take in a CO emergency 

  • If you suspect fumes are escaping from your combustion appliance into your home, or your carbon monoxide alarm goes off.
  • If your appliance is automatically fed with fuel, turn the appliance off.
  • Open doors and windows to ventilate the building.
  • Leave the building immediately and don’t return until your appliance or boiler has extinguished and the air in the room is clear.
  • If you feel unwell go to your Doctor, call NHS Direct on 111 (where available) or,  if it is urgent phone 999 for an ambulance. Tell them you feel your symptoms may be related to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Before you reuse the appliance, have it serviced by a HETAS Registered Installer and the chimney swept.
  •  Do not use the appliance until you are told it is safe to do so.

Protect yourself from CO 

Lucinda Curran, Principal Building Biologist and CEO of Eco Health Solutions, advises that you should “have all gas appliances checked annually for faults.” She also adds the following tips:

  • Only use gas heaters that are flued and vented to the exterior
  • Use the extractor fan when cooking on a gas stove top
  • Keep your windows ajar to dilute the indoor air
  • Avoid idling the car in the garage or near windows

CO alarms should be regularly tested and should not be regarded as a substitute for regular maintenance of the appliance and chimney.

Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

Legislation for landlords

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Regulations require both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms to be installed in rented residential accommodation. The Regulations apply both to houses and flats. Failure to comply can lead to a civil penalty being imposed of up to £5,000. Check the legislation here.

SMOKE ALARMS

From the 1st October 2015 while the premises are occupied under a tenancy (or licence) the landlord must ensure that a smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of the premises on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation. This means that a smoke alarm must be provided in working order on each storey. As regards individual flats located on one floor then there will have to be at least one alarm within the flat itself or alternatively are provided outside the flat on the same floor of the building, i.e. a communal alarm.

CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS

During any period beginning on or after 1st October 2015 when the premises are occupied under a tenancy or a licence a carbon monoxide alarm must be provided by the landlord in any room in premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation which contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance. This applies to any kind of wood burning stove or an open coal fire. It will also extend to equipment such as a solid fuel Aga in the kitchen. This is already a requirement with new installations of solid fuel burning combustion appliances. This is now extended to any existing appliances already in place before Building Regulations imposed this requirement.

WHICH TYPE OF ALARM IS REQUIRED

The Regulations do not stipulate what kind of alarm is required. Ideally it should be a hard wired alarm system. It can, however, be a single stand alone alarm. Landlords are recommended by the to fit ten year long life non-tamper proof alarms, otherwise there is a problem of batteries being taken out and not being replaced.

WE FIT ALARMS

We fit carbon monoxide alarms in compliance with building regulations, just tell us when booking an appointment.

Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

Brief History of Chimney Sweeps

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With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, coal became the main fuel for domestic heating. When overcrowded cities began to produce foggy smoke from chimney fires. The job of a chimney sweep was essential to avoid fires erupting in the home. When the interior of a chimney became choked or partially blocked with a build-up of soot, chimney fires could occur. Coal creates a sticky soot which often does not come loose easily, and chimney edges need scraping where soot builds up.

People needed sweeps to keep their chimneys clear. They had brushes with long handles to which the sweep screws extension poles as the brush goes up the chimney. But sometimes the brushes got stuck! The best way was to send little children or ‘climbing boys’ to dislodge the soot. The smaller the boy the better because some chimneys were very narrow – some as small as 8 inches square. Master Sweeps would buy young children from orphanages and take in young homeless children from the streets. These were between the ages of 5 and 10, although most were under the age of seven, and some were even as young as four. These boys were used to climb up chimneys to clean out deposits of soot. The chimney sweep master taught them the trade while being responsible for feeding, clothing and housing them.

Working conditions for the climbing boys was harsh and cruel. It was a dangerous and filthy job for the boys to undertake, especially without the protection of safety clothing and respirators. Many suffered from job related ailments, such as twisted spines and kneecaps, deformed ankles, eye inflammations and respiratory illnesses. Many also suffered from the first known industrial disease ‘chimney sweep’s cancer’ caused by the constant irritation of coal tar soot on the naked skin. Sadly there are recorded instances where these climbing boys choked and suffocated to death from inhaling the chimney dust or from getting stuck in the narrow and convoluted chimney flues. Casualties were also frequent as many boys were maimed or killed from falling or from being badly burned.

