Since a fireplace is a seasonal item, it’s important to keep it clean and up to snuff even when it’s not in regular use. For whichever kind you have, use the following tips to make sure your fireplace is ready to go before the kids get busy with school and the holidays come around.

Wood-Burning Fireplaces

A wood-burning fireplace is an attractive addition to a home, but it requires proper maintenance to work best. To maximize the cleanliness and efficiency of your fires, buy seasoned wood, which has been dried out and stored for six to twelve months before being sold. Using seasoned wood reduces the amount of soot and creosote, and it creates more heat. After each burn, evaluate how much ash is in the bottom of your fireplace. When ash levels get too high, sweep out your chimney with a broom, and wear gloves and goggles to ensure you don’t get any ash or dust particles in your eyes. When the days start to get warmer and you retire your fireplace for the season, have a professional come inspect and clean it  to get rid of soot and creosote.

Gas Fireplaces

woman cleaning fireplaceNot having to pick out, cut, or store seasoned wood reduces the amount of work required to maintain a clean fireplace, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t schedule a fireplace inspection to make sure it’s burning efficiently and not releasing harmful gases, like carbon monoxide, into your house. Instead of soot and creosote, dust, dirt, or loose wires are more likely to be the issues with a gas fireplace. In addition to hiring a professional fireplace service, there are other tasks you can do yourself, like cleaning the glass doors and checking the gasket for damage.

Fireplace Alternatives: Wood Stoves and Pellet Stoves

wood burning stove in living roomA wood-burning stove requires similar maintenance to a wood-burning fireplace with regard to using only untreated seasoned wood, sweeping out ash, and requiring yearly inspections. However, new developments in technology make some wood-burning stoves more efficient than wood-burning fireplaces. Additionally, you can choose between catalytic and non-catalytic wood stoves depending on your heating needs.

A pellet stove is usually highly efficient—most EPA-certified ones carry efficiency ratings between 70 and 83 percent and, as a result, much lower electricity costs. It produces heat by burning pellets of wood and other natural, renewable materials. It still requires maintenance, annual inspection, and weekly cleaning, but you’ll be spending less money on electricity and materials to burn.

Choosing an efficient source to heat your home is beneficial to your wallet, your health, and the environment, but don’t just stop at choosing efficiency. Remember to have your fireplace inspected every year, no matter what kind you choose.