Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Wood Fireplace
Feel like you’re not getting the most out of your wood-burning fireplace? There’s a reason for that.
Since hot air rises, much of the heat from a fireplace goes up and out of the chimney instead of into your home. And to make matters worse, the rising hot air creates what is known as an updraft, which sucks warm air out of the room as well.
But there are ways to transform your wood-burning fireplace into a more effective heating source instead of a cause of massive heat loss. Here’s how.
Turn Up the Heat: Tips to Follow
Install a Fireplace Insert
Instead of having the typical 10% efficiency of a traditional wood-burning fireplace, an air-tight wood-burning fireplace insert provides your fireplace with 70% to 80% efficiency.
A wood-burning fireplace insert fits inside your existing fireplace and acts as a well-insulated firebox made of steel or cast iron. The most efficient inserts are double-wall units with built-in circulating fans that blow warm air from the fire into the room.
To make sure your fireplace insert is installed correctly, safely, and efficiently, have a professional install it for you. Your insert should be built specifically to fit your current firebox, and it should be directly connected to the flue liner. In some cases, a new flue liner will need to be installed as well, so it is the correct size for the insert.
When shopping for inserts, look for those that are high-efficiency and EPA-approved.
Use Glass Doors
Tempered glass doors with tight seals will improve the energy performance of your fireplace. Glass fireplace doors reduce the amount of heat loss from chimneys by heating chimneys and preventing updrafts. And they also block indoor heat from escaping through the fireplace.
Glass doors are like windows for your fireplace, preventing airflow from passing through your fireplace year-round.
Use a Chimney Damper
A chimney damper acts as a doorway for air in your chimney. You can use a chimney damper to maximize the amount of heat produced in your fireplace and minimize the amount of heat loss when your fireplace isn’t in use.
Chimney dampers are often used along with glass doors to create an even stronger barrier to heat loss when the fireplace is not in use.
The handle to open and close the damper should be above the fireplace opening. To open it, slide it to the right.
To create fires that produce more heat, open the damper as wide as possible when lighting a fire. A wide-open damper will increase the amount of air reaching the fire and improve combustion. As a result, the fire will burn hotter.
When you’re not using your fireplace, be sure to close the damper to prevent indoor heat from escaping.
Get Chimney Fans
Chimney fans create powerful drafts that result in hotter burning fires. They increase a chimney’s draft by pulling air up and out of the chimney while pushing more heat into the home.
Chimney fans are also useful for keeping soot and smoke out of the home. These fans suck soot and smoke up and out of the chimney instead of allowing it to blow indoors.
Only Burn Dried Firewood
Also known as seasoned firewood, dried firewood is the only type of firewood you should burn in your fireplace. Firewood should be seasoned—in other words, dried for an entire season, six months to a year or longer, depending on how dry the conditions are.
Otherwise, firewood that is too green (freshly cut) will create large amounts of smoke and burn inefficiently since it has too much moisture.
But with properly seasoned firewood, the wood will produce more heat by creating a hotter burning fire. Douglas fir is an example of an efficient burning firewood since it burns hot but won’t burn too quickly.
HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR WOOD-BURNING FIREPLACE
Here are additional tips for enjoying a safe, clean, and efficient wood-burning fireplace.
Use Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
And test them regularly to ensure they are still working.
Keep Combustible Materials Away from the Fireplace
When your fireplace is in use, keep materials like furniture, drapes, and carpets far enough away from the fireplace to avoid house fires.
Clean Your Fireplace Regularly
Clean your fireplace frequently, and remove the ash from your fireplace whenever it reaches the bottom of the grate to ensure there is proper air circulation for efficient-burning fires.
Clean & Inspect Your Chimney At Least Once a Year
Creosote builds up in chimneys over time. And this creosote buildup will eventually become a fire hazard while restricting airflow and preventing your fires from producing enough heat.
So be sure to hire a professional chimney sweep to clean and inspect your chimney and fireplace annually, or when there is a creosote buildup of 1/8 inch or more in the chimney flue.
REASONS TO UPGRADE TO A GAS OR ELECTRIC FIREPLACE
If you want to upgrade to a fireplace insert, consider these reasons for upgrading to a gas fireplace or electric fireplace insert instead.
No Sourcing & Storing Firewood
With gas and electric fireplaces, you don’t need to chop or buy firewood, nor do you need to store it. Simply hook up the fireplace to your home’s gas line or an electrical outlet.
Ease of Use
Gas and electric fireplace inserts are much easier to use than wood-burning fireplaces. Instead of building a fire with firewood, simply turn on your fireplace with the push of an on/off switch or a button on a remote control.
Minimal Attention Required
Wood fires require supervision and tending to keep the fire burning safely and efficiently. But with gas and electric inserts, you can set the desired temperature on a thermostat and leave it be.
Gas and electric fireplaces don’t lose as much heat as wood-burning fireplaces since they are in air-tight sealed fireboxes.
With these tips, you can transform your open wood-burning fireplace into an efficient source of heat for your home, so you can stay cozy and make the most of your fireplace throughout the colder seasons.