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Fireplace Facts for Homeowners

Posted by Jordan on Jan 13, 2015 3:37:20 PM

Does A Fireplace Really Help Heat Your Home?

There’s something very nostalgic about fireplaces. When we think about using one, it may bring back
Fireplace factsmemories of family game nights, holidays spent opening gifts around the fire, a place where you and your friends sought refuge after a long day of playing out in the snow, or a romantic dinner with your loved one. It creates a warm and cozy ambiance, but does a fireplace really help heat your home

The answer: it depends on the design of your fireplace. Most of the wood-burning fireplaces that warm our hearts though, are actually losing heat in our homes.

Lost Heat in Your Home

Think back to grade school science class where you likely learned that hot air rises. If we follow that rule, the heat produced in a traditional, wood-burning fireplace is looking for an escape route. And the easiest way out is to go up. Yes, some heat may radiate to those warming themselves around it, but the majority is going straight out the top of your chimney.

“A wood fireplace may actually increase your natural gas bill,” says Keith Hill, Minnesota Air’s manager of technical support. “The old style, open-hearth fireplace is just a step up from a campfire. The radiant heat feels like it’s heating your house, but large quantities of conditioned air from inside your house is being sucked up the chimney. Then, when the fireplace is not in use, air from your home is still heading up the chimney.”

Have you ever wondered why birds roost at the top of fireplace chimneys? It’s because they are warmed from all that air leaving the home, according to Keith. 

“Even with the fireplace damper closed, air still sneaks by because the dampers leak by design,” he says. “Consider an open-hearth fireplace an exhaust device, constantly removing air from your house whether in use or sitting idle.” 

What Helps Prevent Escaped Heat?

Checking the seals around the dampers and insulating your chimney can help maiximize your fireplace and boost chimney efficiency, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Fireplace liners can provide greater effectiveness for your chimney and protect masonry from corrosive byproducts of the fire, too.

To stop some drafts, remember to shut the flue when you aren't using your fireplace, and keep the fireplace doors shut. Keith says although some fireplaces have glass doors to prevent air losses, most add-on glass doors do not seal completely and warm air will still migrate up and out.

In accordance, you can expect your heater to work harder to maintain a constant temperature in your home if you are using a fireplace, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA says homeowners can maintain home energy efficiency for fireplaces and reduce smoke by considering gas, pellet or EPA-certified wood fireplace inserts. 

Keith says the most efficient wood-burning fireplaces use outside air for combustion, have a sealed firebox and dampers that give the homeowner complete control over the combustion air, and genuinely contribute to heating the home. If you want to know where your fireplace stands on heat efficiency, consult an expert and your home will be toasty all winter long!

 Carrier HVAC

For more energy saving and home comfort tips, visit StayComfyMinnesota.com! Stay Comfy, Minnesota is your Minnesota resource for air conditioning repair, furnace repair and HVAC tips and advice.