Efficiency Vermont’s Efficiency Excellence Network’s Spotlight: Interview with Harry Lux
G.E.T.: What is your title, role and how did you get started in this industry?
Harry Lux: I am the owner of Black Magic Chimney Sweeps located in Manchester Center, VT. I have owned this business since 2009.
This business has a long tradition of serving customers in southern Vermont and eastern New York. It was started in the early 1980s by Jim Harkins who saw the power of wood burning, alternative heat. He sold to Brian Shult who ran it from around 2002 to 2009 when I took over. When I took over, we expanded on the passion for serving customers and helping them stay warm and happy by heating with wood in their homes. Our company has grown to include not only servicing wood burning fireplaces, stoves and inserts, but we sell and install them, too. Our team also helps our customers with masonry repairs to their chimneys to protect their families and their investment.
We serve between 2500 and 3500 customers a year with jobs ranging from sweeping a flue to replacing whole systems, chimneys, and fireplaces. I believe the things that make us unique are our commitment to customer service and education.
What projects do people try to do themselves that really should be done professionally?
HL: The concept of chimney sweeping is simple. Run a brush up (or down) the chimney and clean up the mess a few times a year and the chimney is ready to burn a few more cords of firewood. This is generally true. The trouble that we see is that there are hidden conditions that can either affect the performance and efficiency of the stove, or it is a hazard waiting to become someone’s bad day. The hazards can be either defects that have occurred over time and go unobserved by the untrained sweeper, or they can be issues that a well-meaning person installing the stove did not fully understand such as clearances to combustibles. When we work on any appliance, we make sure the unit was not only installed properly, but that it is functioning as the manufacturer designed. To do that, we will use our experience, the NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) standards, manufacturer’s installation instructions, and our high-tech equipment such as expensive high-resolution, color cameras which allow customers to see the inside of their chimney flues with great clarity. By taking the time to do this kind of inspection, our customers can be assured that their unit will operate as safely and efficiently as possible.
If you could only choose one type of project to reduce someone’s carbon footprint or improve efficiency, what would it be and why?
HL: The current federal tax credit program gives homeowners a 26% reduction in the cost to improve efficiency with a wood or pellet burning stove or insert in their homes. Many customers have inefficient units that are older and waste money, time, and fuel which adds to the carbon footprint. Many new stove and inserts qualify for the tax credit and the Efficiency Vermont rebates making it an even easier decision to invest now and save for decades into the future.
What in your field of specialty is most valuable (related to energy efficiency or the EEN) that our readers ought to know about?
HL: In the chimney services industry, I believe it is most important to have certified chimney technicians service your home. They care about their education and want to stay abreast of changes in the trade. For example, all of our technicians have a national certification, many have multiple certifications, and we are the only company in Vermont and upstate New York who has two CSIA Master Chimney Sweeps. This commitment to education has moved our team into the field of pressure diagnostics using many of the same tools as BPI certified energy auditors like blower doors and digital manometers.
Why should people use an EEN member over someone else?
HL: Customers using an EEN contractor or service provider will get someone who is passionate about their craft, who is able and willing to communicate the benefits of different decisions, and who is confident in the benefits of saving energy, reducing the carbon footprint, and saving money over the long run. They are visionaries and share your commitment to make things better for all.