Save Energy — Fireplaces

What is a home if it is not cozy? What is better to knock the chill of a cold night that a fireplace? The radiant glow and crackle of the fire have been the source of many songs. As warming as the fire can be, it may not overcome the chill when the heating bill comes. Chopping wood may be a way to vent any anger about the heating bill. Fireplaces can actually rob your house of heat. To fully benefit from the fireplace you need to take a few actions to minimize air losses.

Your Home Energy Living Plan

  • CLOSE DAMPER when not using fireplace, this includes during the summer.
  • Make sure damper seats properly. All dampers are designed to leak some in case a fire is started.
  • Open a nearby window one inch and lower thermostat while a fire is going.
  • Consider adding a glass door and heat exchanger.
Impact of Your Energy Actions

About 80 to 90% of the energy of a fire goes up the chimney. Tightly closing the damper when there is no fire and slightly opening a nearby window when there is a fire will have a major impact on saving energy.

How Energy is Lost

Most of the heat from a fire goes up the chimney. This is great because it also contains the toxic combustion products of the fire. The heat enjoyed from the fire is radiant energy due to its high temperature. The problem comes from the fire’s need for air. All of the air flowing up the chimney must come from somewhere. Air is pulled from your home including rooms beyond the fireplace. This will cool down those other rooms and require heating from your furnace.

When there is not fire, the chimney becomes a big hole in your home. Conditioned air will flow through an open chimney just like leaving a window open. If the damper does not seal well air can still leak out. This occurs in the summer too, the fireplace can leak cooled air from your home.

Energy Solutions Explained

Closing the damper is the one major factor to minimize energy losses. Think of the damper as a window or door. Would you leave your door open all year?

Heat naturally flows hot to cold. The hot fire will draw air to maintain the fire. This air is pulled from your entire home. This may go unnoticed because the radiant heat from the fire in your living room hides the fact that your bedrooms are getting colder. If the thermostat is located in another room, then it may turn on your furnace. Lower the setting can help avoid this. However, those cold rooms will need heat at some point.

Slightly open a window to allow air for the fire to be pulled from the window. Modifying you fireplace to draw directly from the outside is even better. Glass doors over the fireplace slow down the amount of air used by the fireplace, but air is still needed for the fire. A tube heat exchanger can provide some heated air in addition to the radiant heat.

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