Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Clogged gas flue can cause illness or death

On May 17, 2016 Blue Springs, Missouri homeowners Richard and Mary Buckley were told by their heating and cooling contractor that they needed to call a professional chimney sweep to inspect their chimney. High carbon monoxide readings indicated that something was wrong with the venting system.

When a chimney sweep arrived he found an unlined chimney in a 100-year-old home that was completely blocked with four feet of mortar, debris, leaves and twigs. The gas boiler and gas water heater could not vent toxic carbon monoxide gasses out of the flue, and it had been that way for years. The chimney sweep speculates that the only reason the homeowners were still alive is that the house is old and drafty, and that outside air diluted the toxic gasses coming into the home.
Unfortunately, the homeowners did have some symptoms of CO poisoning, which consisted of flu-like symptoms while they were inside the home, but ceased when they left the premises. This is common when a house is toxic.

According to the Midwest Chimney Safety Council, gas flues are often ignored and neglected and are commonly in much worse condition than fireplace flues. People tend to think about removing flammable creosote from a wood stove or fireplace flue, but don’t often realize that the condition of a gas flue is critical. While gas does not produce creosote, it does produce Carbon Monoxide, which must be contained within the flue walls until it exits the chimney at the top.
If the chimney is damaged or does not have a flue liner, CO can leak into the interior structure. Blockages cause CO backup, and incorrect sizing of the flue liner or connecting pipes can also be a CO hazard. Most heating and cooling contractors do not service, maintain, or repair gas flues or chimneys, and refer chimney work to professional chimney sweeps.
HearthMasters urges homeowners to have their utility flue checked annually at the same time the fireplace is serviced by a professional chimney sweep. We recommend that homeowners use a sweep who is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. 
Marge Padgitt is the owner of HearthMasters, Inc. chimney and fireplace restoration and educational school in Kansas City, Missouri. 

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