It’s tempting to think of a fireplace as just another way to create ambience, like putting on music. But don’t be fooled. Users need to know how to operate and maintain a fireplace, like any appliance, for best results and safety’s sake.
It’s important to know how your home and the equipment in it can affect fireplace performance. For example, a fireplace may not draft well in a house that’s buttoned up to be cozy and comfortable.
In addition, the furnace, water heater and clothes dryer compete with the fireplace for combustion air. The losers in that competition can contribute to a carbon monoxide problem. A home with a fireplace should have at least two CO alarms – one near bedrooms and another near the fireplace.
Most manufacturers recommend getting your fireplace serviced every year or so, depending on the amount of use. Check your owner’s manual.
Warning: The doors on some gas fireplaces can get dangerously hot and cause injury. Children younger than 5 are particularly vulnerable. Many burns will heal with conservative treatment, but about 25 percent of the time, they require intensive therapy, including splinting or surgery to regain function, and sometimes extensive rehabilitation.
The doors on enclosed units can heat to burning temperature in mere minutes and they stay hot long after the unit is turned off. Some children have even been burned by the heat from the ignition light alone.
•Never leave a young child alone near a gas fireplace. Create a barrier that keeps children away from the fireplace or out of the room.
•Keep fireplace remote controls out of children’s reach.
•Be extra vigilant when taking children to places with fireplaces. Be sure others are aware of the danger, including baby sitters and grandparents.
•Consider not using the fireplace if children younger than 5 are around.
Have the fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected every year – more or less often depending on use. Creosote can build up and interfere with proper drafting of your chimney, creating a fire hazard. (Products you burn to remove creosote aren’t recommended.)
•Don’t burn paper – including gift wrap. Paper burns hotter and faster than wood, which can damage the chimney. It’s generally OK to use small quantities as kindling.
•Always check to see that the damper is open and the stove or fireplace door is securely fastened.
•Don’t let the fire smolder overnight. The danger of carbon monoxide is greater as the fire dies.
•Be sure the fireplace has a fresh-air intake.
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