 

In 1842 Parliament passed a law prohibiting sweeps from employing children to go up chimneys – but this did not stop them using their own children to do this horrible work. Some used their own children (both boys and girls) as young as four or five years old to go up chimneys. Finally in 1864 after many years of campaigning an Act of Parliament finally approved by the House of Lords, outlawing the use of children for climbing chimneys. Lord Shaftsbury’s Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers established a penalty of £10 pounds for offenders. The Act had wide spread support from the police, public and courts which finally signalled the end of ‘climbing boys

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Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

Why You Should Open Up Your Fireplace

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Why You Should Open Up Your Fire

The introduction of central heating brought about a trend of closing up fireplaces and installing either gas or electric fires in their place. That, or ridding homes completely of the character of a fireplace altogether. Now, though, in a time when we are becoming more conscious of expenditure and the efficiency levels of our home, it may be time to reconsider those past decisions.

Mark Humphrey, President of Fireplace Warehouse ETC, says: “For well over 200,000 years, mankind has gathered around a fire for food, warmth, and protection from the demons of the night. That tribalism lives in all of us, and is most experienced today at the foot of a fireplace. The primary benefit of a fireplace is that it acts as a focal point for family and friends to gather around to share drinks, lifetime experiences, and so much more. With all the unique architectural fireplace designs that exist nowadays, the décor of your home can be greatly enhanced by your choice. It’s much more than something to provide you with low-cost heating; it embodies your unique tastes and places them on display for all to enjoy.”

Here’s all the reasons you’ll benefit from opening back up your fire.

How Open Fires Will Benefit Your Home

Lower Your Bills

Open fires are almost completely free to run. Yes, you have to buy or acquire wood by some means. You can make friends with the local tree surgeon, right?  But the cost will be incomparable to the rising costs of gas and electric that you’re already paying out monthly bills for, costing 30-40p per hour respectively. Electric fires aren’t even said to emit much extra heat, acting purely as a stylish feature. In this day and age of central heating, surely it’s more worth your time cranking up the radiators than using an electric feature which doesn’t offer much in the way of warmth or particular beauty. Unlike the open fire.

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Bring a Cosy Atmosphere

Have you ever heard anyone say there’s nothing quite like the gentle hum of an electric fire or the silent flickers of gas? No, that’s because no one ever does. 

“It may be strictly from an aesthetically pleasing point of view, but curling up on the sofa, the flames crackling and spitting in the fireplace, creates a much stronger ambiance.” – Petria FieldOwner of Coco Rose Interiors

It’s cosy and it may be all in our heads playing tricks, but it definitely makes the room feel that bit warmer.

For other eco friendly ways to heat up your home and save this winter, check out this guide from the team at service.com.au >>> full guide here

Add Value to Your Home

Turns out building a toasty atmosphere could actually add real numerical value to your home, too. If you’re considering selling up in the future, opening up fireplaces is a key feature to upping the asking price, alongside extensions and loft conversions. It has the quality of making a home more welcoming, which assists in selling your home. For a one-off investment, you could see an added value of 5% to your home.

“Top tip: light the fire when you have house viewings to really accentuate that focal point in your home.” – I Heart New York

Gamechanger: Pros of a Wood Burner

Cheaper & More Efficient

“The features of a wood burner allow for more control over how quickly logs burn, and therefore how much heat is emitted at specific times.” – Solid Start Property Inspections

Closing the vents stops so much air feeding into the wood burner and keeps the wood fuelling for longer, whereas opening up the vents will create a more blazing heat for a shorter period of time.

In terms of cost, you will have to commit to a one-off payment to buy and install your wood burner. However, it won’t be long before you’re seeing the difference in your energy bills when you find yourself turning the heating on less. When it comes to buying your wood burner, always ask your local chimney sweep or HETAS installer, they will be able to recommend a list of stoves that are appropriate for the room and area you live. You can also use voucher code websites like Discount Promo Codes to save you money, especially at specialist companies like Fireplace World.

