Joe Ochal has chimney science in his blood. Though he studied microbiology at Temple University and got his master’s at Thomas Jefferson University, he helped to put himself through school by working at his uncle’s chimney business, cleaning flues, and inspecting fireplaces.
He never dreamed that his side hustle would one day lead to him founding The Chimney Scientists in 2014.
He always knew he loved the business. He loved teaching people about keeping their homes warm, safe, and environmentally friendly. He also loved the public-facing aspect of the job that let him get to know his neighbors.
“I love wood-burning systems for homes because the installations are affordable and work well. They provide lots of heat, and you can also cook on them. But, more than that, I love the smell and feel of a roaring fire and people gathering around it,” he said.
He has joyful memories of his family gathering around fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and the like. Of course, thanks to his uncle’s business, every member of Ochal’s extended clan had some kind of natural home heating source installed.
He’s as passionate today about these heating systems as ever before, “I love radiant heat; it’s like sitting out in the sun. I’m just crazy about it. I’ve got fire pits, wood stoves; you name it. It’s out of control!” he exclaimed.
The Chimney Scientist employs certified specialists who service clients across the Philadelphia area, doing inspections, repairs, cleanings, maintenance, and upgrades.
“I eventually want to serve clients across the US. It’s not so much about growing my business, but about employing good people and creating a truly customer-oriented business,” he said.
Here, he offers his thoughts on why you — or a hired professional — should regularly clean and inspect your chimney.
Maintenance for Performance
Ochal and his team recommend a thorough cleaning and inspection of your fireplace frequently, even if you don’t use your radiant heat setup frequently. This recommendation aligns with The Chimney Safety Institute of America’s guidelines to ensure the safest usage.
Ochal explains in more detail by saying, “Each time you burn wood in your fireplace, a sticky byproduct called creosote builds up. The tar-like substance is highly combustible and can cause chimney fires,” he said.
He also explained the surprising fact that most chimney fires go undetected by homeowners and continue to burn slowly without notice and cause massive damage to chimney structures over time.
Of course, major chimney fires are immediately noticed and detected by their signature ‘freight train’-type sound, billowing gray smoke, and burning wood and tar smell.
There are ways to burn wood that minimize creosote build-up properly. Different kinds of wood have different moisture levels and differing effects on your chimney.
Even if you only light your chimney a few times per year, you still need annual cleanings and inspections to look for blockages from animal nests and normal deterioration from the elements.
When Chimney Scientists come out to check your flue for cracks and holes, they can also fill them in, which keeps creosote from collecting in the gaps and creates a higher risk of a chimney fire.
Additionally, suppose you believe that your chimney might be the site of a slow or undetected burn. In that case, a call to Ochal’s company means that it can be inspected, identified, and remedied immediately.
Green Chimney Science
Chimney Scientists is also a green company known locally and nationally for its environmentally conscious endeavors.
Ochal has used his science degrees to create and fund Afrilab, a diagnostic company, and assist Valley Forge Watershed Association with their water testing quality program.
Further afield, Ochal’s philanthropic efforts include donations of time and funds to the Komen Foundation, Dawn’s Place, Natural Lands, Brandywine Valley SPCA, and more.
Internationally, Ochal pairs with global charities and the leaders in chimney science to research wood burning and moisture content projects that aim to reduce particulate emissions. The Firewood Project is his personal passion project that works toward fewer emissions while burning wood.
Whether your flue is functioning perfectly or you feel there might be some cracks that need filling or issues that require addressing, Ochal and his team of Chimney Scientists are waiting to assist you with all of your chimney, fireplace, and wood-burning questions.
About Joe Ochal and Chimney Scientists
Joe Ochal is the Founder of The Chimney Scientists, serving the Philadelphia area. The Chimney Scientists is a full-service chimney and fireplace company that provides chimney and fireplace repairs, inspections, and cleanings, as well as historical restorations. To find out more about chimney repairs, please visit https://chimneyscientists.com/