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- Chimney balloons are often used as a stop-gap method for fixing drafty chimneys, but they are not an effective long-term solution
- A professional chimney sweep can clean and inspect your chimney, and may be able to suggest more effective solutions than a chimney balloon
- Replacing or installing a damper can be a more effective way to improve the energy efficiency of your fireplace
- Chimney balloons may also be ineffective at keeping out pests and critters
I remember the day I first heard about chimney balloons. I was sitting in my living room, watching a YouTube video on how to fix my drafty chimney. In the video, the YouTuber demonstrated how to use two contractor-style trash bags to cover pillows and then stuff them up the flue. I was intrigued.
I did some more research and found that chimney balloons were a popular stop-gap method for dealing with drafty chimneys.
The idea was that you could easily inflate a balloon and then stuff it up your chimney. Plus, they were a lot cheaper than replacing or installing a damper. I decided to buy a few and give them a try.
The first time I tried using a chimney balloon was not a success. I remember stuffing the balloon up the flue and then lighting a fire. A few hours later, I smelled something burning and realized that the balloon had caught on fire. Yikes!
I decided not to give up on the chimney balloon just yet and tried again a few weeks later.
This time, I was careful to make sure the balloon was out of the flue before lighting the fire. Unfortunately, I forgot to put the balloon back in after the fire had died down and left it in overnight.
The next morning, I woke up to find that the balloon had popped and was now lying in bits on my living room floor.
I decided that using a chimney balloon wasn’t worth the hassle and decided to call a professional instead.
After speaking with a local contractor, I learned that using a chimney balloon is not an effective long-term solution for fixing drafty chimneys. A professional can inspect your flue and make recommendations on how to improve your fireplace’s energy efficiency.
Reasons Chimney Balloons are Useless
When it comes to chimneys, the most persistent problem is removing the buildup of creosote. It’s a flammable, oily substance that flows up the chimney from the fireplace.
This natural and unavoidable substance can build up in soot on the upper parts of your chimney including your roof and even within your home.
It’s not harmful to you but for a variety of reasons it’s better to have it removed – and the good news is there are lots of ways to do so.
But balloons are the worst way to go! Here are a few reasons why chimney balloons are useless.
1. The chimney wall is not insulated
Balloons are actually made of a very thin and sticky material that allows the chimney to effectively move heat upwards and out. But this thin and slippery material doesn’t support much weight or strain, which causes the chimney to bend more than it should.
In other words, it’s a useless contraption and the method works only temporarily because in the end, your chimney will just collapse on itself.
In case there are some cracks on the inside of your chimney, you can protect yourself by using a fire-safe sealant. This will add a protective layer over the crack and prevent any possible leakage.
2. May not fit well into the chimney throat
Some chimney flues are too short for a balloon to fit properly and proper support. The chimney is not sealed correctly so the balloon will slowly get stuck inside the chimney neck.
The balloon won’t be able to expand or collapse appropriately with the changes in temperature and there’s no way to adjust air pressure accordingly as well.
With your chimney, there are 4 main parts: the throat, flue collar, diffuser, and damper. If you don’t seal all these parts properly your chimney will constantly leak and creosote will continue to build up.
3. Not long-lasting
One of the reasons why chimney blankets work is because they are long-lasting. They are made of waterproof material and they hold the creosote at bay. But with balloons, it’s not that simple.
The balloons will only last up to a few years before the heat from the fire melts them, which allows creosote to build up again. They also lose their ability to hold up the chimney if they are exposed to high heat.
A balloon is not designed to be your primary defense against creosote buildup within your chimney. It’s simply useless against a clogged chimney.
4. They tend to fall on their own
Balloons are so flimsy they will fall on their own without you ever doing anything. If there is a heavy creosote buildup, it won’t matter if you’re there or not. The balloons will fall on their own and flake into dust.
So in the end, you’re actually wasting your time when using a balloon. If they fall on your own, you can just take them down and clean your chimney with a chimney brush and creosote remover.
If you are not there to remove the balloon, it will fall. You can either wait for the balloon to fall on its own or wait until it gets full of creosote and then it will fall on its own. Afterward, you can clean it up yourself or call a chimney professional if needed.
5. They are not easy to use
Balloons are fun, but they’re also not very easy to use. You need a ladder, long ropes, and a lot of patience. If you do it on your own, it will take you a few hours and that’s if you’re lucky.
If you don’t have experience at using it then the risk of falling off of your ladder is real. The balloon won’t inflate properly if you don’t do it right the first time. It will get stuck or slow-burning embers can easily fall inside of your chimney.
So if you’re going to use a balloon, make sure that you have the patience to use it properly and wait for the results.
Sometimes the creosote build-up is caused by the chimney masonry itself. Your chimney may be cracked and damaged so there will be leakage.
If your chimney has been built with bricks or poor materials, then you should consider getting a new one altogether. It will be more expensive than a standard chimney, but it’s worth investing in this type of solution.
You can also hire a professional to inspect your chimney and make sure that it won’t collapse or fall on its own.