Wood burner

The Best of Both

“With a wood burner, you can enjoy the cleanliness of an electric or gas fire. For those house-proud owners, the mess of a fireplace is contained within the burner.” – Debbie AureliusPeppermint Fish

This also means there is a far lower risk of anything spitting out whilst you’re unaware and causing damage to your home. In equal amounts, you also get the full experience of a real fire.

“You can smell and hear it, ideal for those particularly chilly winter evenings when you can really relish the mood it sets.” – Showtime Digital

Maintaining Your Chimney

Now that you’ve opened up your fireplace and reaped the benefits, curling your toes against the warmth radiating from it as you read or gathered around the TV with your family, it’s important to be well-informed on how to look after the fireplace. Both before and during times it’s lit, as well as afterwards.

“You should look to have your chimney inspected and cleaned regularly, especially in high periods of usage like the winter.” – QMAX Pumping Solutions

We’re always on hand to offer advice so you feel equipped to look after your wood burner.

Whilst you have the fire lit, we would suggest always having a non-plastic dustpan and brush around to sweep up any mess left surrounding your fireplace whenever stoking up the fire. Buy a reasonably sized basket so you’re not constantly treading through the home bringing in more logs and, subsequently, more mess. It’s also important that you burn only non-treated woods, as treated woods may let off harmful chemicals and could even damage your chimney.

“Use dry wood and ensure logs are chopped down to a reasonable size that fits easily into your fireplace.” – Da Ricardo’s

Really, it’s a no-brainer. With options for more house-proud individuals who want minimal mess, as well as offering better costs for efficient heating, it’s about time you turned off the central heating and went back to basics.

“Enjoy the ceremony of lighting a fire and keep your home feeling toasty.” – Detail Central

After all, there’s nothing quite like that first fire of winter, especially when it’s a real one.

Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

Here’s how to enjoy your open fire at Christmas

The Sweep Guy

Everyone loves Christmas and the general festive season. Full of brightly decorated trees and twinkling lights, delicious sweet treats, and plenty of opportunities to spend time with your nearest and dearest, there’s little wonder why it’s so often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year!

To get you firmly in the mood for the fast approaching festivities, there’s not much more ‘Christmassy’ than cosying up with your loved ones around a warm open fire or a log-burner. In fact, there’s a reason why Nat King Cole famously sang about chestnuts roasting on an open fire…

Get roasting…  

Open fires are a wonderful way to get into the festive spirit by roasting chestnuts, marshmallows, and other typical winter favourites! You can also roast other nuts if you’re not the biggest fan of chestnuts, and even seeds and fruit.

The likes of marshmallows and fruit can be skewered and (very carefully!) held over the flames, though chestnuts and other nuts should be placed in a case-iron skillet or pan. The online retailer, Not On the High Street even sell their own personalised chestnut roasting pans for this purpose! 

As well as being a great place to roast delicious chestnuts and other treats, an open fire or log-burner in your home during the Christmas season also provides a great place to gather round with your family and friends. Whether you’re cooking this year’s Christmas dinner for your loved ones, or hosting drinks or a games or movie night,the warmth of an open fire is perfect if you want to give your event’s setting a homely, festive feel.

With Christmas being a season associated with love and kindness, having an open fire or log-burner in your home is also a great way to provide a romantic setting without having to brave the cold by leaving the house!

The benefits of an open fire in your home at Christmas

Another benefit of installing an open fire or log-burner in your home (particularly in the colder months) is that no other heating appliance will give you the same feeling of warmth that an open fireplace will, or even the same relaxing atmosphere. There’s nothing quite like hearing the crackling of the burning wood and watching the flames dance as they cast a pretty, warming glow around the room.

Alongside the festive and homely feel they give any home, heating a room using an open fire or a log-burner can also save you money. Sometimes, buying and burning firewood can be cheaper than using your home’s built-in heating system. Additionally, if you’re worried about your environmental impact, one way you can do is ensure you burn wood rather than coal (a fossil fuel). This is because wood is a renewable energy source that can be replenished.

To minimise your impact, you can also burn sustainably sourced wood, such as that from sustainability managed forests. Additionally, it may seem like an easy solution to burn your real Christmas tree when it’s time to take it down, but this should be avoided.In fact, burning Christmas trees is a leading source of chimney fires! You should also avoid hanging stockings above a lit fire as this causes a fire risk.

