Well realistically I have been pretty much retired for almost a decade. Working only when I feel like it! But what about full time retirement? Well not sure if or when I will do that, I enjoy doing maybe one job a week, it keeps me doing something. And on the other hand there are very few qualified and certified Chimney Sweeps around. There are a few who advertise chimney cleaning, but have no actual training, qualifications or certifications. What does this mean? Well there are many different configurations of wood burning systems, chimneys, inserts, woodstoves, etc. out there. Kind of nice to know the person has some idea what they are looking at. It is also important they know how a system is supposed to be and be able to correct it if put together improperly. Is the Chimney Sweep also certified as an inspector? Preferably a Comprehensive Inspector, the highest level of inspector in Canada. You need and deserve the best you can find for a Chimney Sweep!! Don’t settle for somebody who does this on a sideline with another job, hire somebody who is a Certified Chimney Sweep! Now back to original thought, yes I am an Certified Advanced Chimney Sweep!! Yes I am a Comprehensive Inspector!! And yes I plan to keep doing for some time on a part time basis to keep me busy and to help you out!
Some think so. The megapixels it has, awesome!
Really? Well, again some think so. Realistically compared to cameras of a few years ago they have come a long way. But realistically compared to a camera, a real camera that is dedicated, they are no where near close in comparison. Really? Yes.. that is a fact.
So what is the problem. Well there are so many things that it really can not do well that it is hard to get the details here. The only thing it really does quite well, and something a photographer really does not want, is the onboard computer post processing – what it does to the image after you take the photograph to make it look reasonably good.
But lets look at limitations. First the lens, a small plastic lens. Plastic? Yes plastic! Optics of glass are expensive and a decent glass lens would drive the cost of the phone to prohibitive levels. The size of the lens! Even a glass lens of that size has some serious limitations in ability to work well. These range from ability to work well in low light, ability to accurately and quickly focus, depth of field, etc.
Oh those who use cameras as a sole camera are already thinking I am wrong. Well that is because they only use the phone and really have not compared the camera to anything that is really a dedicated camera. You see a good lens is going to cost more than your phone!! Yes more than even a top iPhone or Samsung phone!
But then there is the sensor. Oh it has many megapixels for sure.. but what does that mean. Well actually megapixels in a camera sensor is really a marketing tool and not much more. The marketing teams use it because it has become to the unsuspecting consumer a level of quality of the camera, and it is the only aspect of the sensor that can be easily manipulated at reasonably low cost. But even with the best sensors you would still get a mediocre photograph with that atrocious lens!
What is compromised with a small sensor? Lots! First keep in mind that good quality, premium sensors are as large as the whole phone! But small sensors – one significant problem is heat – which causes what is known as noise or errors in image. The post processing fudges these out but artificially creating image material to cover them for the most part, and does a fairly good job – but it is NOT the image you saw – it is the one created by a computer. Next is digital bandwidth, something that small sensors struggle with immensely. Then of course resolution – something closely related to pixel count – but cameras NEVER reach their stated resolution – again marketing tricks. Then the pixels themselves – for various reasons in physics – larger pixels actually perform better – but to get large number of pixels (which sell to consumes better) into a small sensor the pixels must be miniscule! Then light capturing ability – and the lens is a large part of this – although with the same lens a larger sensor captures more light. Then there is the marketing scam related to the Foveon chips used for sensors! Marketers multiply the number of pixels times three with Foveon chips.. there are a few reasons for this.. but what it means is a 24 megapixel Foveon sensor really only produces 8 megapixel image! There are a few other aspects I could get into – some more scientific than others.
But does all this really matter? No.. actually not. Unless you are a serious photographer hobbyist in which case it likely does. For the average one taking photos for Facebook your phone camera works fine! Even for printed images, as long as you don’t try to crop much or enlarge too much, you will be fine!
Good luck and enjoy.
