How to Weatherproof a Fireplace
We understand the comfort of sitting in front of the fireplace while the warmth surrounds the room. The problem is that a big percentage (some say up to 90%) of that warmth is distributed inefficiently in the room and home causing you to lose a lot of that heat that is being generated. That is why the need to weatherproof your fireplace is so important.
Here are some fireplace weatherproofing tips from the U.S. Department of Energy that can help reduce the heat loss from your wood-burning fireplace and make your home heating more efficient:
- Apply heat-resistant caulk around the fireplace hearth.
- Ensure that the seal on the fireplace damper, when closed, is snug and secure. If you can’t tell, call your local chimney and masonry company and they can inspect it for you.
- Adjust the size of the damper opening to the size of the fire you plan to build: a narrow opening for a small fire and a wide opening for a large one. With a flashlight in hand, we can help you get a good feel for your fireplace damper.
- Before opening the fireplace damper to light a fire, counteract the fireplace’s quest to pull cold air into your home through small gaps, windows and doors by closing the doors that lead into the room and opening the window located closest to the fireplace by about 1 inch.
- Lower your thermostat setting to between 50 and 55 degrees while the fireplace burns wood.
Your fireplace damper plays a significant role in weatherproofing your fireplace.
The purpose of the fireplace damper is to prevent heat loss when the fireplace is not being used. Don’t forget to open it before you start a fire. But when the fire is completely out (usually sometime the following day), don’t forget to close it. An open damper is like an open window, allowing huge amounts of heated air to escape.
When you are ready to light a fire, open the damper completely. Some people try to operate the fireplace with the damper closed partially, in an effort to get more heat into the room. But you won’t gain much, if anything, by closing it partially, and you might gain a house full of smoke! No matter how you operate it, a standard open fireplace is not an efficient heater. Its purpose is atmosphere and entertainment, so forget about efficiency. Open that damper, and leave it open until the fire is out.
Can a fireplace take the place of a furnace?
No. Fireplaces, unless you live in a single-room cabin, they are basically good for heating one room and only for a period of hours.
That being said, it’s important to nip heat loss in the bud because of the inefficiencies: A fireplace may actually cause your heat bill to rise because you have to run your furnace longer to make up for the heat lost through inefficiency.
Here are some ways to keep much of the heat from your wood-burning fireplace or chimney.
- Use a flue sealer: Flue sealers are removable stoppers that prevent air from escaping through the chimney. These inflatable devices made from heavy-gauge plastic are inexpensive, and easy to install and remove. Place the flue sealer just below the damper to prevent heat loss and downdrafts when the fireplace is not in use.
- Caulk it: Make sure to apply caulk around the fireplace hearth. Failure to seal or doing it improperly is a main way that many fireplaces are losing heat.
- Seal off the room: Another way to reduce heat loss is close the room’s doors if you can and to crack open the nearest window, no more than an inch. This will actually help the fire to emanate and heat the air, creating a feeling of warmth all around.
- Adjust the thermostat: A lot of people run their heating units too high while using a fireplace. To do its job, a good setting for the thermostat is 50° to 55°F.
- Install a heat-air exchange system: A heat exchanger captures air from the room and channels it through hot tubes, redistributing heat and bringing additional warmth. As a result, you get more bank for the bucks you’ve spent on wood.
As the temperature continues to drop and the winter wind kicks in, many homeowners are looking to their fireplaces to provide more heat in their home. But the truth is, chimneys take a beating from severe weather extremes all year round, so weatherproofing your chimney is a simple and easy task that will not only extend the life of your chimney for years, but will help keep the right temperature within your walls through all seasons.