Before Christmas I took another small step with self reliance and purchased some chimney sweeping brushes. As ours is a steel lined flue I had to buy a special brush and flexible poles for it - not cheap but I figured it would soon work out much more cost effective than hiring someone to sweep it twice a year (A friend had theirs done at a cost of £40 the other week).
I also went a bit mad and got another carbon monoxide alarm and a Ecofan, the firm I brought it all from also chucked in a chimney cleaning log.
The Ecofan is a clever bit of kit and I've been hankering after one for a while! The motor is powered from the heat from the fire, no batteries or anything. It was purchased because the heat from our stove just stays in the living room so the plan being that it would circulate it around the house more. We've been using it for a month now and so far it's been brilliant, it runs very quietly, starts as soon as the fire gets warm enough and pushes air around the house a little more. I have it aimed at the living room door to get some heat up the stairs and I'd say you can definitely feel a difference when you're up there.
As for sweeping the chimney, the brushes were designed for that sized lining and you can tell - it was so easy, no way worth a £40 charge for how long it took me! We burn our fire at optimum temperatures for our stove most of the time (between 200 and 300 degrees c) and it showed by how much soot came down the chimney, barely enough to fill a half pint glass, that was after a season of use as well so I was pretty pleased!
Who else sweeps their chimney themselves? How often do you do it?