Just finished off working with a customer who has a fairly recent installation of chimney and woodstove which has a one inch wall on insulated chimney. They had recently purchased home and had inspection done prior to purchase. The inspector had apparently stated the one inch chimney was not allowed and all had to be two inch chimneys. Well not quite, I went out took a look and it was Selkirk ULTIMATEONE, which is one of the best wood burning system chimneys on the market today! Yes they had one of the best and the inspector had told them they need it replaced. Actually felt kind of sorry for the as their insurance company was giving them a hard time apparently. So cleaned chimney and confirmed chimney was good for insurance company. Not all inspectors are the same and it is always wise to hire one who works in the wood burning industry doing cleaning, repairs and installations. Protect yourself.
A WETT Inspection is NOT the place to go price shopping.
Some ask the price ONLY – not having any clue that all WETT Inspections are NOT THE SAME.. nor are all WETT INSPECTORS THE SAME.
Some call and ONLY ask for the price of a WETT Inspection.. What? Why?
Well first of all lets get one thing straight – what should a WETT Inspection Include – and if it doesn’t the RUN!
You should be asking WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE WETT INSPECTION (AND WHAT LEVEL OF INSPECTION AM I GETTING). Note: If you are buying a home the NFPA-211 states you NEED a Level 2 Inspection performed!! Don’t be fooled into getting less.
- inspection of wood stove or fireplace including the inside firebox area where wood burns.
- in the case of woodstove include the refractory bricks
- in the case of woodstove include the operation of all parts – seals and controls
- in the case of fireplace include the condition of bricks and damper
- in the case of fireplace include the smoke shelf
- in the case of fireplace measure the depth, width and height of the fireplace opening
- in the case of fireplace measure the flue (chimney) size
- in the case of woodstove measure the flue (stove pipe) size
- inspection of all pipes inside home and condition of pipes – clearances of pipes to combustibles and fasteners at all joints as well as area of expansion
- inspection of chimney from top to bottom where visible
- inspection of deposits in chimney (around three quarters of all chimneys on inspections need a cleaning)
- height of chimney from top to bottom
- length of pipes inside house
- distance to combustibles – front – rear – sides – etc.
Now some unscrupulous people may try to sell you something else and do it for a reduce price! But if using the WETT Recommended lists all of above and more is on them. Yes there are some offering low cost WETT Inspections – and I have seen the result of some of them.
One recently in Orillia where :
- chimney was not inspected at all and no report on chimney at all!
- chimney was too short (that is part of report if one was ever done)
- system needed cleaning (that is part of report if one was ever done)
- refractory bricks in stove were missing! (if not present it is NOT a certified stove any longer)
- holes you could see daylight in stove pipes (yes you could hold up and see daylight through the pipe)
- zero screws or fasteners in pipes
- and more.. and more..
All from a WETT Inspector in Barrie who sells their services at low prices and claims to be great! Don’t be fooled.. look for a WETT Comprehensive Inspector and get it done RIGHT!
An interesting question yesterday came up, what is the “X” symbol called.
Well I actually knew it as 4 names, the number sign, pound symbol, octothorpe and hashtag.
I had thought the octothorpe was the original name, but when I looked it up I was wrong. I learned the octothorpe from my working days in telecommunications as it was a name given to it by Bell Labs likely in the 1950’s, but it was around and known long before that.
In fact it was on typewriter keyboards since the late 19th century and was in common use and known as the number sign. Now most of those reading that can recall this likely.
But even before that, dating back to very early times into the Roman era, it was originally known in Latin as the libra pondo, meaning “pound in weight”. This is actually where the abbreviation of “lb” came for pound. So apparently the very early use was for pound! How many remember it being used for pound?
Chess users have also used it to symbolize “checkmate” as a move. And of course it is the musical “sharp note”.
And of course beginning with Twitter around 2005 it began the journey as being a “hash tag”, which is on many or most social media platforms today.
Interestingly enough when introduced on Twitter originally it was something people though kind of geeky and only for “nerds”. In fact when first suggested by Chris Messina, it was not something favoured by the rulers of the Twitter platform. It did however slowly catch on and become popular and has spread across virtually every social media platform over the past decade.
So what name do you know it by? And were you surprised that it is not a rather new invention but has been with us for a couple of millennia?
Don’t you just love #History.
If you think you chimney is on fire then do not hesitate – CALL 911 NOW! Chimney fires can quickly spread and cause your whole house to burn.
