All chimneys and flue-ways should be cleaned and checked to ensure they are free from debris and in full working order before the heating season. A blocked or defective chimney can cause both chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisonings so it's very important to employ a professional qualified chimney sweep such as those certified by the National Association of Chimney Sweeps.
Regular maintenance of your chimney will depend on the fuel you burn - if you burn oil or gas, your chimney should be swept once a year, Bituminous - coal twice a year, wood up to four times a year and smokeless coals at least once a year.
Do not burn wet wood - all wood burned must have a moisture content of no more than 17 percent.
When thinking about heating your home, it's important to purchase the correct size appliance for your room - an appliance which is too large will never be used hot enough to volatize all of the fuel within the wood and unburned fuel will pass up the chimney as smoke and condense within the flue as extremely flammable creosote.