Everybody wants to feel comfortable within the confines of their home, but at what price? Cold winter nights and days can cause utility bills to skyrocket should furnaces not properly work, or have flues that aren’t properly sealed with flashing or insulation. One simple way to help control heating and cooling bills is to follow these hacks when cleaning and inspecting your furnace flue area.
A flue – who knew?
They’re not pretty, aren’t frequently discussed during Sunday dinner and nary require much attention. However, the importance of your furnace flue requires no introduction; its sole responsibility is carrying harmful combustibles away from mainstream heat flow. See, your massive furnace creates heat by combustion, deriving from an area which you’ll probably identify as ‘a simple pilot light’. During the combustion process, not all heat generated is 100% safe for your child’s room; therefore, flues become an integral mediator between escaping gases and the ‘good’ heat, sourcing the gases out into the atmosphere where they’ll vaporize into nothing since the amount of gas escaping is minuscule.
During the Little House on the Prairie era, your flue consisted of a metal pipe that protruded from a wood burning or coal burning stove and shot straight north, safely away from any breathable air.
Inspecting the flue
In modern construction, flues are well-sealed and built to last for decades, although frequent inspection is definitely suggested. First, you’ll locate your flue on your roof; it will look something like a miniature smoke stack with a small gap between the top and main flue pipe for air.
Next, you’ll want to inspect the shingles, flashing and sealant around the flue area to assure high winds or nasty storms didn’t rip the flue loose. Finally, inspect the piping itself; you’re looking for signs of corrosion or loose brads (the small nails holding the pipes together at the folded areas). You can follow this inspection procedure if your flue is attached to wood burning stoves, although you’re also looking for bad connections between your stove and flue as well.
Repairing your flue
Smaller holes discovered in or around your flue are repairable with foil tape, yet completely corroded piping must be replaced completely to prevent residual catastrophe. If you feel comfortable with all parts of your flue, newer electric flues will have a barometric damper, or moderator of your chimney’s air draw. An unevenly weighted damper can suck too much air from your home, meaning you’ll be losing both nasty gas and precious warmth.
You’ll always need to replace any roofing materials, including plywood, shingles, felt and tar that was compromised around damaged flue areas. Also, consider it standard practice to seal both sides of your roof around the flue, often accomplished when you finish your attic with batted insulation.
As our eco-aspirations collide with the lack of space in our ever-expanding cities, one of the greenest of ways to green our soaring buildings is to top them off with ecologically forward thinking flues. Even with geothermal heating, business properties and even large commercial outfits, flues are integral in maintaining the safety of dwellers.
Inspection of flues should happen during the summer and pre-winter months since metal expands and contracts with fluctuating temperatures. After disastrous wind storms, hail and excessive rains, you should check the performance of your flue to assure these elementals didn’t damage your home’s most integral roof topper.