You ask, just what is a chimney fire? Well it is when the combustible deposits of ash and creosote inside your chimney ignite. They happen more often than many think and studies indicate that 80% go undetected.
Are chimney fires dangerous?
Yes, in fact chimney fires can be very dangerous as they can and do set the entire house on fire. Many house fires today begin in the chimney.
But didn’t you say that many or most go undetected?
Yes, studies done in America indicate that is true. This makes them no less dangerous. In fact it means there is all the more reason t have chimney inspected annually as is required by the Ontario Fire Code. Why? Well, although a chimney fire may go undetected it does not mean that damage was not done and that the next chimney fire may be even worse as the existing damage now allows the fire to spread more easily.
Can I put out a chimney fire myself?
There are products to help extinguish a chimney fire which may have varying results. Fact is though that a chimney fire can reach incredible temperatures of around 1,100 degrees Celsius! That is incredibly hot and if it does not ignite things around it, things can be damaged. The fire department will ensure surrounding materials have not ignited and the rest of the home is safe. Further to this they will ensure the chimney is inspected properly before further use. Note to have the chimney inspected after a fire requires a WETT Certified Comprehensive Inspector – NO OTHER INSPECTOR LEVEL IS QUALIFIED. Back to putting out the fire, fact is the firefighters have the tools, training and experience to put the fire out safely while minimizing the damage to your chimney. They also have tools such as thermal imaging cameras to check to see if the fire has spread to walls, attics, and crawl spaces.
What methods will the fire department use to put out my chimney fire?
Most today will NOT use water as it can, will and does cause damage to the chimney. Putting cold water on anything that is 1,000 degrees C in temperature will cause serious shock! They will most often use dry chemical extinguishers which can put out the fire and cause no further damage. This does not mean the chimney was not damaged, but does ensure no additional damage will be done. The fire department will either force the dry chemical suppressant up the flue from below or deploy dry chemical suppressant “bombs” down the flue from the roof. It may be necessary to use chains from the roof to dislodge burning creosote from the side of the flue during the fire extinguishing process.
After the chimney fire is extinguished, is it safe to use my stove?
Think I covered this a bit above, but the answer is NO. It is critical that you have your chimney inspected by a WETT Certified Comprehensive Inspector and cleaned by a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep after any and all fires and before using it again. Using the fireplace or stove without inspection and cleaning can result in release of dangerous gases into the home through cracks or even another chimney fire. There are few WETT Certified Comprehensive Inspectors and few WETT Certified Advanced Chimney Sweep!! But FIND ONE if you need them.
Common Problems Causing Smoke & Frequently Asked Questions
Smoking Problems – Smoke is billowing out of your fireplace opening into your home.
Dirty Chimney / Creosote Buildup – What creosote is and what causes it.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
This a tough question for many reasons. Making it easy both The National Fire Protection Association Standard 211 and the Ontario Fire Code state that the chimney must be inspected at least once annually on any wood burning system and the chimney cleaned if necessary. The Ontario Fire Code also states that any chimney with more than 3mm of deposits must be cleaned. Now there are valid reasons to clean for the deposits as they are dangerous, however there are other reasons as well even if you hardly ever use the system such as animals, bird nests or other items which may obstruct the flue.
Q. My fireplace has a stinky smell this summer! Is there anything I can do to eliminate it.
The odour is caused by creosote deposits within the chimney, which are a natural by-product of burning wood and will happen regardless of how you burn the wood. The odour is generally worse during summer months due to the higher humidity. A good cleaning may fix the problem but that is not guaranteed. Commercial chimney deodorants are also available which work fairly well on most chimneys. I have a ozone generator which is effective at eliminating the immediate odour, but it will not prevent it from returning and so is only part of the solution. A tight fitting top mounted damper may also help, essentially helping to eliminate the downdraft.
Q. If I start a fire in the living room fireplace on main floor – I get smoke coming out in basement fireplace.
This never used to be a problem or at least a rare one. It has become more common as the homes have become airtight. New fireplaces do have air intake for outside air, but some do not know and use. What is happening is the fireplace heats the air which rises up the chimney as flue gasses and smoke. The house, having lost that air is now in a negative pressure and needs to replace that air. It will do that in any way possible, and if there is no other easy option it will pull air down the other fireplace chimney flue. In doing so it is sucking in some of the smoke from the other fireplace which is not a good situation. Not only is there nasty smoke odours but also a potential for carbon monoxide being pulled into the home. If you have this problem call a WETT Certified Chimney sweep to help you out.
