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Dryers, chimneys, roof flashing, and critter prevention on the ‘7 things to do now’ list

May 18, 2015

A popular new customer-focused website, SafeBee, has a relevant article entitled, “7 Things To Do Now To Make Your Home Safer For The Summer: Take advantage of spring weather and longer days to hazard-proof your house” and four of those things [noted in bold below] are of interest to the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Here’s Paul Hope’s list of recommendations, as he ranks them.

1. Put your AC to the test
2. Show ceiling fans some love
3. Get the lint out. “SafeBee’s take: Even if you clean the lint tray in your clothes dryer religiously, lint will still accumulate in the vent hose, blocking the flow of air and creating a serious fire hazard. In fact, the majority of clothes-dryer related fires are caused by improper cleaning, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends cleaning dryer vents and exhaust ducts regularly. Spring is a great time to do one of these periodic checks, because you’ll need to go outdoors. While the dryer is running, look at the vent from the outside to make sure air is flowing from the exhaust. If it’s not, turn off the dryer, disconnect the vent and use a lint snake or brush — you can buy one at your local hardware store — to scrape out the lint. Don’t forget to reattach the vent before you use the dryer again.”

CSIA’s take: Overall, we agree with the advice from SafeBee. The fire threat of a clothes dryer is real. As we reported on CSIA’s dryer exhaust consumer website, dryersafety.org, there were over 5,000 reported clothes dryer fires reported annually by the CPSC in 2012, the most recent stats available. And experts believe that the number is drastically under-reported. Many homeowners are unaware that they have had a dryer-related fire.

Removal of lint after each load of clothes has dried is a must. So is checking the air flow. But disconnecting the vent and using a brush by yourself is not the most ideal DIY project, especially if you’ve never had your dryer exhaust system examined by an expert. That’s where CSIA comes in. We have more than 300 professionals that carry the CSIA C-DET credential. [Learn more about what goes into that credential.] They use special air-speed velocity devices that measure for optimal output. Not only do they know how to get lint out, they can tell if the ductwork is broken or has issues that impact performance.

The air flow velic

Testing air flow velocity is a key way to understand whether clothes dryers are optimally performing.

4. Sweep the chimney. “SafeBee’s take: When it’s time to shut down your fireplace for the season, don’t stop with simply clearing soot and ashes out of the grate. Spring is the perfect time to have your chimney professionally serviced and swept, which the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends doing yearly. It can be tempting to go ahead and build a fire as soon as the first cold spell hits in the fall, without waiting to have the chimney cleaned, but that can be dangerous. Having it swept now guarantees that you can safely use your fireplace as soon as you want to. Another good reason to spring clean your chimney: According to CSIA, build up of creosote, a byproduct of woodburning, can smell really awful, especially in summer when humidity is high and the AC is running. Cleaning may not solve the problem completely, but will help tremendously. (If your fireplace is still smelly, the CSIA recommends trying a commercial chimney deodorant, baking soda or even kitty litter.)”

CSIA’s take: We appreciate the recommendation and agree wholeheartedly. If you want to hire a qualified professional to inspect, simply use our free website locator. Or if you just want to review frequently asked questions on csia.org, you can read and watch videos here.

5. Look up on the housetop. “SafeBee’s take: Winter weather can wreak havoc on roofs. Damage can range from torn or shifted shingles to exposed flashing around windows, doors or chimneys. These are things you’ll want to have repaired before a serious summer rain sets in, so one of your spring tasks should be to inspect your roof.” 

CSIA’s take: We agree, and have covered issues related to rain intrusion in our informative post, “Water and Your Masonry Chimney.” Also, check out a very recently updated blog post on the topic, “Rain, water, and common chimney issues in #Spring.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.05.48 PM

Hopefully you’ve already inspected what damage Old Man Winter left, including chimney issues.

6. Send creepy critters packing. “SafeBee’s take: Winter has a way of drawing in unwanted houseguests, including some that aren’t even related to you. Warm basements and attics are tempting nesting spots for rodents and birds, which can do serious damage and pose safety risks. For example, besides carrying disease birds can build nests in attics, blocking vents or chimneys.” 

CSIA’s take: We agree, and have blogged about the issue before: In “Animal in your Chimney or Dryer Exhaust?”  we detailed the types of critter intrusion, and how a CSIA Certified pro can provide the right solutions (usually with the proper cap.)

7. Eliminate lead.

Hopefully, it’s no longer cold where you live, and you’ve begun to assess the damage caused by winter, including freeze/thaw. If we can help you, please contact us.

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UPDATE: CSIA’s board looks ahead to 2020

May 8, 2015

UPDATE: The board of directors of the Chimney Safety Institute of America was in Plainfield, Indiana all this week. The board revisited CSIA’s mission statement, vision, and our core values as we plan for 2015-2020.

