Energy anxiety means a busy season for chimney sweeps / Article


An example is provided by the Latvian radio report from the house of the Ruņģis family, near Riga. Father Dainis has accumulated a stockpile of wood briquettes and firewood, so there is some peace of mind that the family will not freeze this winter. A wood boiler burns comfortably.

This heating season will be different from previous ones in the Ruņgi house. For years they relied on the comfort provided by the gas boiler, but now they are rapidly reorienting themselves towards a wood-fired boiler, which the previous owner of the building left behind but which has never been used before. .

Photo: Ieva Puķe / Latvijas Radio

“The technician came, checked that everything was plugged in correctly and said to turn it on. It was in the middle of summer. We turned it on two weeks ago, everything seems to be working. The chimney sweep came clean the chimney a month ago, everything is in order and ready for winter. including the chimneys of the wood boilers. “There hasn’t been the acute pressure like now – the price of gas. In fact, I was inspired by a neighbor who gave up gas completely and installed a heat pump, a wood boiler and solar panels”, said Dainis Ruņģis.

Māris Bambis, master chimney sweep of the company “Vidzeme suburban chimney sweep”, who for many years led the association of chimney sweeps, confirmed the trend of this season – many customers are trying to find solutions so that they do not have to use expensive gas or electric heat this winter.

“From the end of the summer, people lived in a semi-war state of mind and started to think about the alternatives they will have when they return to school. Everyone wants to add something more, a device , a wood heater, a pellet boiler, a fireplace. Customers call and ask about the possibility of installing one. In apartment buildings, installation is quite difficult. It is necessary to monitor the full-length chimney, entering other people’s properties. It’s easier for owners of private homes,” Bambis explained.

He also confirmed that there is still a desire to install energy-saving stoves in Soviet-era houses, the so-called Khrushchevkas.

“Yes. It is happening. It requires a complete inspection of the chimney, starting with the roof and ending with the basement. Only then is there a conclusion on the current condition of the duct Modern legislation allows a heater to be connected to a duct Unfortunately, in a multi-storey building, it is the first person to access it.

“Times have changed. Once upon a time, we all lived in open-plan apartments with partitioned windows, half-closed doors. Currently this is no longer the case – all have double-glazed windows, there are mechanical ventilation that extracts air from the premises. [fire] is lit, harmful combustion gases can reach another property,” Bambis said.

Photo: Ieva Puķe / Latvijas Radio

The current workload of certified master chimney sweeps, of which there are about 80 in Latvia, is enormous. The working day of the three foremen of the Babis company extends until late in the evening. He can only sign up clients one month in advance. People don’t know that chimney sweeps also have to spend part of their time preparing documents.

But regular checks of heaters and fireplaces are essential, as statistics from the National Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) show.

“In August, there were 14 fires in which soot burned in the chimney. Regarding calls when a heater was used incorrectly, causing smoke to form in the room – in September there have already been 44 calls. This means that in the cool period of September, people tried to turn on their heater for the first time and, because the chimney was not cleaned or was damaged, there was smoke that did not come out of the chimney, but entered the room,” said the head of the VUGD inspector Viktorija Gribuste.

Last year’s statistics show that 15% of residential fires are related to heating problems. “The starkest statistic is that last year, 27% of people who died in fires may have died directly in fires caused by the use of heaters. Either dirty ducts or improper use heaters, or the use of damaged heaters,” says Gribuste.

In order for the logs to crackle comfortably in the stove and for the owner of the house to have peace of mind, it is necessary not only to clean the soot from the chimney once a year, but also to comply with the requirement set out in the fire safety regulations of carry out an assessment of the technical condition of the entire heating system every five years. This should be left to a chimney sweep or certified construction specialist.

Unfortunately, the price of firewood and briquettes has also increased at an astronomical rate recently. That’s why employees of the State Fire and Rescue Service are concerned that many people will not only be unable to invest the money to fix worn-out stoves this winter, but will also be using a unsuitable fuel that produces a lot of soot, which will eventually lead to more chimney fires and more tragedies.

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