January 2014 - Jeffrey Smith
If we are ever really to live in a green society, we will need a full set of green occupations to sustain the society. Green entrepreneurs are the Green Heroes who imagine, plan, finance, and staff the components of our sustenance.
Jeffrey Smith, our Green Hero for January, personally owns and operates The Berkshire Brush, a certified, licensed, and insured chimney cleaning business he started three years ago. Jeff and his wife Tsering and their 12 year old daughter Maitreya live in Shelburne Falls, but Jeff’s well lettered black 4x4 truck can be found almost anywhere in the Pioneer Valley, the greater Greenfield area, and beyond during “The Season”.
“The Season” largely is the heating season, when local homeowners increasingly seek to save on fuel costs by burning wood, pellets, or coal. Annual chimney sweeps and inspections are essential for the safe and efficient burning of these resources. The National Chimney Sweep Guild and the Chimney Safety Institute of America actually recommend not only annual sweeps and inspections of all flues, but also checkups after every cord of wood.
Jeff adds parenthetically that spring is actually the best season for repair service. Spring work is a bit cheaper. Most important it removes the winter’s corrosive fly ash and creosote residue before it is activated by water. Rain, humidity, or condensation when mixed with pre-existing deposits can quickly damage your tiles and pipes.
The primary purpose of this careful attention is to eliminate the potential for chimney fires. The sweeping removes soot and the potentially combustible buildup of creosote. “Creosote is an insidious enemy to your family’s health and safety because it isn’t easily seen and detected”, says Jeff, who adds emphatically “Chimney fires are 100% avoidable”. Clean flues and chimneys are safer and also more efficient.
Jeff has good reason for his confidence in his opinions. He grew up in the business, learning from his father, who was one of the first 100 chimney sweeps certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Jeff’s parents were entrepreneurs, starting their sweep business as an off-shoot to selling and installing wood stoves during the fuel shortages of the 1970s. They built their business by responding to ads placed by manufacturers and importers of wood stoves in Mother Earth News. “The back pages”, Jeff says. Jeff dates his own training from 1985 the year he pulled his first fireplace damper and properly swept a chimney without the aid of his father.
The Berkshire Brush offers a free publication "5 Questions and Things to Demand from a Chimney Maintenance and Repair Service/Installer before You Allow Access to Your Chimneys & Fireplaces!" Continuity from a provider is a major theme. “An educated provider will get to know your heating habits and home air dynamics. Using highly technical knowledge and best practices the provider will be able to design a custom maintenance and inspection schedule specifically for your family’s health, safety, and efficiency.”
Jeff intends to make a go of The Berkshire Brush. He has officially found his first employee in training, Mathew, a local man born and raised in Leverett. Mathew has high hopes of passing his CSIA exam this spring and potentially running the truck a couple days a week so Jeff can handle paperwork and scheduling.
Jeff also intends to bring us all good luck. “Historically the presence of a Chimney Sweep is good luck. It is exceptional good luck to see a sweep on your wedding day. I am also an ordained minister and perform wedding ceremonies...or will gladly be present in traditional chimney sweep garb of a top hat and tails at a wedding in the "Off Season.”
For all these reasons we honor Jeff Smith as our Green Hero of the month.