We’ll keep our community in the loop on what’s coming for the organization as we discuss priorities and strategies to keep our Certified Chimney Sweep and Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician credentials, as well as our continuing education, as the best in the industry.

Among the goals will be setting CSIA’s strategic framework for 2015 through 2020! 

We want to make sure that when visitors looking to hire a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep (CCS) or a C-DET technician to service their clothes dryer come to our websites, they can be assured that they are getting tremendous value and someone committed to our high ideals.

Here’s some snapshots of our day of planning.

Mark A. Stoner, President of Chimney Safety Institute of America

Mark A. Stoner, President of Chimney Safety Institute of America

PREVIOUSLY: “I believe that we are at the very beginning of an exciting and renewed surge in the blue-collar service industry in the United States. The next 10 years will see an increase in the need for home service providers and I believe the organized chimney sweep and venting companies can have a front-row opportunity to helping homeowners in many ways. The current trend of our society and education is causing fewer and fewer people to know how to ‘fix’ or do maintenance on anything. CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps and C-DET Certified Dryer Exhaust Technicians are excellent problem-solvers, multi-taskers, and customer service specialists — ready to help the consumer with their knowledge and ability.” — Mark A. Stoner, President, Chimney Safety Institute of America. May 8, 2015.

 E-mail Tom Spalding at tspalding@csia.org with any questions or comments you’d like to pass along.

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Why you want professionalism from your service provider, and that includes your chimney and venting

May 6, 2015
The CSIA patch. An April 2015 certified chimney sweep credentialed through CSIA ironed this to their work shirt!

The CSIA patch. An April 2015 certified chimney sweep credentialed through CSIA ironed this to their work shirt!

One of the benefits of hiring a chimney sweep or dryer exhaust technician certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America is the professionalism that comes with the credential.

A new blog post from John Rudy, senior marketing and strategy manager for Cintas Corporation, reinforces this business practice.

In his article, Rudy states that “organizations speak volumes about their brand and its operations by investing in their image.”

The CSIA logo speaks volumes in and of itself. The CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep® (CCS) credential was established in 1983 as a method for homeowners to measure a chimney sweep’s technical expertise. When a technician wears our patch sewn into their uniform, customers can rest assured that it’s relevant and “real time.” The credential is good for three years and each sweep has to renew, either by testing or by acquiring a minimum of 48 hours of continuing education credits to demonstrate their ongoing expertise.

Yes, you can probably find a handyman with a brush who arrives in a beat-up pickup truck, but consider … Do they have the commitment of services and ethics that CSIA requires and demands?

More: Find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep (CCS) or a CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician (C-DET) using our free zip-code locator. 

We see a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep’s job to provide the important services that keep homes and industries safe from the threat of chimney fires and Carbon Monoxide poisoning, that improve indoor air quality, and help eliminate the threat of health hazards that result from blocked or improperly serviced or installed chimneys and vents.

A major element of the sweep’s job is to actively seek opportunities to educate the community and the public about chimney safety.

Customers are much more likely to remember a service technician’s appearance than his/her skills after the visit, Rudy states in his Cintas blog post. But a well-uniformed employee has the power to elevate the company’s brand by portraying a consistently clean, reliable and professional image to customers.

CSIA prepares our 1,550 CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep technicians, and 300 CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Technicians, to be ready to do both!

More: Find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep (CCS) or a CSIA Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician (C-DET) using our free zip-code locator. 

A page from CSIA’s 2013 C-DET instruction manual. Part of earning our credential is understanding branding and image, so that customers can put their trust in a CSIA certified technician.


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Real estate season and chimney inspections

May 1, 2015

 Spring is a time of nesting —  and we aren’t just talking about birds; as the weather improves and the calendar turns to May, people are buying and selling homes.

Realtors have an important job at both ends of the real estate transaction. The fireplace (or wood stove), furnace or boiler, water heater, and chimney system are integral parts of the marketing involved in transfers of property.  

In my post, “What the home inspector missed, a chimney sweep caught” I detailed how my spouse and I saw a house we liked (in February) and made an offer on it, which was accepted. Of course we paid for a home inspection, around $350, but I knew enough to seek out the services of a qualified chimney sweep to see if the wood-burning fireplace was in good condition, from inside to out. (I practice what I preach: I used our zip-code finder on CSIA.org and got on the busy schedule of two CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps.) Well, you know from my post that the sweeps’ video scan showed no defects in the metal flue of my prefab Heatilator. But my sweeps found issues with the rooftop chimney height, drywall exposure, and separation of the hearth from the wall. 

At least I knew what was wrong, and though it was disappointing, that knowledge about the fireplace issues did NOT kill the sale. 

