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Rising Heating and Electricity Costs Will Force Many to Heat with their Fireplaces

With last yearís winter on record as one of the warmest ever, Houston residents can expect temperatures to be closer to normal this year. In fact, the Farmerís Almanac is predicting that Old Man Winter will return to most areas in the US. The eastern half of the country is expected to receive plenty of cold and snow keeping the skiers and snowboarders happy, while the western half will experience relatively warm and drier conditions.The Farmerís Almanac is even calling for most Midwestern and Eastern states stretching as far down south as the Gulf Coast Ė will see more snow and cold air than normal. The Houston Chronicle is calling for temperatures between -1į F and -3 į F, brrrh!

Although itíll be a welcome change from the hot temperatures that we had over the summer, the cold will bring higher heating costs. Heating bills are expected to rise 15 percent for natural gas customers and 5 percent for electricity customers, the Energy Information Administration announced recently. And even though the economy is getting better, there are many homeowners and property managers that are paying close attention and donít want to see their energy costs get out of control. ABC News is reporting that the average U.S. household will pay $992 in heating costs this winter, up $94 from last year.For these reasons alone, many consumers choose to heat with their fireplaces and chimneys rather than other heating sources.

As Houston chimney sweeps, weíre entering our busy time of the year. Many homeowners and property managers have been calling us in since late September to have their fireplaces and chimneys inspected and cleaned. As per CSIA guidelines, chimneys must be at least once annually. We suggest that chimneys be cleaned once in the fall to clear out debris from trees and leaves as well as creosote buildup and another time in the fall. And donít forget those calls that involve animals have chosen to set up their homes for the winter in a chimney. Weíre called in to remove them from the immediate dangers to them and to the occupants of the home.

Many consumers these days are opting for gas fireplaces. They come in three categories: B-vented, the more efficient direct vented and vent-free, the most efficient of all and the fastest growing category on the market. Direct-vent systems are from 75 to 80 percent efficient. Direct-vent systems use two vent pipes to connect to the fireplace bringing combustion air from the outside into the intake vent and an exhaust vent directing the products of combustion from the inside out. The advantage of this system is that it can be vented straight through an exterior wall, eliminating the need for an existing chimney and leaving the warm indoor air inside the home. The vent-free or ventless fireplace is very similar except the air from inside the house is taken into the firebox to support combustion, and the by-products are exhausted back into the house.  Because the ventless fireplaces recycle the combustion air, chimneys arenít needed and as a result efficiency ratings of more than 99 percent can be achieved.

For your home heating needs, give us a call.  Our certified experienced professionals can perform chimney cleaning and repairs, air duct cleaning, dryer vent cleaning or other chimney, fireplace or dryer vent related services for all types of chimneys, air ducts and dryer vents. Keeping your unitís fire safe, we are American Fireplace Inc.!

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