Burning fossil fuels (such as coal) damages the environment as they release greenhouse gases into the air.This causes heat from the sun to be trapped in the Earth, causing its temperatures to rise. This also contributes to rising sea levels and melting ice caps, which threaten ecosystems.

 

What to consider when putting an open fire or log-burner in your home

 If you decide to spend your Christmas around an open fire, there are a few things you need to keep in mind before installing one in your home. Firstly, you need to remember that a fireplace or a log-burner can be a fire hazard, so make sure you already have a fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector fitted.

Open fires should also be protected by a fireguard if you have children and pets in your home, and it’s equally vital that you get your chimney swept by a professional chimney sweep each year,though the need may be more frequent (depending on how often you use your open fireplace or log-burner). This will prevent fires by allowing dangerous combustion gases to pass freely.

Why do I need my chimney swept?

As the days become colder and the nights longer, more and more people will start lighting up their fireplaces or stoves.  Get your chimney swept and relax in front of your fire with peace of mind that your chimney is clear and safe.

There are 3 basic reasons why you should get your chimney swept:

  • 1. To protect your health – Breathing fumes from gas or solid fuel fires can cause serious damage to your health and in the worse cases prove fatal. Having your chimney swept regularly by a will make sure that the flue is sufficiently clear to allow the fumes to escape freely and safely out of the chimney.

  • 2. To avoid a chimney fire – Having your chimney swept regularly will drastically reduce the chances of having a chimney fire. Chimney fires can cause property damage – the least usually being a cracked or broken chimney pot, which will need to be replaced and the worst being you could lose your home! Fortunately, the more extreme outcome does not happen very often, but it does happen.

  • 3. To avoid smoke damage – Each time the fire is used, soot will accumulate up the chimney. Gradually, this will decrease the size of the flue which, in turn, will lower the draw of the smoke upwards. If the chimney does not have enough pull, the smoke will enter into your room, not only causing irritation to you, but can also blacken your fireplace or the decorating above.

Some Insurance companies will no longer pay out for chimney fire damage unless the flue has been swept and maintained by a professional chimney sweep who can issue a valid certificate of sweeping recognised by the insurance companies themselves

Dont worry because ‘The Sweep Guy’ is fully certified and can issue you a certificate.

Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

Fireplace Landlord and Tenant Advice

In this post, the term “solid fuel” means any fuel that is not a liquid or gas (e.g. wood, coal, mineral smokeless fuels, wood derived fuels and biomass). The term “appliance” means any device or fire manufactured to be used for heating within a domestic property which uses solid fuel (e.g. an open fire, woodburner, pellet stove, biomass boiler, cooker solid or fuel boiler).

●  The laws, duties and responsibilities of a landlord towards tenants can seem a little ambiguous when it comes to the maintenance of solid fuel fire appliances and chimney flue sweeping. This is largely due to the absence of words such as, ‘chimney’ and ‘sweeping’ in most legal publications and guidance papers. Instead, generic terms and words have been used in Government guidance publications. For example, landlords are deemed responsible for’ ‘heating systems’, ‘ventilation’, ‘gas appliances’ and ‘flues’.

●  All solid fuel appliances, be it an open coal fire, a wood burning stove or a solid fuel cooker will give off combustion gasses (as all fires produce poisonous gasses). All solid fuel appliances fall within the category of heating appliances. 

●  The Landlord of a rented property has a legal responsibility to maintain the gas heating system, including the chimney/flues and any ventilation associated with the gas heating appliance. Therefore, the issue of who is responsible for maintaining solid fuel appliances and the chimneys/flues that expel dangerous gasses becomes less ambiguous.

THE LANDLORD HAS THE RESPONSIBILITY

●  A solid fuel fire appliance (heating system) will obviously produce poisonous gases that will require a clear and unobstructed flue to carry them away from the property. The property will also require an adequate ventilation system, such as air vents or airbricks that are of an appropriate size to serve the appliance.

●  A landlord’s legal responsibilities to their tenants are tough enough, and the cost of meeting those duties and responsibilities can weigh heavy. A landlord has a lot of capital invested in a rented property, and the last thing they would want is to see their investment go up in smoke as a result of a chimney fire. Worse still, is the possibility of being the defendant in a criminal case of negligence where imprisonment may be a possibility.

