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Magic Sweep Blog

The Importance of Air Duct Cleaning

The new year has begun and it’s time to think about home maintenance in 2018. Many homeowners wait until spring to complete an extensive list of spring cleaning, but this may be a mistake when it comes to dryer vent maintenance. There are nearly 3,000 home clothes dryer fires reported each year. They account for an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. Failure to clean the dryer vent is the leading cause of clothes dryer fires. When do they happen? The highest number of clothes dryer fires occur in January, and they occur overnight when families are asleep. Fires are more dangerous when they occur during the night. Fortunately, dryer vent fires are preventable, and there are signs of warning before it may occur.

Signs Your Dryer Vent Needs Cleaning

  • Your dryer takes more than one cycle to dry a moderately-sized load
  • Your dryer is hot to the touch and puts heat into your house
  • Your clothes are hot (not warm) when you take them out of the dryer
  • Condensation collects on surfaces and walls in your laundry room
  • Your vent hood doesn’t flap open freely the way it should
  • You notice a burning smell while the dryer is running
  • Your dryer vent wasn’t professionally installed
  • Your dryer vent hasn’t been cleaned in the last 12 months

All of these occurrences mean your dryer vent needs a professional service in order to prevent fire and property loss, save you money on utilities, repairs, and new appliances.

When you choose Magic Sweep to clean your dryer vent, you can rest assured that your dryer will work properly and efficiently—and last. Your dryer should last ten years, but when it takes 2-3 cycles to dry one load, it shortens the life of the appliance by 2-3 times! It also costs 2-3 times more than it should in electricity. The more your dryer is used, the faster the heating element will wear out, requiring repairs. If you have recurring dryer vent clogs, you may have an issue with the vent itself. If it wasn’t professionally installed, it is likely installed incorrectly.

Seven Facts About Dryer Safety that You May Not Know

  1. Dryer ducts should be 4 inches minimum
  2. Dryer ducts should not exceed 25 feet (90-degree turns are equivalent to 5 feet in length)
  3. Dryer vents should be independent of other household systems and terminate outdoors, not into chimneys, crawlspaces, or attics
  4. The dryer vent hood should prevent backdraft
  5. Metal transition ducts should be used between the dryer and exhaust duct
  6. Flexible transition ducts should never be used in an attic, crawlspace, or inside a wall
  7. Dryer vents should be installed by a professional to maintain warranties and to stay within municipal safety codes

If your dryer vent was not installed by a professional, it’s time to schedule a cleaning. If your dryer vent hasn’t been serviced in the last 12 months, it’s time to schedule a cleaning. Even if your dryer is working correctly presently, it needs to be cleaned annually to maintain performance and safety.

Call Magic Sweep

Magic Sweep doesn’t only clean chimneys. We’ll sweep your dryer vent clean without affecting your home, and you’ll be glad you called. Contact a dryer vent technician now by calling Magic Sweep at 757-523-2400.

National Fire Prevention Week Oct 8-14

Fires cannot be prevented 100 percent of the time, and no matter the cause or the location, they result in loss of health, life, and property. Fires are deadly, and according to US Fire Administration , it was to blame for 3,275 deaths, almost 16,000 injuries, and $11.6 billion in property loss in 2014. That year there were 1,298,000 reported fires, which showed a significant decrease since 2005. Less fires, means less loss, but this number is still too high. That is why the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) makes it a priority to raise awareness each October during the National Fire Prevention Week.

Community Awareness

During National Fire Prevention Week October 8-14, your children may learn about fire prevention in school. The local fire department may put on activities for families and the community, and even your local government may get involved. This is a time to talk about fears, plans, and prevention. This annual event can be a reminder to change smoke alarm batteries, and brush up on the family emergency plan . Whatever you do, there are many resources available to help you discuss fire danger with your family. Visit www.firepreventionweek.org for information and print-outs, activities for children, and more.

Fire Prevention

You can decrease your fire risk by being vigilant about home management. Neglecting appliances like the clothes dryer or heat appliances can result in fire. Neglecting routine upkeep like replacing faulty wiring and electrical boxes can also result in fire. You should never operate a fireplace, stove, or clothes dryer during the night. Most fires happen while the family is asleep, and escape is less likely. Other things you can do is to hire professionals to clean your dryer vent and chimney systems.

