June 10, 2018 Article Updated
Originally Written February 2017
A fireplace damper is generally located in the throat of the fireplace just above the firebox. It's purpose when open is to allow flue gasses from a fire to vent up into the flue, as well as to seal off cold air from entering your home when not in use.
Leaving a damper open when the fireplace is not in use will allow a huge amount of your homes heat to escape up the chimney. Ensure that your damper is completely shut to limit the amount of heat that escapes, and cold drafts from entering. Installing a top sealing damper is a great way to save on heat loss and energy.
Damper Safety Tip
Top Sealing Damper
A top sealing damper installed on a masonry fireplace is a great way to save on energy. The damper is installed at the top of the chimney onto the flue with a cable running down and installed into the firebox. When the fireplace is not in use, the top sealing damper allows for a tight seal above which prevents cold air from funneling down the chimney into your home. Some studies indicate a return on investment within 2 years of installation.
For more information, please visit Canadian Chimney at www.canadianchimney.com
Originally posted by Ashley Joannou, Dec. 29, 2017 1:30 p.m. Yukon News
The Yukon government and City of Whitehorse are warning anyone who had an EXCEL chimney for woodstoves installed over the last 20 years to make sure it was done correctly or potentially risk starting a house fire.
Yukon Fire Marshal James Paterson said the Whitehorse Fire Department responded to a chimney fire recently that was caused by the improper installation of the chimney approximately seven years ago.
Officials are concerned more have been installed this way putting more homes at risk.
“Basically what we’re saying is we believe that this has been installed this way for the past potentially 20 years so this is not going to be an isolated incident,” he said.
The risk is a result of the improper installation method, not the product, Paterson said. A contractor installed the chimney with a firestop. Firestops are designed to stop the spread of heat from one area of a house to another, but are not supposed to be used with the EXCEL chimney, Paterson said.
“In theory, it seemed like a good idea, but what it actually did was it trapped the heat into a certain area and over time that hot air radiated outwards towards the bracing that held the chimney in place and wore it down,” Paterson said.
“Ultimately, over a period of about seven years, it caught fire.”
This EXCEL variety of chimney was not designed to have a firestop, Paterson said
“The chimney was engineered to be able to have the radiant heat come out into a one inch air space which was designed by the EXCEL chimney company and then radiate up and outward outside of the house.”
But the contractor believed, “and had been taught, over the last 20 years we believe,” that the addition of a fire stop was necessary, Paterson said.
Installing the firestop goes against the manufacturer’s instructions, Paterson said.
“But having gone through the EXCEL chimney installation instructions several times, I can see how it would have been missed, it’s not specifically clear on whether or not that’s required.”
The press release suggested homeowners not use their heating system until they have confirmed that it was installed correctly.
Paterson acknowledged that might not be possible during the city’s current frigid weather.
If a homeowner has to use wood heat before the system can be checked out, Paterson recommends having a fire extinguisher nearby, making sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working.
“If you have those fail stops then if something does happen then we’re optimistic that the individual will be able to handle it,” he said.
“We don’t want people to stop using their fireplaces at this time of year especially when it’s this cold. But at the same time we want people to have an elevated level of awareness of the dangers here because we’re just not sure.”
Only homes with an EXCEL chimney that goes through the living area of a house are potentially at risk, Paterson said.
“If you live in a bungalow with a single floor house, you’ve got an EXCEL chimney and it’s just venting out through the roof, you’ve got no problem. It’s not an issue.”
If the chimney is going up from the basement onto a main floor, for example, that would be a “red flag,” he said.
Homeowners who have an EXCEL system are being advised to contact the people who installed it to see that it was installed correctly without a firestop.
If homeowners don’t know who installed their system, they should call any local company and have it checked out, Paterson said.
The governments are working on pulling all the permits that would have been required to install these type of systems.
A firestop is not visible just by looking at the chimney. The improper installation technique is not detectable through the regular inspection process for chimneys because it is concealed by the required radiation shield, according to the governments’ press release.
Doug Thorseth, the city’s building inspections supervisor, said inspectors often can’t see whether a firestop has been installed when they come to look at a home.
“Not unless they were there at that specific point in time and often times we’re not.”
Paterson said inspectors rely on the contractors. “We rely on the fact that they know what they’re doing and they can follow these instructions because they install them.”
Thorseth said his department is reviewing its policies and procedures.
The contractor who installed the chimney that caused the recent fire is not being named. Thorseth said it’s possible that more than one contractor has been installing the chimneys this way.
No one was hurt in the recent fire. The homeowner had the appropriate fire extinguisher and was able to put it out herself. It could have been much worse, Paterson said.
“The results could have been catastrophic in this particualar case. We were lucky in the sense that the homeowner was diligent.”
Whitehorse homeowners looking for more information can contact the city’s building inspections department at (867) 668-8346 . Outside of Whitehorse, homeowners can contact the Government of Yukon’s building safety and standards branch toll free at 1-800-661-0408 , extension 5741.
BBQ Fire Safety Tips
Follow these steps to ensure your BBQ is ready for this summers grilling season.
Read The Manufacturers Manual
The manufacturers manual will have proper operating procedures for your specific unit. To use the unit as it was designed and crafted, refer to the manufacturers operating procedures.
Check For Gas Leaks
Use soapy water and apply it to the hoses, regulator and fittings to inspect for bubbles caused by leaking gas. If you see bubbles, have the unit serviced by an authorized Professional.
Check Propane Tank Seal
After fueling up your propane tank, check the tank for any leaks by spraying on soapy water. Bubbles will indicate a leak.
Inspect For Blockages
Inspect the burners or the metal tubes near the burners for blockages. Clean out any deposits.
Clean Your BBQ
Clean your entire BBQ of grease, buildup or deposits. This will prevent grease fires and will help your BBQ to burn cleanly.
Replace Gas Lines
If your gas lines are old, cracked they should be replaced even if they are not leaking.
A BBQ should be located in a well ventilated outdoor area that is far away from your home any overhead obstructions such as trees, roof overhangs etc. You should also not operate the BBQ close to windows, doors or any of your homes air intake vents. To avoid the BBQ from tipping over, ensure the ground it sits on is even and secure.
Operating Your BBQ
If your BBQ does not light, shut off the gas immediately. Before attempting to re-light the BBQ, wait a while to let the gasses dissipate. For other troubleshooting tips, refer to the manufacturers manual, or contact the manufacturers dealer.