14 Feb 2021

Stoves and fireplaces love it when it feels colder outside your home than it does inside.

This enables the flue to exhaust air from the stove (even when the fire isn’t on) and simultaneously induce air into the stove. It’s a really smart use of air current.

But what if we reverse everything?

If your home is colder than the outside temperature, the airflow in your chimney may start working in reverse. Stoves and fires hate this, and that’s why there’s sometimes an odd smell coming from yours during the summer.

Spring and Autumn Syndrome

As we all know, the weather in the UK during spring and autumn can be particularly changeable, and that often results in the outside temperature rising sharply.

When that happens, your home may become cooler inside than outside, thus instigating the reverse flue effect – otherwise known as ‘Spring and Autumn Syndrome’.

It’ll make your chimney smell, and that odour can sometimes be pretty unpleasant if the chimney hasn’t been swept as often as it should have been.

There’s another problem, though. If it becomes cold enough in your house to justify lighting the fire, you may not be able to.This is because the air within the stove will be travelling down, and while it may appear to light initially, it’ll more likely result in smoke emanating from the air inlets. You don’t need my expertise to tell you that you don’t want this to happen!

Fixing the smell

Thankfully, that horrible smell from your chimney can be fixed.

It starts with a sweep of the chimney to remove as much of the soot and tar as possible. The build-up of both those elements is usually the root cause of the odour.

There are some other things you can do, though. For instance, lighting candles within the fireplace may help keep the temperature of the flue at a sufficient level to counteract the down drought. It’ll look pretty, too. (Just remember to blow out the candles when you’re done and not to leave lit candles unattended.)

Air fresheners or reed diffusers are a good shout, as well. If you place them strategically within the fireplace or nearby, they should overpower any hint of sooty smells coming from the flue.

Wood burner and closed appliance owners are best advised to close their air vents during the day, but it’s just as important to open them at night. This encourages ventilation through the flue, which is required by some metal flue liners to combat condensation (scrunched up newspaper left in the appliance can help there, too).

What if you want to light the fire… but can’t?

As noted earlier, Spring and Autumn Syndrome may result in problems lighting your fire, but there are some techniques you can try to get around this.

Start by purchasing some quick-burning kindling and throw in a couple more fire lighters. Then, you need to learn from the Norwegians.

Their ‘top fire’ method is perfect for these situations. It’s simple, too – you just need to place the larger logs on the fire gate, and then the kindling on top of those logs. Lastly, place the fire lighters on top of the kindling and ensure the stove’s air controls are fully open.

This upside-down approach produces a fast burst of flame which generates heat quickly, thus increasing the up draught.Once you’re happy the stove is operating normally, you can gradually add larger logs to keep it going.

We can’t do much about Spring and AutumnSyndrome – it’s all part of the joys of living in the UK – but we can help you rid the house of any nasty smells coming from your chimney.

A regular sweep really does help, so remember to get in touch with SweepSmart if you want the best team in town to tackle yours.