A fireplace can be cozy and warm or a heat-loss magnet and a health hazard depending, on how you look at it – and take care of it. If you want to improve the efficiency of your chimney, we’ve got three smart ways to help you home.
Make Sure The Chimney Is Clean
The very first thing to make sure your chimney is the beacon of efficiency is to make sure it’s clean and free of obstructions. “Have it inspected along with your furnace or water heater during routine maintenance,” says our resident heating and cooling expert, Keith Hill from Minnesota Air. “Wood burning and oil burning appliance chimneys should be inspected annually.”
Keith says that cleaning may be required, as those types of fuels tend to burn “dirty” and give off soot during their normal combustion process.
“Soot will eventually accumulate to the point of blockage – and the soot is flammable. The primary cause of chimney fires is burning soot,” he says.
The key is keeping the air flowing safely.
Check For Adequate Combustion Air Intakes
The next thing to think about is making sure you are getting enough combustion air to replace the air that is leaving by going up the chimney.
“Keep in mind that a chimney is an exhaust device,” says Keith, “but it has no motor and no fan. It works on the principle of convection – or when warm air rises. However, natural warm air buoyancy is not very powerful and is easily stopped or reversed, which can be disastrous to your well-being if flue gasses spill into your home. Understand that your home is a sealed structure and although there are cracks and crevices that allow air to leak into the home (infiltration), it is usually not enough to replace the air being used for combustion and then sent up the chimney.”
Because of this, says Keith, most homes with natural venting chimneys have ducts from the outside for fresh air to enter (combustion air intake) to replace the air and prevent your home from going into a negative pressure. If you don’t have that, pressure in the home becomes slightly negative, and if strong enough, that’s when the chimney stops working and flue gasses can begin to spill into the home.
“Realize also that other devices can remove air from the home, adding to the problem,” says Keith. “Exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom, and even the dryer remove air from the home. The combustion air intake allows fresh air into the home to replace air removed by all of those devices.”
You never want to block the combustion air intake duct. That cold air coming in may be annoying, but it is crucial to ensuring your chimneys, heating and water heating systems work properly.
When Not In Use: Close, Seal, & Insulate
Lastly, to maximize your fireplace and chimney efficiency, keep your fireplace damper closed when not in use. That can cause drafts and heat loss, so close it up as soon as your fire has burned out.
Additionally, the Dept. of Energy website says that sealing up your damper and insulating your chimney can also help prevent heat loss. As well as, installing tempered glass doors and putting in a heat exchange system to blow warm air back into the room. These tips should keep your home warm and efficient all season long.