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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Where there’s wintry drafts, there’s Chimney Balloon

Kristin Arrigo

The aggravation of finding indoor air leaks makes you feel like you’re plugging up holes in an old boat. As soon as you stuff one hole, another one opens up.

By the end of winter, your house could be a patchwork of plastic and duct tape. The popularity of eco-friendly alternatives has inspired the inventions that take these unattractive quick fixes to another level.

One of these inventions, the Chimney Balloon, is more efficient than plastic and duct tape, is more convenient, you won’t have to look at it, and you can leave it in place all year long.

If you held up a leak detector around your fireplace area, you would see that it’s breezier than you may have imagined. Leaks from the chimney are often stopped with a top seal damper, but you will still get cold air flowing back into the house when this is in place. This happens when warm air comes up the chimney, where the brick cools it, and cool air just drops back down into your room.

A Chimney Balloon creates a seal that is tight enough to keep any air from passing through and is located close to the firebox seals, preventing it from going further up the chimney. It’s not likely that plastic and duct tape will be this efficient, nor this invisible.

Another popular reason to plug up the fireplace leaks is the smell. Creosote builds up along the chimney walls, and it stinks. When the wind blows, so does the smell, right into your room. Creosote is actually dangerous to inhale. The creosote and soot that blows into the house will end up in the carpet and in the dust, exposing you to it for a longer period of time.

A creepy statistic cites that the presence of creosote in house dust is equal to an infant smoking three cigarettes. Creosote makes the lists as a probable neurotoxin and carcinogen, and the fact that it catches fire easily is a little daunting, too.

The good news is the Chimney Balloon is not only efficient at keeping out the smell, but will deflate if a fire is present. Also, if you feel like making a fire, you can deflate the Chimney Balloon manually.

It’s also great to leave a Chimney Balloon in place all year long. During the hot, humid summer months, the odors can be even stronger. The soot smell is more noticeable on windy and rainy days, as well.

Keeping a Chimney Balloon in place doesn’t require much, as it stays inflated for six to 12 months. It will last up to 10 years, eventually degrading from creosote fumes.

However, the Chimney Balloon is not as efficient at keeping out critters. Because of its location, a top seal has a better chance of stopping a critter from falling into the chimney or nesting.

The Chimney Balloon fits under the flue; this will keep the critter from entering the house, but not from falling into the chimney in the first place. Worth looking into, the Chimney Balloon is available in the U.S. at www.chimneyballoon.us. On the company’s website there is also an efficient leak detector called the Smoke Pencil Pro.

Kristin Arrigo is an environmental writer and can be reached at karrigo@nashuatelegraph.com. Follow her on Twitter @ArrigoKristin. Only Better runs the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.