Your chimney can be deadly

Getting your fireplaces, boilers, plumbing ready for winter

Even though winter is still more than seven weeks away, it’s not too soon to start readying for the harshest of all seasons, according to Hudson County home improvement experts.
Plumbing and heating specialists, roofing contractors, and hardware store owners agree that homeowners should check their systems, equipment, and structures now before the cold weather is upon us.
And some of the preparations are key because carbon monoxide and other dangers can be deadly if, for instance, a chimney is not prepared properly for winter.

Chimney maintenance is key

John Youngclaus, owner of JRY Plumbing and Heating Inc. in Bayonne, says that now is the time to make sure all your equipment is functioning properly.
Start your heating system in the warm weather, when it is not so busy, Youngclaus suggests, so you don’t have to wait if you need service.
“Get it cleaned. Get filters. Make sure everything is in working order. Go by the recommendations of your local plumber,” he said. “Have your boiler serviced, cleaned, and drained. Rid the system of air. If you have steam, have it drained, cleaned, and the proper chemicals added.”

“Get it cleaned. Get filters. Make sure everything is in working order.” – John Youngclaus
Youngclaus also says homeowners should look for rust around pipes, anything leaking onto the floor, rot or corrosion on units, and listen for banging.
Checking your chimney is vital to ensure your family’s safety. It should be inspected now, prior the cold season.
“Make sure that the flue exhaust is being sucked out of the chimney, instead of into the room, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning,” Youngclaus said.
Youngclaus said all homes should have CO2 detectors, and that now, the ending of Daylight Saving Time and the pushing back of clocks, is when batteries for those detectors and smoke detectors should be checked.

Boilers and furnaces important

Gabriel Lima, owner/manager of Lima Hardware & Plumbing True Value on Bergenline Avenue in Union City, agreed with Youngclaus that you should start by checking the heating system.
“Make sure your boiler is up to par. The most common thing that needs to be changed is the thermo-coupler on furnaces and gas furnaces,” Lima said. “That’s something that usually is the easier thing to change – and most likely the problem. It lets the boiler know what temperature it’s running at and keeps it on.”
While removing window air conditioning units may seem elementary, many people don’t do it. And when they don’t, cold winter air enters the house. Insulating windows and doors also helps. Pay attention to door jams as well, purchasing door sweeps to block drafts.
In fact, insulating everywhere you can and making sure water is removed from external pipes and garden hoses, Lima advises.
“With exposed copper pipes, try to have them insulated so there’s no freezing,” he said.
Also, make sure your thermostats are set for efficiency.
“Don’t turn off, leave, and then jack up your heat when you return. You’re making it work twice as hard,” Lima cautioned. “It could be stabilized during the day. Keep it at 68 to 72 degrees. Keep it nice, but on colder days, you can put it a little warmer.”

Clean the gutters, check the roof

Brian Baran of Baran and Son Roofing in Bayonne said not to forget the outside of your home when preparing for winter.
“You have to make sure all your gutters are cleaned,” Baran said. “And that all penetrations are sealed, and all your flashing is sealed.”
Like Youngclaus, Baran said ensuring that your chimney is working properly is extremely important.
“You want to make sure you have all the proper venting. You want to make sure it’s all cleaned out,” he said. “That there’s no carbon monoxide from back drafting; when your chimney is fully stuffed and can’t breathe it vents down instead of outward. It blows out your pilot light and can have dire consequences if not taken care of.”
Baran suggests homeowners eyeball their roofs, to make sure all is well. If your roof was recently redone, the contractors should have taken off older layers of roof, instead of just adding to what was there.
“Some roofers just come in for a quick buck. They come in and put layers on top,” Baran said. “State law requires that two layers of roof have to come off, due to the weight. They should start with a fresh deck and then go from there. It’s all about weight.”
Snow remaining on the roof for an extended period of time is the related problem. It’s best to remove it before it builds up.
“If there’s snow on a roof, it deepens there, especially on flat roofs,” Baran said. “If we do have a heavy snow, you want to have your roof shoveled off because the roof could collapse from the weight of the snow.”

Joseph Passantino may be reached at

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