●  The reality is that tenants do not always use solid fuel appliances correctly, and this can result in dangerous occurrences and chimney fires. Entrusting their property investment to a tenant may be a risky venture for a landlord in certain circumstances. The modest cost of a simple annual sweep by a trained professional will greatly reduce exposure to the risk of a chimney fire or dangerous incident through poor tenant usage.

●  Landlords should also pay particular attention to their property insurance policies. A number of insurance underwriters stipulate in their policies that chimneys and flues should be adequately maintained. Failure to do so could render the insurance policy invalid in the event of a claim.

Nicole from Vogue Real Estate is a property investor and has been a licensed agent for almost 20 yrs. “My role is to educate my clients (landlords) of current and changing law I also ensure that I am minimum the risk for my clients at all times. So before a tenant moves in i do a walk over the property with my client to see if I can find any risks then i do a comprehensive written report as well as discuss issues such as smoke alarms, pool compliance, strata issues – fire safety. Upon inspections and keeping in mind our third party checks the smoke alarms the first thing I do is verbally ask the tenant if all the smoke alarms are working (some tenants due to their cooking tend to cover the smoke alarms with a plastic bag or shower cap) which a) makes a mess of the ceiling or b) voids the owners insurance) so we check that and we also check to ensure the alarms are working.”

CAUTION

●  A landlord may (through misguidance or ignorance) construct a rental or tenancy agreement with various clauses that attempt to transfer certain of their responsibilities over to the tenant. The tenant may well sign that agreement in order to secure the accommodation. However, landlords need to be aware that such signed contracts may not always be legally binding and may, in fact, be unlawful since these type of clauses may be in breach of existing housing laws and tenant’s rights.

●  Just because a tenancy agreement or contract is well written and contains impressive legal terms and jargon, it does not mean that established laws can be over ruled by it. The law is the law and it’s only an Act of Parliament that can amend an existing law, not a landlord’s tenancy agreement.

●  Before constructing a tenancy agreement, a landlord should seek professional documented legal advice to ensure they protect both themselves and their investment. More information can be found below:

https://www.gov.uk/private-renting/your-landlords-safety-responsibilities
http://www.hse.gov.uk/foi/internalops/sims/pub_serv/070807.htm

SMOKE ALARMS

●  While the premises are occupied under a tenancy (or licence), the landlord must ensure that a smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of the premises on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation. This means that a smoke alarm must be provided in working order on each storey.

●  Individual flats located on one floor demand that at least one alarm is installed within the flat itself. Alternatively, they must be provided on the same floor outside the flat (i.e. a communal alarm).

CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS

●  When the premises are occupied under a tenancy or a licence, a carbon monoxide alarm must be provided by the landlord in any room which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and which contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

●  Any kind of wood burning stove or an open coal fire is applicable. It will also extend to equipment such as a solid fuel Aga in the kitchen.

●  It is a requirement to fit an alarm for a new installation of solid fuel burning combustion appliances before it can be commissioned. This is also extended to any existing appliances already in place before Building Regulations imposed this requirement.

WHICH TYPE OF ALARM IS REQUIRED

●  The Regulations do not stipulate what kind of alarm is required, though ideally, it should be a hard-wired alarm system. It can, however, be a single standalone alarm. Landlords are recommended to fit – ten-year life, (non)tamper proof alarms, otherwise there is a problem of batteries being taken out and not being replaced.

WE FIT ALARMS

●  We fit carbon monoxide alarms in compliance with building regulations. Just inform us of this requirement when booking an appointment.

Or if you have any questions contact ‘The Sweep Guy’

Carbon Monoxide poisoning

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CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING – You can’t see, taste or smell it but it can be deadly

Any fuel burning appliance in your home can produce carbon monoxide, this is usually expelled through the flue or chimney. However, if something were to go wrong, there is the potential for this dangerous gas to enter your property.

WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE? (CO). 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous, colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas. CO is produced by incomplete burning of natural gas and any other material containing carbon such as oil, coal or wood.

