Chimney cleaning used to be a hazardous and challenging profession. Chimney sweeps didn’t have as much fun rooting out creosote and standing on wobbly ladders as Mary Poppins presented. In the past, it was a hard and dangerous profession. The men who took it up had to crawl down cramped, claustrophobic chutes and were continually exposed to various hazardous substances and fumes. Very narrow chimneys required the service of the thousands of children who were unfortunate enough to be in the business.
Today, chimney cleaning is safer and more reliable. Professional cleaners no longer have to risk their lives or the lives of children cleaning out creosote buildup. Scientific innovation has even given chimney cleaners ways to help with their jobs: robotics is entering the chimney cleaning workforce.
Narrow Spaces No More
Homeowners with fireplaces may find out that their flues are too narrow for cleaners to effectively do their job. This could be because they installed a wood stove insert or maybe they built the chimney that way. Older houses sometimes have complex networks of chimney flues and heating ducts that snake through the roof.
Some of these flues and heating ducts are much too narrow and twisting for regular equipment. Or there could be cracks and flaws in the pipe system or chimney that’s affecting its ability to heat up a home effectively.
Swiss robotics company Flyability has designed special indoor drones that are just right for such environments. The drones are simple enough that inexperienced users can operate one after a day of training. Flyability can equip the drones with a variety of sensors that an operator can use to detect flaws in a system. These sensors include visual sensors, thermal sensors, and sensors that can identify concentrations of specific gasses. Chimney cleaning companies can use these drones to make accurate assessments of homeowners needs and to inspect areas that are impossible for people to access directly.
Another robotics company has designed a machine that can clean and scrub heating ducts. The robot is a complex structure of metal struts interlocked with taut cables. Its mechanism pushes it forward by expanding and contracting its interlocking sections. The robot scrubs ducts and flues clean as it crawls forward like a caterpillar. Its software is advanced enough that it can safely navigate complex networks of flues and ducts. The designers hope to one day make a version of the robot that can inspect and clean heating systems on its own.
More adventurous and mechanically-inclined homeowners can even find designs for robotic chimney cleaners on the internet. “Merry” is one of these robotic chimney cleaners. Someone with enough know-how can assemble one of their own and it can clean out chimneys with only a little assistance from its creator.
Innovators are finding myriad ways for robotics and allied fields to improve many areas of human life. With robotic assistance, hazardous occupations become safer for people to pursue. Chimney cleaning today is no longer one of the most dangerous professions, thanks to advances in technology. Robotics is only the latest step toward the future of the job.