Thursday 30 August 2012

There is More to Sweeping a Chimney than Mary Poppins

As more people opt for stoves in their houses, more people are choosing to train as chimney sweeps. The National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS) has reported a growth in member numbers over the past thirty years, from 30 to more than 450.
All new members are required to undertake compulsory training at the body’s HETAS-approved training centre.
Commenting on its success, quotes NACS president Martin Cain as saying: “We are the only trade organisation for chimney sweeps. We have just expanded to two units and we are growing every year. We are protecting the consumer from the horrors of chimney fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. We are not just cleaning up soot these days. We are cleaning oil and gas chimneys. It’s not just coal fires. We are now known as chimney sweep technicians because there is so much more to it.”
NACS attributes the rising interest in woodburning stoves to a combination of being desirable and offering a cheaper alternative to gas and electric heating.
“There’s been a huge increase in wood burning stoves,” Mr Cain states. “They are very fashionable at the moment and a new generation of people want them. Also, with the rise in energy costs, people are concerned about gas and electricity. We can replace gas and electric fires with wood burning stoves.”
And when it comes to chimney sweeping, the trade has undergone a major transformation since its early days – modern sweeps are as capable of installing stoves as they are of sweeping chimneys. Forget about images of small boys being sent up soot-laden chimneys and think instead about protective clothing and modern equipment, as today’s chimney sweeps use the likes of CCTV cameras to identify any issues.
Vice president Stephen Howard, a sweep since 1990, who coordinates the training of new tradesmen, said: “Years ago a chimney sweep was just what you see in Mary Poppins. Now, people’s perceptions are changing. People want a professional job. Sweeps have specialist equipment like CCTV cameras or smoke monitoring machines to find problems.
“We can deal with issues like birds in the chimney. We can put up a bird guard to stop birds getting down the chimney, or we can remove gas fires and replace it with a natural fire source.”
If you’re considering investing in a woodburning stove, you’ll need to get the chimney swept first. This time of year is good for sorting this task, as chimney sweeps are naturally less busy in the summer – which is why buying a stove at the moment makes sense. You’ll have time to decide which stove is right for you and you may even be able to make the most of any summer offers, as well as easily arrange for the chimney to be swept and the wood burner installed.

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