Fire Safety Tips

  • Schedule routine chimney sweeps and inspections to insure your system is clean and safe for use.
  • Burn only properly seasoned wood in your fireplace, insert, or stove. Burning other items can decrease efficiency, increase fire risk, and create more pollution.
  • Keep decorations and furniture away from the hearth and chimney. Place large items far enough away that they cannot reach the flame even if they fall.
  • Use the damper or glass doors to control an unruly flame.
  • Always use certified products and services to ensure they have been tested and adhere to local and federal safety regulations.
  • Practice fire safety and make sure your family and guests practice fire safety.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms, and replace the batteries twice per year.

House fires, RV fires, apartment fires, and wildfires are not always preventable. Not all fires are predictable or preventable, but a chimney fire is. If you maintain your chimney system and use it properly, you should not have a chimney fire. It is our goal at Magic Sweep to keep your fire safely within the fireplace. Call Magic Sweep to find out how we can keep your family safe and warm this winter.

Reducing Fire Hazards This Winter

If you have any type of heat source or household appliances, there are always hazards to avoid. It’s our goal at Magic Sweep to keep our neighbors in the Tidewater area safe and warm every winter. We’ve served the area for over 35 years and in that time have become familiar with many of the fire hazards our customers might overlook.

The Cluttered Hearth

If you have a fireplace, furnace, or other heat appliance it should be professionally installed to insure it is not too close to walls or other home installments that can interact with the heat. Also, the area should be kept clean of debris, decorations, and furniture that can ignite. This includes ALL fuel types!

Pro Tip: If furniture feels hot near your fireplace after an hour, you should move the furniture back from it.

A Clogged Chimney

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends regular chimney sweeps to insure the fireplace or appliance and chimney are clean and clear of debris, soot, and creosote (all of which are highly flammable).

Pro Tip: If your fireplace is consistently smoky, difficult to light, or generally less efficient you may have a flue obstruction or another problem that can raise fire risk.

A Clogged Dryer Vent

A fire hazard often overlooked in today’s age of convenience is the dryer vent. This hose that runs from the back of the clothes dryer to your wall vents hot air, water vapor, harmful gases, and lint. If given the chance to buildup (most often caused by angles in the vent or a defective exterior flap) this highly flammable lint can ignite. There were over 5,000 house fires caused from clothes dryers in 2012, and the Chimney Safety Institute of America has even created CSIA Certified Exhaust Technician® training in an effort to further keep families and homes safe from fire.

Pro Tip: Have your clothes dryer professionally installed. Most companies offer free installation or a discounted installation if you pay for delivery.

Improper Use of Cooking Appliances

Avoid using cooking appliances for anything other can cooking. Always keep towels, cookbooks, plastic cooking tools, and pot holders away from flames or burners. Never leave a stove unattended, and never use an oven to heat clothes, shoes, gloves, or anything else.

Pro Tip: Check the oven for food debris, dishes, or any other items before turning it on for cooking (especially if you have children who may hide items in the stove).

Other Dysfunctional Heat Appliances

Be aware of your other home appliances that use heat and how they work, especially if they’re new or you’re new to the home. For instance, hot water heaters and dish washing machines can become a fire hazard if the water source is compromised do to a water clog, leak, or if it’s frozen.

Pro Tip: Have these appliances professionally installed and check them regularly. If your “dishwasher safe” items show signs of melting, have the system checked for too little water.

Always put safety first when it comes to heat in the home—that means ALL heat! Magic Sweep wants to see you safe and comfortable this winter.

Spring Checklist for Your Chimney

Your chimney and fireplace kept you warm.  They've earned a thorough inspection and cleaning.

Your chimney and fireplace kept you warm this winter, and now they’ve earned a thorough inspection and cleaning.

After a very cold, long winter, your home is ready for a spring cleaning from top to bottom. While you are getting your to-do lists ready this season, do not forget your fireplace and chimney as they have worked hard heating your home all winter, and both are in need of a good cleaning. For proper maintenance of a safe chimney, the Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends an annual chimney sweep and Level 1 chimney inspection. In fact, when you make your spring checklist for your chimney, that’s all you need to do: request an appointment with Magic Sweep for a chimney sweep that includes a Level 1 inspection.

