Do Chimneys Need Insulation?
This is a common question from people throughout the Southern California Southland. Anything involving insulation makes sense for people who live where winter temperatures drop into the single digits. But what about out here, where it’s pretty much “endless summer”?
Well, it’s not as “endless” as it might seem, and chimney insulation isn’t only beneficial for chimneys that endure the harshest winter temperatures. Ye Olde Brit Chimney Sweep of San Bernardino, CA, would like to share some helpful facts about insulation for your California chimney and the benefits it will bring you.
Chimney Insulation 101
There are three primary types of chimney insulation:
- Wrap insulation that’s installed, or wrapped, around the chimney liner
- Pour-in-place, which is a compound that’s poured down into the chimney around the liner
- Panels that are placed around the liner and snapped together
Any of these types of insulation will accomplish what chimney insulation is designed to do.
Why insulate a chimney?
Chimneys commonly draft fireplaces; they also can draft furnaces and other heating appliances. In all these cases, a chimney flue’s job is to channel smoke and combustion gases from the appliance to the air outside the house.
On our colder nights (yes, we have some cold nights in California!), the air inside a dormant chimney cools down quite a bit. Cold air is heavy, which is fine until you try to send warm, lighter air up through it.
That’s when problems happen. Two main problems, to be exact:
- Warm smoke and cold flue air cause condensation, which leads to the formation of creosote
Creosote is a flammable substance that clings to the interior walls of chimney flues. Over time, it builds up and creates a fire hazard.
Most chimney fires are started by ignited creosote. A well-insulated chimney will help reduce the amount of the buildup. Annual service from a certified chimney professional will remove excess creosote.
Even if smoke condensation isn’t a big problem for you, any smoke can lead to creosote formation. You can create less smoke by using only dry (seasoned) wood and never burning anything in your fireplace except proper firewood, preferably of the hardwood variety.
- Cold flue air impedes drafting
When smoke can’t rise through a cold flue, it only has one place to go: down into the room.
Chimney insulation creates a more ideal flue environment than an unprotected flue for the passage of smoke. Nobody likes smoke in the house, but there’s a concern that’s much more serious than smoke.
Carbon monoxide is present in varying amounts in smoke and is known to be potentially fatal when inhaled by humans and animals. Because carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, there’s no way to tell if it’s present in your breathing air.
For this reason, it’s important to have working CO monitors installed near your fireplace to alert you to the presence of this dangerous gas.
A few other benefits of a properly insulated chimney
- Less chance of the acids in creosote damaging your chimney liner
- Fires that are easier to start, thanks to an efficient draft
- Wood that burns more thoroughly, using all of the log instead of just part of it
- Less smoke and soot residue in the firebox
Is it time to insulate your chimney?
Ye Olde Brit has been helping our customers solve their chimney problems for more than 30 years. If you’d like us to look at your chimney, recommend the best kind of insulation, and install it for you correctly, give us a call at (909) 880-2120. You can also reach out with our simple contact form.