At the same time as the offer we made on the new house, we put our existing house on the market. 

Our wonderful Realtor, in his print marketing literature, highlighted the gems in our household as he saw them … from our new kitchen … to the big deck … to the windows. Guess what phrase also made his print brochure? This line: “Enjoy the glow of the fireplace by night.”

 

That language is right up my alley. I mean, even though my HVAC system had been updated in 2013, who doesn’t want the cozy ambiance of a fireplace, a few seasoned logs stacked a well-maintained chimney, ready to warm up a chilly evening? 

Now, I’ve had my home used as a Guinea pig by trainees of the AHIT [American Home Inspectors Institute], then last summer had my home used as part of the National Chimney Sweep Training School. But a Level II inspection is required upon the sale or transfer of property. That’s a National Fire Protection Administration standard. Level II is the examination of all accessible portions of the chimney exterior and interior, including attics, crawl spaces, and basement. It includes a visual inspection by video scanning.

Being the seller, even if there are fixes to be made, it is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, you might have an animal or critter living in your chimney. Ashbusters of Charleston states, “Now you can actually tout the fact that the chimney has recently been restored and is 100 percent operational and ready for use.”

MORE: From csia.org: What to look for during a Level I, Level II or Level III inspection.

As the buyer, regardless if the owner is supplying you with a copy of the inspection report or not, you should hire your own company to inspect (as I did.) 

If issues are found, the homeowner should be responsible for the cost of the repair, put the money in escrow, or deduct the costs from the selling price, suggests Ashley Eldridge, CSIA Director of Education. (In my situation, I am going to eventually fix and reface our new home’s fireplace anyway. My old home also passed muster.)

Obviously, you should look to find a chimney sweep trained on Level II inspections, which CSIA certified sweeps are (CSIA.org/search). That way, when you get to the point where you are enjoying the glow of the fireplace at night in the new house, you can take comfort in knowing you’ve lessened your risk! 

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CSIA’s C-DET dryer credential and NADCA, working together

April 27, 2015

IMG_8214

CSIA is an exhibitor at the NADCA 26th annual meeting & exposition, held in Marco Island, Florida.

MARCO ISLAND, Florida — The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) is an association dedicated to serving the needs of HVAC industry professionals—including air systems cleaning specialists, mold remediators and HVAC inspectors. In summer 2014, the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) announced a partnership with NADCA.

CSIA’s goals with NADCA including offering its members a discount on CSIA’s Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician (C-DET) review and examination for NADCA members interested in obtaining the C-DET credential. NADCA does not have a separate certification for dryer exhaust and stated they did not wish to develop one.

MORE: Newest figures show 5,100 clothes dryer fires in 2012

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding, CSIA is an exhibitor at NADCA’s 26th Annual Meeting & Exposition in Marco Island, Florida, and one of the C-DET instructors, John Bently, is leading a discussion on clothes dryer exhaust during NADCA’s educational sessions. CSIA staff’s mission is to promote our C-DET education and credential [you can learn about this on our website].

NADCA in 2014 created the Dryer Exhaust Duct Performance Standard (DEDP) which lays out NADCA’s research-based approach to testing the performance of residential dryer exhaust ducts in regards to testing of dryer exhaust duct performance and static pressure, performance of dryer exhaust ducts in new residential construction installations, and information to customers of conditions that may be impacting their dryer’s venting performance.

Jodi Araujo, Executive Director, NADCA, of Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, explained the differences and similarities, with the key being that NADCA has cited CSIA and the Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician® (CDET) Program Reference Manual in its DEDP Standard.

“While (CSIA’s) certification is robust, with a focus on inspecting and cleaning dryer exhaust systems, the DEDP Standard provides best practices in testing the dryer exhaust duct performance and static pressure. A key concept that must be understood when using this standard is a guiding principle that a professional dryer exhaust duct service provider has thoroughly agitated and extracted the dislodged lint from the dryer exhaust duct prior to performance testing,” Araujo said.

dryersafety.org

CSIA’s booth in the conference room at the NADCA 26th annual convention, held April 26-29 in Marco Island, Florida.

CSIA has gotten tremendous feedback   from attendees about their respect for the C-DET credential. To find a certified dryer exhaust technician go to dryersafety.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE: NADCA’s partnership with CSIA

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CSIA attributes drop in clothes dryer fires to increased public awareness

April 26, 2015

 The newest U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report on house fires shows that 5,100 occurred in clothes dryers in 2012, a 22% drop from the year before.

The decline is welcome, as public safety is the mission of the Chimney Safety Institute of America, a 32-year-old nonprofit based in Plainfield, Indiana. CSIA notes that the true number is under-reported, as many occur inside the machine and self-extinguish, unbenownst to the user.