Q. Does my oil furnace need to be cleaned?
Absolutely and without a doubt. Call a oil technician to clean the oil furnace itself and a Certified Chimney Sweep to clean the pipes and chimney. Oil furnaces can and often have dirtier and nastier chimneys than do wood burning systems, because of this I have dedicated tools for oil systems. Oil furnaces if too dirty can cause an extreme mess of your house with a blow back which will deposit oily, dirty soot all over your basement. In fact it is almost on an annual basis I get a call for that reason and the oil technician tells them to have chimney cleaned.
Q. I heat with gas. Should this chimney be checked too?
Yes and without a doubt. While not prone to soot buildup like an oil system or creosote and ash like a wood burning system, they can be at least as prone to invasion of animals, birds or other debris as any other chimney.
Q: Is all creosote the same?
Q: I had a chimney sweep look at my home and he said I have “Level 3 Creosote”. He said I need expensive chemicals to remove it and even that is not guaranteed.
Well yes there is what is known as “Level 3 Creosote”. It is without a doubt the most difficult to remove and also the most dangerous. There are chemicals to remove and loosen it. It is important to use the correct chemical however, especially if you have an older chimney as some of the chemicals are not as friendly to old chimneys as others. You will not be able to find or purchase this chemical yourself as it is not available to the public. ( There are weak versions of it sold but they really do only half the job ) When applied properly the chemicals will modify the creosote into a form that the chimney sweep can then more easily clean and remove. Some have used an acidic application in the past, but not often used today as they do need to have another chemical applied later to neutralize the acid or it will cause problems down the road. There are chemicals and a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep will help you. Also some of the more difficult creosote can often be removed with rotary power sweeps, but again caution should be used as while these are excellent tools then can cause harm to older more fragile chimney systems. If chemicals are used they should ONLY be applied by a WETT Certified Chimney Sweep.
So Just What Is Creosote?
In a nutshell creosote is a flammable and corrosive substance that can will accumulate on the walls of your fireplace and chimney. Creosote is created when unburned when gases containing volatile gases from incomplete combustion condense on the walls of chimney or other surfaces. Over a period of time, these creosote or soot buildups can become a danger as they can potentially result in a chimney fire.
What Is The Cause Of Chimney Creosote Problems
Essentially it is poorly burned wood for whatever reason. Fact is that any and all wood burning releases gases which can and doe create creosote. The gases which go up chimney contain a gas which is a hydro carbon, which when it condenses becomes creosote. Once these gases drop in temperature low enough to cause condensation they will adhere to walls of chimney and form creosote. There are a few reasons creosote forms, incomplete combustion, insufficient air available, too large a chimney flue, poor or unseasoned wood and cool chimney walls are some of the reasons.
The Various Creosote Forming Stages:
Condensation: For various reasons condensation can and does form on the chimney walls. This can be starting a stove with cold chimney, burning wet or unseasoned wood or even restricting air into firebox in an attempt to have fire burn longer. All create condensation in cooler smoke or chimney area and build up creosote.
Turning Into Liquid: The condensation is formed in a thick liquid runny syrup like substance that can run and seep into mortar joints and cracks. This is actually very acidic and corrosive and will destroy masonry and reduce the life of your chimney.
The Liquid Solidifies: With change in temperature the creosote will eventually harden or solidify. This will eventually then be coated over with liquid and the process will repeat over and over. How it solidifies and what it forms as a final form of creosote is dependant upon a few factors in use of system.
Honeycomb Crunchy Creosote: If a chimney fire happens, the burnable material is removed leaving a crunchy honeycomb material which is very crisp and crunchy and sweeps out easily. And yes fires do happen in chimneys and we see the evidence often.. in fact 80% of all chimney fires go undetected according to study in America.
