Franklin Countys First News

Attention homeowners: New chimney rules in effect

AUGUSTA – As the heating season gets under way, state Rep. Lance Harvell wants to make sure that homeowners are aware of a new law regulating chimney flues that passed the Legislature and was signed into law last June. It allows the use of a single flue for more than one heating source as long as the chimney is structurally sound and other requirements are met.

“Homeowners who burn both oil and wood need to understand the new rules,” said Rep. Harvell (R-Farmington). “Folks with a single-flue chimney handling two different heating units are permitted to continue with that system under certain conditions.”

The change relaxes previous rules for older houses. Regulations put in place in 1998 mandated that each appliance have its own flue; and two years ago, the State Fire Marshal ruled that any chimney upgrades must include two flues. Maine has the seventh oldest housing stock in the country, and many old houses have a chimney with a single flue. Some homeowners spent thousands of dollars on chimney renovations to add a second flue.

Under the new law for houses built before 1998, homeowners can still connect two appliances to the same flue if there is sufficient draft available for each appliance and if the chimney is lined and structurally intact. Furthermore, a carbon monoxide detector must be installed in the building. A lined chimney is one whose flue has a clay or tile lining or a metal insert.

According to the State Fire Marshal’s office, there are about 500 chimney fires in Maine every year. Officials there said that not even one chimney fire in recent years has been caused by connecting two appliances to the same flue.

“People with two furnaces – one for oil and one for wood – usually don’t run them at the same time; so it’s not a question of doubling the amount of exhaust going up the flue,” Rep. Harvell said. “The key change for people with old houses is to make sure the chimney is lined. The easiest way to do that is by installing a metal liner.”

The new law limits the rulemaking authority of the commissioner of public safety and the state’s solid fuel board with regard to chimney flues. The law states: “Rules pursuant to this section may not prohibit the continued use of an existing connection of a solid fuel appliance to a chimney flue to which another appliance burning oil or solid fuel is connected for any chimney existing and in use prior to February 2, 1998.” In ordinary terms, that means the public safety department cannot make rules banning the use of a single flue for two appliances using different fuels for chimneys in operation before that date.

“The new rules restore some common sense, but owners of old houses with unlined chimneys will have to pay for linings if they want to connect two appliances to the same flue,” said Rep. Harvell. “Otherwise, they will be in violation of the law.”

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