When CO is inhaled into the body it combines with the blood, preventing it from absorbing oxygen. If a person is exposed to CO over a long/even a short period, it can cause illness and even death.

Nobby Kleinman from Money Rules knows the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning all too well. He says: “One day. my partner passed out in front of me for no apparent reason and I needed to call the ambulance. When they arrived, the first thing they said they noticed when they walked into the house was the overwhelming smell of gas, although we hadn’t noticed anything. They ended up resuscitating my partner and taking her to hospital for an overnight stay.

“When a plumber visited to inspect the Vlacan Quaser heater, he immediately disconnected the gas and disabled the heater. He told us the readings were at something like 14,000 when it should have only been around 100, 1,000 or a much lower number. We had to leave the doors and windows open for a whole day with exhaust fans going to extract all possible pockets of Co2.

We loved our Quaser, but had to replace it with another brand. It does the job, but it doesn’t seem to be thas as well functioning. We couldn’t smell the CO but we definitely recommend that anyone with the older style should immediately have an inspection for a reading. The danger with CO is that it sends you to sleep and you never to wake again.”

Firefighters, when talking about CO in smoke say it takes only three breaths, the first you don’t know there’s a problem, the second you might suspect there’s something wrong but by the third, you are unable to take any action.

SYMPTOMS OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning aren’t always obvious, particularly during low-level exposure. The NHS has advised the following information.

A tension-type headache is the most common symptom of mild carbon monoxide poisoning. Other symptoms include:

  • dizziness
  • nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
  • tiredness and confusion
  • stomach pain
  • shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

The symptoms of exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can be similar to those of food poisoning and flu. But unlike flu, carbon monoxide poisoning doesn’t cause a high temperature (fever).

The symptoms can gradually get worse with prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide, leading to a delay in diagnosis.

Your symptoms may be less severe when you’re away from the source of the carbon monoxide. If this is the case, you should investigate the possibility of a carbon monoxide leak and ask a suitably qualified professional to check any appliances you think may be faulty and leaking gas. 

“The longer you inhale the gas, the worse your symptoms will be. You may lose balance, vision and memory and, eventually, you may lose consciousness. This can happen within two hours if there’s a lot of carbon monoxide in the air.” – Aodhan MacCathmhaoil, waster.com.au

Long-term exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can also lead to neurological symptoms, such as difficulty thinking or concentrating and frequent emotional changes – for example, becoming easily irritated, depressed or making impulsive or irrational decisions.

Breathing in high levels of carbon monoxide gas can cause more severe symptoms. These may include:

  • impaired mental state and personality changes (intoxication)
  • vertigo – the feeling that you or the environment around you is spinning
  • ataxia – loss of physical co-ordination caused by underlying damage to the brain and nervous system
  • breathlessness and tachycardia (a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute)
  • chest pain caused by angina or a heart attack
  • seizures – an uncontrollable burst of electrical activity in the brain that causes muscle spasms
  • loss of consciousness – in cases where there are very high levels of carbon monoxide, death may occur within minutes

Around 10-15% of people who have severe carbon monoxide poisoning develop long-term complications.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT CO POISONING

  • Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, let the fire die out or turn off the gas appliance and leave the house.
  • See your doctor immediately or go to hospital – let them know that you suspect CO poisoning. They can do a blood or breath test to check. 
  • If you think there is an immediate danger, call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999.
  • Ask your local Guild chimney sweep or Gas Safe engineer to inspect suspected appliance and flues to see if there is a dangerous problem.

WHAT CAN CAUSE CARBON MONOXIDE TO LEAK?

Gas, oil, coal and wood are sources of fuel used in many household appliances, including: boilers; gas fires; open fires; cookers; wood burners and central heating systems.

Sources of Carbon monoxide

The main causes are: 

  • an incorrectly fitted appliance
  • a poorly maintained appliance
  • a blocked flue, chimney or vent
  • a damaged or incorrect chimney/ flue
  • a disposable or gas BBQ that’s not properly extinguished‍

 

Faulty appliances in your home can lead to CO poisoning. Get your appliances checked regularly to avoid this.

