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Keep an Eye on Furnaces, Fireplaces & Chimneys to Prevent House Fires & Insurance Rate Increases

Keep an Eye on Furnaces, Fireplaces & Chimneys to Prevent House Fires & Insurance Rate Increases


During this time of year, most people are cranking up their furnaces, fireplaces, or portable space heaters in an effort to keep warm.

But while all of those things are necessary for warmth, they also raise the possibility of a house fire, which can result in significant annual insurance premium increases.

Plus, in addition to the long-term costs of the house fire damage, there are also physical and emotional consequences that come with having a burned home.

All of this is important to consider since the number of house fires is increasing.

House fires occurring more frequently

According to experts, the number of house fires each year is going up. The main cause of house fires remains cooking. Since 2000, a stove or oven has been the culprit 46% of the time when a house fire occurs. The most common cause of a cooking fire? Leaving something unattended.

The second most common reason for fires is heating sources. In particular, older homes and homes where a check hasn’t been done in a while should have their chimneys, wood stoves, portable heaters, and furnaces inspected.

House fires raise insurance rates

Failure to have a regular inspection can lead to some significant insurance cost increases. In fact, after a house fire, the national average insurance rate increases by 27%.

In addition, little over 67,000 individuals have been hurt in fires that were caused by chimneys and furnaces in the past ten years alone.

That’s why, if you haven’t had yours cleaned in a while, it might be worth doing so now.

If you do begin looking around for someone to do an inspection, resist the urge to seek numerous quotes or to let a contractor oversell you on pricey repairs.

Here is some more information on chimney and furnace inspections.

Furnace inspections

An annual inspection of your furnace and air conditioner will increase their lifespan and save you on energy costs. Similar to when you change the oil in a car, if you put off HVAC maintenance, something will eventually break. An inspection helps find tiny issues before they grow into larger ones and stops significant breakdowns.

A furnace that isn’t well-maintained operates less effectively, which makes it work harder. Your system is put under extra stress, which raises your monthly energy costs.

With a quick inspection, you can extend the usable life of your system and save money. This work will help your system as a whole because your heating and air conditioning share numerous components.

For instance, since they are already inside the heating system, some specialists check the coils and evaporator of the air conditioner.

Furnaces can be dangerous 

If left unattended, furnace issues can be hazardous to your health. Carbon monoxide leaks, which are difficult to find because the gas is colorless and odorless, can be found during a furnace inspection.

Oil and gas furnaces are a significant factor in the 15,000 people who visit the emergency department each year for carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

For this reason, your HVAC expert should inspect the direct vent or exhaust pipe area of your furnace for cracked or broken parts.

Even if your furnace is brand new, you should still have it inspected annually. There is language in many HVAC warranties that says you must employ a qualified professional to maintain your unit. The manufacturer may request service records in order to confirm you’ve kept up with maintenance and cleaning if you submit a warranty claim.

The majority of states and municipalities grant professional licensing to HVAC contractors. Always check to see if everyone you hire is properly licensed, bonded, and insured.

If you contract with an HVAC company for a one-time inspection and tune-up, you should budget between $60 and $100. If you have an ongoing service agreement with an HVAC provider, you might be able to save money on the inspection.

Ask for a written description of the services this inspection will cover before engaging a contractor to inspect your system. A thorough HVAC check will cover a wide range of components, including:

  • Checking thermostat settings to ensure the system operates properly
  • Visually inspecting the main system, looking for corrosion, leaks, and adequate ventilation
  • Inspecting electrical connections and testing voltage on the system components to prevent component failure in the future
  • Lubricating moving parts
  • Checking the condensate drain for obstructions
  • Checking system start-up

Chimney/fireplace inspection

You or a professional should check all of the following:

 The firebox

Check the firebox’s lining for any cracks, openings, or other indications of wear (the interior of the fireplace).

You’ll need to have the liner expertly repaired if it has degraded to the point that the steel body beneath it is apparent. Otherwise, excessive heat can accumulate inside your chimney and result in long-term damage.

Smoke stains

 Another symptom that your fireplace isn’t working properly is the presence of smoke stains. According to experts, smoke may be leaking via a crack between the hearth and the firebox if you notice spots on the ceiling. This is most likely due to the hearth having settled, which is common in older homes.

Sparks can produce smoke when this settling takes place, basically acting as a secondary chimney. To remedy this, you’ll need a mason, an expert handyman, or a fireplace specialist.

Smoke stains may also be seen above the fireplace entrance. The flue damper, a device with a hand-operated lever that helps you control the airflow into the fireplace, might be the cause of this issue.

You might not be able to fully open or close the damper if the lever is damaged or caked with gunk, which could result in smoke leaking out of the fireplace. Once more, a specialist can decide whether the mechanism can be repaired or if it needs to be replaced.

Grate size

Don’t assume that bigger is always better when it comes to your fireplace grate. A metal grate used to contain burning logs should only be two-thirds the size of your fireplace opening, according to the CSIA.

A too-large grate could tempt you to stuff your fireplace with too much wood, and the ensuing flames could be dangerously too hot. If your grate is too big, swap it out for a smaller model that better suits your requirements.


One of the most significant actions you can take before using your fireplace is to have your chimney inspected.

That’s because a frequent error that homeowners make is assuming that their chimney is in good functioning shape. In actuality, the CSIA estimates that in recent years there were an average of 22,700 chimney fires per year.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) advises having a competent professional evaluate your chimney once a year. Depending on where you live, you can anticipate paying between $100 and $300 for the service. The results might help you decide whether your chimney needs to be cleaned or repaired.

Fire extinguisher

Make sure your fire extinguisher is always within reach, charged, and prepared to use. Recommendations from the CSIA call for a 5-pound extinguisher with a flexible hose.

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