How to Stop Your Fireplace from Being an Energy Eater

Fireplace with eyesEditor’s Note: This post was provided by one of our paid sponsors, Chimneyballoon. Stop heat and AC from escaping through your fireplace or woodburner chimney with a Chimney Balloon fireplace plug draft stopper.

On a cold winter evening, who of us is not tempted to go to the living room, stoke up a fire in the fireplace, and read a book in front of the hearth? You may be thinking “I am doing myself a favor by supplementing the furnace with additional heat”. But there’s a dark secret about your fireplace: you are making your house colder, and could be contributing significantly to pollution depending upon how you burn. Fireplaces can be monstrous energy eaters!

The wood burning fireplace is an “Energy Eater”

The air action that a wood-burning fireplace initiates in our home is wasteful. The second the damper is opened, heated air begins pouring out of the top of the chimney. As the fire in the hearth accelerates, the combustion process grabs already-heated air from your home and burns the oxygen and combustible gasses in it. The heat that is created in this combustion quickly rises and grabs more heated inside air and tosses it up the chimney. You can restrict the amount of inside air that the fireplace has access to by installing glass doors, but this will also severely limit the amount of radiant heat that fireplace can cast forward into your living space. This radiant heat is the heat you feel on your skin in front of the fireplace, and is the only usable heat that the fireplace will produce since the combustion heat is pouring out the top of the chimney. In the meantime the home is drawing in cold outside air from other places (i.e. windows, light sockets, doors, etc) to replace the air that is escaping the home through the chimney. This is referred to as the “stack effect.”

Losing heat even while dormant

Even while the wood fireplace is not being used, the traditional metal dampers tend to leak air since they warp and degrade rapidly in the extreme heat and corrosive soot environment. There is a removable and reusable chimney plug available in assorted sizes called a Chimney Balloon fireplace damper that inflates into place in the flue and seals it off efficiently to stop fireplace odor, heat loss and the cold chimney draft.

The good, the bad, and the pollution

If you burn a fast hot fire, this creates very little smoke and pollution, and it can give you a noticeable amount of radiant heat gain in the room the fireplace it is in. However, this fire is also using huge amounts of your heated inside air for it combustion which exceeds your heat gain ratio. A slower fire is even worse since you are still losing heated air out the chimney, getting very little radiant heat in return, and generating black sooty smoke. This black type of fireplace smoke is a terrible pollutant and contributes to respiratory irritant for people with asthma and allergies.

Wood burning fireplaces are wonderful nostalgic centerpieces for many American homes. But a homeowner should be aware of the issues associated with fireplace use and keep them from being an energy eater.

For more information, and one potential solution to this problem, see ChimneyBalloon.

Sources:


About the Author

  • Halfhandy

    It makes sense. I know Chris Schille has written articles on here before about fireplaces and their inefficiencies.
    Im looking at these chimney balloons online and wondering how they are removable once they are inflated into place. I dont use my fireplace anyway, but it would be nice to know how to take it out.

  • Halfhandy

    It makes sense. I know Chris Schille has written articles on here before about fireplaces and their inefficiencies.
    Im looking at these chimney balloons online and wondering how they are removable once they are inflated into place. I dont use my fireplace anyway, but it would be nice to know how to take it out.

  • Chucky

    These things totally rock. A huge fireplace came with the existing home I purchased. I already knew that it was a net loser for heat, so for a few years I plugged up the flue with an ad hoc foam plug. Worked ok, but when I had a blower door test, we discovered it was far from perfect. Of course the flue door was just this metal flap which certainly did not fully seal either.

    Got a balloon last year and it sealed my flue completely. Like, hermetically sealed.

    To the commenter above, removing it is very easy, the valve hose hangs down so you can just turn the valve to deflate and remove. But like you, I never use the fireplace at all, so chances are the balloon will remain permanently. Mine has been in there for almost a full year and has not needed to be pumped up. Pretty amazing since I assumed it would slowly loose air over time.

    Now if only I could get a wood insert that fit my fireplace openings. Mine is very unique and cannot accept any that are currently available. A wood stove insert is a very viable method to actually get some use out of a typical fireplace. Quadra-Fire and others can be 80%+ efficient, use outside makeup air so they don’t draw from the house, and even have nice big glass doors for the ambiance.

  • Chucky

    These things totally rock. A huge fireplace came with the existing home I purchased. I already knew that it was a net loser for heat, so for a few years I plugged up the flue with an ad hoc foam plug. Worked ok, but when I had a blower door test, we discovered it was far from perfect. Of course the flue door was just this metal flap which certainly did not fully seal either.

    Got a balloon last year and it sealed my flue completely. Like, hermetically sealed.

    To the commenter above, removing it is very easy, the valve hose hangs down so you can just turn the valve to deflate and remove. But like you, I never use the fireplace at all, so chances are the balloon will remain permanently. Mine has been in there for almost a full year and has not needed to be pumped up. Pretty amazing since I assumed it would slowly loose air over time.

    Now if only I could get a wood insert that fit my fireplace openings. Mine is very unique and cannot accept any that are currently available. A wood stove insert is a very viable method to actually get some use out of a typical fireplace. Quadra-Fire and others can be 80%+ efficient, use outside makeup air so they don’t draw from the house, and even have nice big glass doors for the ambiance.

  • Pingback: Hearth & Home: Fireplace Options | The House Designers()

  • Pingback: how to stop fire in fireplace()

  • Here’s another alternative–www.fireplacefashion.com.. the FIREPLACE FASHION COVER will attached to your fireplace doors or screens with industrial strength magnets that are hidden inside the cover, no modifications to or residue on your existing fireplace. Folds in thirds when you want to burn a fire. The fireplace fashion covers not only stop the cold drafts and heat loss, they look great.
    We are a small start up business in Havre De Grace Maryland that manufactures and retails a great solution to fireplace drafts and your expensive heat going up your chimney. All of our covers are hand made in Maryland of all American components.
    Check us out at http://www.fireplacefashion.com
    Thanks
    G.

  • Pingback: Your Fireplace Is Wasting Heat and Energy – Greener Ideal()