Glazing of Creosote:
If the liquid dries slowly it forms a hard shiny glaze surface. This is formed when new layers are built over the old before it has time to dry properly .. trapping in the moisture and preventing it to dry and become crispy. (if it dries quickly it is more like corn flakes). The new layers of creosote insulate and seal the previous deposits causing it to eventually solidifies creating the rock-like substance known as glaze. This is the hardest to remove, the most expensive by far as chemicals are used to assist in removal and the most dangerous.
How to Remove Creosote Glaze
The only way to properly remove creosote glaze, which is as hard as rock, it must first be broken down chemically and then professionally cleaned.
A WETT Certified Chimney Sweep will not only clean your chimney but also inspect it for condition and health.
Having your room fill with smoke is annoying. Worse than annoying actually! Smoking is always a problem for some and occasionally for others. There are many reasons smoke can enter the home and a many solutions to fix the problem. Sometimes solution is easy and free, other times is complex and quite costly.
Part of the problem is physics. Cold air is heavier than warm and wants to drop downward. So the warm air from your fire should go upward and out the chimney or at least that is the theory and it work well in most cases. There are occasions for many reasons this simply does not work or work well.
Open a window
The easiest way to create a draft, especially if you have an older fireplace without a separate outdoor air source (or a woodstove) may be to simply open a window a small amount. This is especially effective in newer homes which are tighter sealed.
Pre-heat with a small fire
Pre-heating the flue system is another quick and easy tip to getting a roaring fire. Sometimes paper can work, but if there is a large down draft then other fire starters may prove more effective as once paper goes out it can smoke a lot and if the draft has not reversed it can come back into the home. To try newspapers, roll up half a dozen newspapers and then light them in the fireplace, the burning of this should warm up the flue enough to cause an upward draft. This is going to take a few minutes, so you need enough newspaper to keep burning for a while. Oh, don’t forget to open the damper and if you have also open the outside air source in fireplace.
Is your flue/chimney big enough
Not usually a problem but if the above does not work check this out. Find the area of the flue where the smoke goes up. If rectangular simply multiply the two dimensions to find area – if it is circular measure the diameter and divide in half – then multiply the answer times 3.14 to get area. Then measure fireplace opening – height and width. Multiply the height times the width. Compare the two areas and if the fireplace opening is more than ten times the area of the flue then you have a problem. This may be the cause of the smoke entering the home. Call a Certified Chimney Sweep to help you out.
Is chimney tall enough
There are a few reasons that height of chimney is needed. One is to meet the building code and the other is to create adequate draft. Taller objects nearby, such as trees, can impact the draft of your chimney. Extending chimney, depending on solutions selected, can be costly but may be only solution that works.
I have been doing photography since the 1970s as a hobby. Had professional film cameras in the 1970’s and 80’s, colour enlarger and a lot of other goodies.
Today may photographers really do not even understand the basics and they seem to be okay with that. They do not understand lighting, composition or any of the other basics.
Well that was always the case with beginners, but today it seems more prevalent. Likely because there are so many beginner level photographers today. One thing that is of interest in the marketing of photography today is the way they sell some of the cameras and focus on the sensor mega pixel capacity. Now that is only one specification and that is all they mention. And frankly it is not even the most important specification of the sensor, and no where near the most important to a good photograph!
Fact is the single most important part is likely the lens quality! That is right the lens quality, and that is also unfortunately the most expensive part of a good camera. You see a 16 mega pixel camera with a suburb lens will always take better photographs than a 20 mega pixel camera and lens quality that is middle of the road or budget quality. Why? Well it all begins with optics and what happens to the photograph, you can not expect to capture quality details on the very best sensors if the image reaching them is garbage! However, you have a good chance in getting decent quality photographs on any sensor if the image is excellent quality. You see sensors have not increased in ability to capture images significantly in a few years. Yes they do slowly increase, but like most technology today the major gains were made a few years ago in it infancy and today gains are painfully slow.
Having mentioned gains and the fact that I was originally into film cameras, the question often arises – “Is digital as good as film?”
Well, from a convenience it was always better than film, which is why it took off. Consumers are all about what is easy and low cost – which is why digital took off when film was still clearly superior in every way – similar to why VHS tape (which could record 6 hours) took over the video market and killed BETAMAX (which could do 4.5 hours) which was in every way other than recording length superior.
But where is it today?
