Wood burning fireplaces can be a wonderful nostalgic centerpiece to the home, especially this time of year as we hang our stockings or cozy up to a good book. The warmth of a good fire may even lead one to think they are helping to heat their home, but the truth is that a fireplace can be a real energy hog. Fireplaces do create heat, but the heat that is created by the combustion of the fire quickly rises and escapes via the chimney.
The combustion process also grabs the already heated air in your home and removes it too. You can restrict the amount of heat pulled out of your home by installing glass fireplace doors, but that will also severely limit the amount of radiant heat that the fireplace will emit into your living space. This radiant heat is the actual warmth that we feel from the fireplace, so it is kind of the point of that warm, cozy fire. To top it off, during this process, your home is drawing in cold outside air from other places like doors and windows to replace the air that is escaping the home through the chimney. So, you are actually losing heat and making your home colder by using your fireplace!A gas fireplace may seem like a greener option, but there is still a loss of heat through the chimney not to mention the cost of the gas to fuel the fire.
The solution may seem to be to just not use the fireplace, and that can be a good start if you want to save precious heat and energy. But, unfortunately, even with the damper closed, your fireplace leaks air, pulling it right up and out of your home, translating to money out of your pocket.
So, what can be done?
First, always make sure the damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use. Having an open damper can be like leaving a 48″ window open in your living room.
Second, consider installing glass doors on your fireplace. They will not be completely air tight, but can help significantly with heat loss.
In addition to glass doors, in gas fireplaces you can also install a heat-air exchange system that will blow warm air back into the room instead of up the chimney.
Consider a fireplace balloon. This is an inflatable pillow that seals the damper, eliminating air leaks. (You must always remember to remove this device when using the fireplace).