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Why does my house smell smokey?

Man holding nose due to smell coming from fireplace

In the spring and summer months we see an influx of calls from people complaining that an odor is coming from their inactive fireplaces. Their living rooms are filled with a musty, smokey smell even though they haven’t used their fireplace in months. While most people assume they just need a thorough chimney & fireplace cleaning, the more likely culprit of this smell is a down draft of air coming into the home through the chimney.

The hotter and more humid it is, the more intensive the smell can be. When air pressure is lower indoors than outside, air flows down through the chimney and out the fireplace to equalize the negative pressure. As air flows downward through the chimney, it picks up aromatic hydrocarbon from the creosote in your chimney. This gives the incoming air a smokey smell

Home appliances like HVAC systems, furnaces, oven hoods, bathroom fans, and dryer vents can also be a source of negative pressure. When these appliances turn on and pull air though the house, they can also pull air down through the chimney.

If you are dealing with a smokey smell in your living room, here are some steps you can take:

1. Call a Certified Chimney Company

The CSIA recommends that chimneys are cleaned and inspected annual. Cleaning your chimney will remove the creosote that has built up and help to relieve the intensity of the smell. For heavier creosote build ups, a chemical treatment can be used. Most homeowners wait until the fall to have their chimney cleaned and inspected. This is considered peak season. If you go ahead and get your chimney cleaned and inspected in the spring or summer, you can benefit from offseason pricing and have your fireplace ready to use come the first cold in fall. You can book an appointment here.

2. Install a Top Mount Damper

A top mount damper secures to the top of the chimney. A quality top-mount dampers features seals and gaskets that help prevent air from entering the chimney. Installing a top mount damper can not only help with the smokey smell in the spring and summer, it will also help improve your home’s efficiency in the winter. That is because it will not allow cold air from outside to come inside.

As a bonus, top-mount dampers can prevent bugs and animals from entering your chimney. This can be beneficial as some animals like migratory birds can be challenging to remove.

3. Get Negative Pressure Testing or a Home Energy Audit

Newer, more energy-efficient homes often have negative pressure issues with their chimney. This is because improved seals on energy-efficient doors and windows more effectively seal the air inside the home. This leaves the Chimney has de facto point of entry for outside air.

Getting a negative pressure test or home energy audit will identify if negative pressure is the issue. A home fresh air makeup kit can alleviate these issues by providing appliances with a supply of outside fresh from a dedicated source.

Your fireplace should be a source of comfort during the cold winter month, but you should not have to put up with unwanted odors in the summer. If you are dealing with smokey smell resonating from your fireplace, give us a call today.

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