There are several aspects which must be considered to determine if digital is clearly superior.
One most recognize is resolution or megapixels in digital cameras, so lets begin there.
Resolution allows one to capture sharp photographs. With digital we begin by counting megapixels, but film has to be done slightly differently using what is called angular resolution. Depending upon the film used, most 35mm film had a resolution which falls somewhere between 4 to 16 million pixels. Pretty much any camera today can exceed that. For the larger format professional cameras however the case is different, medium format cameras have film which can easily reach 400 mega pixels! This is much more difficult and expensive to duplicate with digital. So in summary pretty much any DSLR today can match or outperform film from a resolution standpoint; however for larger cameras film can exceed pretty much anything on the market at any price range.
The next is grain or noise. These are random small areas sprinkled across the photograph which should not be there. With film grain could result from small chemical particles not obtaining enough light; and was more prevalent in higher ISO film. With digital it is generally a result of electrical signals not accurately recording what is there and happens more often when sensors are heated. ( which is why film is still better for long exposure – although cameras such as Nikon have long exposure noise reduction ability – which many photographers don’t understand why or how it works – I can explain later )
Fact is if you operate a digital camera or film camera at higher ISO it will be more susceptible to noise and grain. Generally noise and grain is an undesirable attribute in colour photographs. This is one area where digital cameras used to lack significantly, although they had high resolution the noise levels was not great. Newer sensors, in particular on higher end camera models, have come a long ways with reducing this specification. In fact newer cameras can exceed the noise levels of film within the ISO ranges that film was available (although digital does not go down to ISO 25 as did film camera).
The next was dynamic range, which was always one of my major hold backs on digital. This used to be a huge problem and still is with low end cameras to some degree. Dynamic range with digital however is impacted by the sensor used, the type of file compression, and other factors. Most good film has around 13 stops of dynamic range. Today modern digital sensors can generally match that and most DSLRs can reach 14 stops of dynamic range, with high-end unit Nikon units reaching 15 stops. Film has incredible dynamic range, but today modern cameras can often match or exceed it.
Next is film speed or the ISO setting. While slide film such as Kodachrome was available at ISO 25, and had amazing images, digital can not generally go that low. Having said that, non-slide film was generally ISO 100 to 3200 with some 6400 available. Higher ISO film used to be very grainy, however Fujifilm had some exceptional ISO 3200 and 6400 film available which allowed low light non-flash photography. Todays digital can easily match film speeds of up to 3200 ISO with mid range cameras pushing far beyond that to ISO settings in the area of 51200 and high end Nikons up to ISO 409600. One other major advantage is the ability of the camera, when set on Auto-ISO to change film speed on each and every photograph!
Both film and medium to higher end digital cameras allow pushing the setting as well and/or bracketing images.
Then there is cost with digital being much more costly initially with the still evolving technology. There are however very good medium end cameras you can purchase used for reasonable price and still get quite good results (much better than new phone cameras or even low end budget cameras).
And last is the convenience, and for those who want instant results it can not be beat. Nothing is faster and more convenient. There is little concern about running out of film, especially with the medium range or high end cameras which have multiple SD card slots. Shooting high speed photographs one after another is still a challenge, and needs the highest speed SD cards available. However, the best cameras today can run into the 6 frames per second or even beyond and generally can take quite a few photographs before running out of capacity. Some say I can do that with my phone easily! A couple of comments on that – how large are the photographs in size? Because if not at least 8 megs each in size (for jpeg) then are not actually very good quality, period! Then if adding RAW to the mix and saving both at the same time, you are taking and asking camera to save around 200 meg per second. Tough for even the highest speed cards to keep up, the cameras however can typically buffer a dozen or more photographs to help out.
If you use camera a lot, you will likely take a lot more photographs than with film as the cost of processing is not a concern. You may do a lot more bracketing and moving high speed photographs, discarding all but the best.
So what is the verdict? Well for 35 mm DSLR cameras – digital meets or exceeds almost every single aspect of film! The most notable reason to shoot analog perhaps being that the resolution obtained from medium format cameras is so much beyond what is available in digital today. One other reason may be long exposure photographs (which higher end Nikons have worked out fairly well) Enjoy.