A crackling, popping fire is as requisite to the holiday season as tinsel and mistletoe. Burning brightly in the living room, with family piled around sipping hot chocolate or eggnog, one might almost forget for a moment that it’s still topping 80 degrees outside.
But at this time of year, when sweaters are beginning to be pulled from the recesses of the closet (at least after sunset), is your fireplace as ready as you are to take on the chilly winter nights?
Audrey Clement is guessing that answer is "no" for many homeowners.
"We are swamped with calls. People need to maintain their fireplaces, and a lot of them do not."
As the receptionist for Cave Creek Barbeque and Fireplaces in Cave Creek, she’s constantly fielding questions concerning fireplace readiness.
"We get a lot of calls that say, ‘It worked last year,’ and now they turn it on and it doesn’t work," she says. The reasons could range from the logs being rearranged in a gas fireplace to a buildup of soot and grime from last season’s fires.
Whatever the reason, Clement says everyone wants their hearth to be up to par by the time the holiday season is in full swing. "The ambience of fireplaces is just attractive to everyone," she says.
Cyndi and Norm Phillips of Mesa say the wood-burning fireplace in their living room is a staple in their Christmas celebrations.
"The kids used to roast marshmallows. Now we’ll just have to wait for the grandkids," says Cyndi Phillips. Their maintenance plan includes cleaning the fireplace when they’re done using it and having it inspected every few years.
Vince Bossany of the fireplace manufacturer Hearth and Home Technologies recommends a yearly inspection to avoid chimney fires.
"Homeowners should also check the chimney or vent before the season’s first fire to see if birds or animals have built nests in it," he says, "or if leaves or other debris have accumulated."
Tips for getting your fireplace ready
• Clean out the firebox every week, but leave an inch of ash in the bottom as insulation. Never use a vacuum to clean out the firebox as coals can stay hot for several days after extinguishing a fire.
• Before removing ash, open the damper so loose ash is drawn up the chimney rather than out into the room.
• Remove all ash during the months the fireplace is not in use.
• Burn only seasoned or hard wood. This helps minimize creosote buildup in the chimney. Burning small, controlled, hot fires rather than smoldering fires will also help keep creosote under control.
• Vacuum the firebox and heat exchanger regularly (only when the fireplace is cold) to keep efficiency and air quality high.
• Consult a professional to clean the pilot assembly, purge trapped air from the gas supply line and test-fire the fireplace.
• Use only a soft brush to remove dust or spider webs from gas logs since they can be fragile. Make sure to position logs properly after cleaning to avoid sooting.
• Use glass cleaner made especially for gas fireplaces to clean the glass front — never use oven cleaner or abrasives.
• Clean the firebox and control compartment with a brush and vacuum.
• Never use glass cleaner to clean the back of the glass. Use mild soap and water only. Remove dust particles from glass by simply buffing lightly with a clean, dry cloth.
• Replace the light bulbs about every two to three years or when the flame and ember bed is dark on one side.
• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a professional on cleaning the heater system to extend the fan’s life.
Sources: Hearth and Home Technologies, HearthNHome.com
Cave Creek Barbeque & Fireplaces
6038 E. Hidden Valley Drive Cave Creek (480) 575-5648