The fireplace does so many things for the home. Along with providing warmth, the glow of the fireplace helps to create a cozy mood and fill those in its presence with warm, fuzzy feelings while its gentle crack is enough to make anyone nostalgic. It can also be the perfect tool for creating a romantic atmosphere and taking date night at home over the top. And when families come together, a fireplace can be enough to instill in those present a sense of togetherness that would not have been established otherwise.
One drawback to the use of the fireplace that may have some hesitation to rely on its glow is the fact that it can actually drive up your energy bills, even during cooler months. Because of that, lighting the fireplace, is not the energy savings friend so many believe it to be. At least, it’s not without these tips that is.
Here are 6 Ways to Improve Your Fireplace Efficiency
1. Close Your Damper When You Don’t Have a Fire Going
The fireplace damper is the device that seals off the fireplace when it is not being used, preventing warm air from escaping the home through the chimney. As a result, leaving the fireplace damper open is like opening a window all the way during fall or winter. What happens is that the fireplace attracts the hot air from in the home, while also creating a vacuum that draws cool air in through windows, doors, and any other gaps that may exist within the house. Even if steps have been taken to seal the damper, it is still possible for the fireplace to cost homeowners should the damper fail to form a tight seal. A leaking damper can also have a costly effect so it is important to make sure it forms a tight fit when shut.
For those who do not use their fireplace and merely have it for its aesthetic appeal, the flue should be sealed to ensure savings. Also, to minimize heat loss when actually burning a fire, the damper could be partially closed. This can increase the fireplace’s efficiency by forcing the air back down into the fireplace.
2. A Few Accessories You Might Consider
When it comes to fireplace efficiency, several accessories to consider purchasing to help drive down energy bills are an airtight fireplace insert, glass door and covers, a damper, or a flue sealer. With these accessories, the key to saving is to use them properly, meaning that it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. An airtight insert is a fireproof enclosure that utilizes a mixture of glass and steel that is able to trap heat and in some cases blow it out through vents.
The next accessory that will increase the efficiency of your fireplace are glass doors and covers. Though they can minimize the reach of the heat, glass doors are able to reduce the amount of air that is pulled into the fireplace decreasing the amount of air loss. As mentioned before, the damper can be a valuable tool in increasing the efficiency of the fireplace, but its efficiency can decrease as over time it may be subject to warping. For this reason, it is important to keep an eye on the accessory to ensure it is working as desired. The final device that can aid in improving a fireplace’s efficiency is the flue sealer. This is a plug that should be used if homeowners don’t plan on using the fireplace and can be installed without the need of a professional. They work by preventing air from escaping up the chimney. In addition to improving energy efficiency, these devices can also be removed, though they are best installed after having the flue cleaned.
3. Consider a Fan or Electric Blower
While the warmth created by a fireplace is enough to heat up the area around the hearth, the release of heat from the chimney combined with the other inherent inefficiencies of the fireplace can limit its overall effect. To make more of the heat that your fireplace creates, consider putting a fan or blower near it to help you circulate the hot air throughout your home.
Among the various benefits of the fireplace blower is the fact that the system has the ability to take in the cool air from the house and replace it with gusts of warm air. As a more profound benefit, this ultimately increases the efficiency of the fireplace and will allow it to create a greater amount of heat using less fuel and costing a smaller amount of money. Though fireplaces may look neat when they burn, they need a little help to increase their efficiency.
4. Retrofitting Is Another Option
Retrofitting is the process of adding to a product beyond the original components included from its manufacturing. For fireplaces, making these kinds of adjustments could prove particularly beneficial in improving efficiency as retrofitting allows homeowners to make specific alterations that can maximize their fireplace’s heat output based on home-specific variables.
Among the other possibilities, some options that exist with retrofitting include deepening the firebox and including vents to bring in air from the outside, both of which can provide a big boost to the efficiency of your fireplace. The firebox is where the fire actually burns in the fireplace and by deepening it you, you can increase the space in which it can burn. Though this can reduce the total heat released into the room, this does have the benefit of hindering the loss of conditioned air consumed by the fire for combustion. And as an added bonus, deepening the firebox can act as a safety precaution as it pushes the fire back so that it does not burn as close to the room. For air vents that supply air from the oxygen from outside, the heated air within the home is not what is used to keep the fire going and also not pulled in and released through the chimney. It is important to note that retrofitting does come with additional costs but the benefits can, in many cases, outweigh them.
5. Chimney Inspection and Cleaning
As time goes by and the chimney is used as a means of warming up homes, the gradual build up of substances such as soot occurs. The collection of this can block off the chimney and minimize the efficiency of the fireplace, making it harder for it to pull the air required to burn. This also presents a possible safety hazard due to its ability to cause a fire in the home.
The frequency of usage for a chimney will stipulate the number of times a year it needs to be inspected or cleaned. For the most part, chimneys should be inspected on an annual basis to ensure they are in proper working condition. Along with that typically comes a cleaning which, like the inspection, should be done on an annual basis. This is important for those who use their chimneys often and can actually save money down the road by spotting and addressing any issues that may be present in the chimney.
6. Type of Fuel
While adjustments can be made to the actual fireplace to improve the efficiency of its use, sometimes the key to an economical fireplace is a simple matter of selecting the proper type of fuel source. This specifically relates to the kind of wood used, as it should be stressed that the wood used should not contain moisture. It can take a surprising amount of time for this to occur after a tree has been cut down.
Beyond the dryness of the materials used, being selective about the kind of wood chosen plays a role in efficiency. Mainly this relates to the use of hardwood and softwood. These two differ in a number of regards including density, cost, and general use. As it relates to the fireplace and its efficiency, hardwood is the better route to go as it is able to burn hotter and longer than softwood. There are also visual signs that homeowners can use to determine if their fireplace is being efficient. Usually this takes the form of smoke, which mitigates the heat that a fire is able to emit. If there is a noticeable amount of smoke, making a change in wood may be the key to reestablishing efficiency.
The Best of Both Worlds
Though it is not always the simplest matter, owning a fireplace that is able to charm while being energy efficient is possible. Though the time and energy to make these adjustments may vary, the cost of the modifications can payoff in the long run as an efficient fireplace can ensure the desirable circulation of heat within the home as well as useful savings that outweigh the costs of retrofitting. It just takes a single spark to stop your fireplace from driving up your energy bills.