DEAR ABBY: I read your column faithfully and hope you'll print my letter for public awareness. Two years ago I met the man who would "sweep me off my feet." When I asked him what he did for a living, he said, "I am a certified chimney sweep."
Although I always "knew" that people who have fireplaces or wood stoves need to have their chimneys cleaned, I never realized that chimney sweeps save lives every day!
Many homeowners and landlords are unaware that chimneys -- or ANY heating systems -- need to be inspected every year.
With new heating technology, furnace appliances are more efficient. They put less heat up the chimney and more into the home, causing condensation that can damage a chimney at a remarkable rate. This can create blockages, water and structural damage to the home, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning.
Homeowners can check for many of these things by looking in the bottom of their chimney. If there is any debris or flaking inside, if they can't see to the top with a flashlight, if there are water stains or missing bricks, the homeowner should contact a certified chimney sweep to inspect the venting system. These professionals have the training to properly install, replace and repair venting systems to meet national codes for safety, and they are qualified to give the best and safest solutions to homeowners and their families. -- SWEPT OFF MY FEET IN PA.
DEAR SWEPT: Thank you for wanting to educate others about a danger many of us face without being aware of it. Homeowners, if you observe any of these warning signs, please contact a certified sweep and have your venting system inspected before you light your next fire (renters should contact their landlords). A certified chimney sweep is usually as close as your telephone directory.