“The public, by and large, does not understand how important it is to have regular inspections, annually, so that this everyday appliance functions with less risk. The drop from 2011 to 2012 is good news, but we’re not finished,” said Mark A. Stoner, president of CSIA’s national board of directors. Stoner is based in Nashville, Tenn.

CSIA has the only clothes-dryer training program in the industry, with over 300 professionals carrying the C-DET credential — Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician. The C-DET course launched in 2000.

MORE: View CPSC’s PDF of the 2010-12 report posted on its website.

CPSC’s report showed that with clothes dryers, the 5,100 fires in 2012 resulted in 10 deaths, 180 injuries, and an estimated $80.1 million in residential structure fire property loss.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based CPSC culled its report on data obtained from the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association. CPSC staff has been producing estimates of residential fires and related deaths, injuries, and property losses since the early 1980s.

NFPA and CSIA each recommend that all dryer vents should be inspected at least once a year – and it’s the mission of CSIA to foster public awareness of such issues relating to venting performance and safety.

Lint and other debris that build up in clothes dryer vents can also create potentially hazardous conditions including carbon monoxide intrusion and the possibility for exhaust fires, CSIA cautions.

Having established the most-widely recognized national certification programs for the chimney and venting service industry, CSIA strives to eliminate residential chimney fires, carbon monoxide intrusion and other chimney- and venting-related hazards that result in the loss of lives and property.

CSIA’s 300 dryer exhaust technicians  can be found using CSIA’s free zip-code locator at csia.org/search or on a new website devoted to consumer awareness, dryersafety.org.

— Tom Spalding

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Latest Consumer Product Safety Commission report on chimney fires reinforces need for annual inspection

April 23, 2015
The front page of the report.

The front page of the report.

The latest U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report on residential structure fires shows that 21,200 unwanted blazes were attributed to fireplaces, chimneys or chimney systems in 2012, a 4.5 percent drop from the year before.

The decline in fires illustrates that years of dedicated public-awareness efforts by the Chimney Safety Institute of America, individual chimney sweep companies, and industries such as insurers and firefighters, is making a dent in the fire totals.

The outreach needs to continue.

“CPSC’s statistics reinforce the need for the public to have an annual inspection by a qualified professional, such as a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep,” said Mark A. Stoner, president of CSIA’s national board of directors. “Often, homeowners don’t learn about the importance of maintenance until it’s too late — when they were enjoying a cozy fire that got out of hand, for example. So the drop in chimney-related fires from 2011 to 2012 is good news, but as an industry we still have a long way to go.”

CPSC’s report, issued April 22, showed that fires involving fireplaces/chimneys/chimney connections resulted in 20 deaths in 2012, with 60 injuries, and an estimated $93.6 million in residential property loss.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based CPSC culled its report on data obtained from the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association. CPSC staff has been producing estimates of residential fires and related deaths, injuries, and property losses since the early 1980s. The last update prior to the CPSC report was in August 2013.

The report did not indicate the underlying issue that caused the unwanted fires. In so many situations, the basic problem is a buildup of creosote inside the flue. The report did not cite a specific reason for the drop. In general, all residential structure fires, in addition to fires related to heating equipment, were at the lowest reported level in years.

MORE: View the Consumer Product Safety Commission 2010-12 report on CSIA’s website

Looking at the issue from a 3-year perspective, there was an average of 22,700 chimney fires from 2010-2012, down from an average of 24,300 from 2009-2011.

The NFPA and CSIA each recommend that all chimneys, fireplaces and dryer vents should be inspected at least once a year – and it’s the mission of CSIA to foster public awareness of such issues relating to chimney and venting performance and safety.

chimfire_lodge

“Many homeowners think their chimney only needs to be inspected and swept if they burn wood in their fireplaces or wood stoves,” says Ashley Eldridge, CSIA Director of Education. “But almost all heating appliances, whether they burn gas, oil, wood or coal, rely on the chimney to safely carry toxic gases produced by the heating system of the house. When you have an inspection, you are lessening your risk. It’s preventative maintenance that helps minimize potential hazards.”

Having established the most-widely recognized national certification programs for the chimney and venting service industry, CSIA strives to eliminate residential chimney fires, carbon monoxide intrusion and other chimney- and venting-related hazards that result in the loss of lives and property.

CSIA’s 1,550 chimney sweeps can be found using CSIA’s free zip-code locator at csia.org/search. CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps can also detect evidence of freeze-thaw damage from the winter or damage caused by Spring rains, and ensure that the exterior of the chimney is functioning properly for optimal efficiency.

If you don’t employ a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, there’s no guarantee that they know the three levels of inspection or have knowledge of proper chimney construction or installation details. You don’t want a handyman unfamiliar with this information doing this type of work.

– Tom Spalding

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