What to Expect

Our certified technician will arrive at your house to do the chimney sweep and bring the Magic Sweep spring checklist for your chimney and perform the following tasks:

  • Perform a Level 1 inspection – A basic level of inspection, we look around the readily-accessible sections of your chimney as well as the exterior of your chimney. We will go to the roof to examine the chimney above the roof if access is provided and the conditions are safe. We will be making sure your chimney is sound and does not seem to have any structural damage. We will also examine to see if your chimney is free from blockages and excessive creosote deposits.
  • Protect the room and house – Using a high-powered, long-handled vacuum with a HEPA filter and drop cloths to cover your furniture, we work to contain the dust and debris that will occur during the sweeping process.
  • Scrape the firebox – With hand tools and brushes, the firebox, where the actual fireplace is, is scraped down and swept, then vacuumed.
  • Scrape the chimney – The firebox scraping process is continued up to the top of the chimney, using tools and brushes on poles. All of the soot and debris falls to the bottom. We remove the debris, clean the firebox, and vacuum all remaining soot and debris. We guarantee that we will leave your home as clean or cleaner than when we came in.

What Happens Next?

After your chimney sweep has been completed, we will talk with you about our findings in your Level 1 inspection. It is possible you may need a Level 2 inspection, which includes a video scan that allows us to look more closely inside your chimney. You may also need repairs if you have suffered structural damage. Magic Sweep is certified in all sorts of chimney repairs, and our technician will be happy to go over your options with you.

Get started on your spring cleaning, and take care of your spring checklist for your chimney by contacting Magic Sweep today to schedule your annual chimney sweeping and Level 1 inspection.

Zero In On Prevention

Keep A Focus On Family Fire Safety

At Magic Sweep, our goal is to help our clients enjoy their home heating appliances while minimizing fire hazards in every way we can.

Annual chimney inspections and regular chimney sweeping — as well as having any necessary repairs taken care of as soon as possible — go a long way toward keeping your chimney functional and efficient, and limiting the chances of a chimney fire.

Many homeowners don’t realize that clogged dryer vents can pose a big fire hazard, too, so having those vents cleaned routinely by experienced Magic Sweep technicians adds another layer of protection.

But beyond doing all that we can to help you and your family avoid a fire hazard, we also want our valued clients to feel armed and prepared to do everything they can do to increase their fire safety.

Regular and thorough maintenance is your biggest preventative measure when it comes to fire safety.

Regular and thorough maintenance is your biggest preventative measure when it comes to fire safety.

Smart Fireplace, Stove Or Insert Practices

As chimney sweeps, we talk a lot about creosote, and how dangerous and flammable it is when it builds up in your flue. So it logically follows that practices that encourage creosote build-up will increase the probability of a fire hazard.

You can minimize creosote build-up and limit the chances of a fire hazard overall with some smart burning practices.

– Always use seasoned (dry) wood. Green, moist wood results in a cooler fire, more smoke and more creosote. And never burn trash – some materials can give off toxic fumes, and others can create a fire hazard.

– Never use any kind of flammable liquid (gasoline, lighter fluid or anything else) as a firestarter.

– Open your flue all the way when you light your fire, so that it doesn’t smolder.

– Don’t overfill your firebox — build a small fire that has the air and space to burn hotter and more completely.

– Make sure your fire is completely out before leaving it alone.

– When you’re cleaning out ash and coals, make sure to use a metal bucket, allow ample cooling time, and put ample distance between those materials and your home (at least 10 feet) when you dispose of them.

– Keep the area around the appliance clear of debris or any other flammable materials, including knick-knacks and holiday decorations.

– Make sure a properly sized and installed chimney cap is on your chimney! Chimney caps keep out nesting animals and debris that can block your flue and ignite.

– Have a spark screen installed to keep embers from sparking out of the firebox

– Make sure branches and twigs of nearby trees aren’t in the direct line of your flue opening.

Be Aware And Be Prepared, Too

Smoke alarms are a must in every home, on every floor and near every sleeping area. According to the National Safety Council, two thirds of deaths related to home fires happened in homes without functioning smoke alarms.

Carbon monoxide detectors are hugely important as well — since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, and can be deadly, a working carbon monoxide detector could save your life in the event of a leak. It’s recommended that you check smoke and CO detectors monthly, and change batteries every year. If you have kids, make sure they know what the alarms sound like, and what they mean.

You should also make sure that you have a home escape route planned, that your entire family is aware of it, and that you’ve practiced getting out of the house from every floor.

If you have any questions about fire safety and your heating appliance, Magic Sweep is always here to help. Just give us a call!