Modern Day Sweep
Throughout the centuries, chimney sweeps have cared for the safety of the townsfolk, performing one of those dirty jobs nobody likes to do. In American cities, homes were located very close together and everyone burned wood or coal to heat and cook. As a result, most cities developed ordinances requiring regular chimney sweeping as a valuable safety service. Sweeps have traditionally cleaned only coal, wood and oil chimneys. As such, the continued expansion of coal as the main fuel source for domestic heating ensured that the sweeping trade flourished.
During the early 1960’s the switch to other, more convenient forms of heating – gas and electricity in particular, replaced coal as the primary source for central heating . As such, the chimney sweep profession died down. Public awareness of the need for clean, safe and clear chimneys was almost non-existent. However, with the two oil crises in the 1970’s, prices of fossil heating fuels soared and many people decided to go back to cutting and burning their own wood. Often this was done using fireplaces that had not been properly cleaned or serviced in a very long time causing many chimney and house fires as well as carbon monoxide poisonings from blocked chimneys. Over the years, the fireplace has emerged from its slumber as merely an architectural decoration into a fully functioning appliance. As the popularity of fireplaces increased, so has the need for chimney sweeps, an old profession that is still growing today. Our job is as important and necessary today as it was centuries ago but sweeps now care for chimneys serving a huge variety of home appliances and heating fuels.
With the price of fossil fuel at record high prices, homeowners more then ever are looking for alternate ways of heating their homes. Wood and coal stoves have become increasingly popular and so has the need for the chimney sweep. Many of the oil burner and gas burner manufacturers have tried to answer the call from today’s energy conscience public by introducing super efficient products. However, many existing chimneys are not capable of safely drafting these new appliances. Once again, enter the chimney sweep.
Today’s chimney sweeps are trained professionals who not only sweep chimneys, but also diagnose service, and repair chimneys and venting systems that serve a full range of fuels, such as coal, wood, gas, oil, pellets, corn, and more. They install fireplace and hearth products, wood burning appliances, and reline damaged chimneys. Many even work with venting systems for natural gas appliances.
Today’s chimney sweep professional is educated in the science and codes for chimneys and fireplaces. With the innovation of modern chimney inspection and repair tools, training and certification programs for chimney sweeps have come a long way. Schools such as the Chimney Safety Institute of America and the National Fireplace Institute help educate and certify chimney sweeps, while organizations such as the National Chimney Sweep Guild is a member based organization that helps promote chimney sweeping and educate the public on the need for safe, properly functioning chimneys. The National Fire Protection Agency writes the codes that many of today’s chimney sweeps and municipalities use to ensure safe, properly functioning chimneys.
In summary, the modern chimney sweep must be a specialized, trained, technician able to service, troubleshoot, and repair today’s highly refined appliances.