PREVENTING CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING

  • The first and best thing you can do to minimise the risk that your appliances produce CO is to ensure that they are checked annually
  • Ensure all gas appliances are safety checked by a suitably competent and qualified Gas Safe registered engineer.
  • Make sure all solid fuel appliances and chimneys are annually serviced and swept by a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps.
  • An audible CO alarm will activate in the presence of CO. It’s a good second line of defence but can only tell you when something has already gone wrong.

Sophie Hall, Marketing at Gallant Plumbing, adds the following tips:

  • Check the colour of the flame in gas appliance. If it burns orange, we suggest turning it off and calling and expert for carbon monoxide testing.
  • Never use BBQ grills indoors or in poorly ventilated spaces such as garage.
  • Keep fire places well ventilated and ensure it is kept clean and the flue is working properly.

Chris Tomlinson, Operations Manager at Urban, says: “Carbon Monoxide regulations are in place, and are the responsibility of landlords and tenants to ensure that these are working accordingly. However, as tenants we can ask ourselves the following questions:

  • How do I feel when I go home vs. when I am away?
  • Are my walls, ceilings and appliances turning brownish in colour?
  • Is there heavy condensation throughout?
  • Have my glass appliances been serviced as they should?

If one of these is present, chances are that there might be a leakage, and it’s time to call an expert.”

CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS

A good quality carbon monoxide detector will sniff out the danger and let you know when there’s carbon monoxide in the air. But there are plenty of ineffective alarms on sale – in fact, a fifth of all the models tested by Which? were unreliable and dangerous. The potentially deadly CO alarms all claim to have passed the relevant EU safety standard, EN 50291. But repeated failures in during testing lead Which? to suspect the authenticity of these claims.

We have found that sealed battery carbon monoxide detectors are the best. The battery is sealed inside the unit; once the battery runs out, the alarm will chirp, prompting you to replace it. The battery unit is tamper proof and some have a lifespan of around 10 years. Buying this kind of carbon monoxide detector is a good idea because many people forget to replace the batteries.

 

CO alarms have an expiry date: many of our customers do not realise that the sensor in a CO alarm will have a life expectancy of around 7-10 years. After this point if you replace the batteries the alarm will have power, but it won’t detect anything. This is another reason why we believe that sealed battery alarms are the best option. The battery and sensor share the same life expectancy with the alarm giving out a warning when the alarm reaches the end of its life.

 

Which? advise choosing a carbon monoxide detector from a brand that is widely available from shops such as Argos, B&Q, Currys, John Lewis, Homebase, Screwfix and Wickes – established big firms like these only stock alarms from well-known companies. Expect to pay around £20-£25, cheap alarms are available online for under £10 can’t always be relied on to detect carbon monoxide and to sound the alarm.

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/carbon-monoxide-detectors/article/how-to-install-and-test-carbon-monoxide-detectors – Which?

Andy Oliver, Managing Director at Stevenson Heating Ltd also advise: “The Gas Safe Register recommends the use of audible carbon monoxide alarms. It should be marked to EN 50291 and also have the British Standards’ Kitemark or another European approval organisation’s mark on it. We are based in Bromley and supply and fit the leading brands such as Honeywell or Fire Angel, which are both rated at and above the relevant standards.

“The recommendation is to fit an alarm in each room with a gas appliance. When doing so, you should always follow the alarm manufacturer’s instructions on siting, testing and replacing the alarm. Also, don’t forget that it is important to choose an alarm that will wake you up if you’re asleep, or you may not be aware of early CO symptoms until it is too late.”

Melanie Dennis, Owner of property management business, Domain and Co, advises that to ensure the reliability of the appliances in your investment property, you should have a preventative maintenance strategy. Some detectors should be checked and maintained annually, though other appliances such as gas heaters, air conditioners and ducted vents need to be maintained biennially (ever two years).

WHERE SHOULD YOU PUT YOUR ALARM?

  • Fit your alarm high-up in the same room as every potential source of carbon monoxide.
  • It must be 15cm away from a wall or ceiling.
  • At least one metre away from boilers, cookers and fires
  • Never put it by a window or door.
  • Don’t put it in a cupboard or draw
  • Ensure it has a clear space around it, don’t hide it behind something.
  • Secure it in position so it can’t be moved.
  • Test it regularly #testittuesday