Money Saving Measures For Your Fireplace
By Karen Stickels Lamansky
Lindermann Chimney Supply
The cold, blustery winter days are upon us. Energy costs have sky-rocketed making the prospect of heating your home a daunting challenge. Like insulating your attic or weather-stripping your doors, there are products that will pay for themselves in reduced energy costs.
A fireplace with no damper is like having an open window – and no one wants to pay for lost heated air. If the fireplace damper is leaky, it’s like having the window cracked. Even if the fireplace damper is new, they are made of cast-iron or steel, so at best there’s a metal-to-metal seal. When moisture is introduced, in the case of a leaky chimney or missing rain cap, these dampers can rust or corrode. Checking the damper seal is essential because heat-loss through the chimney accounts for as much as 8% of the heating costs for an average home.
The best way to check the seal is to use incense or light a match next to the damper opening. Blow it out and watch the smoke trail. If it drifts up into the flue you are loosing heated room air. If the smoke trail blows into the room, then there are drafts being introduced from the chimney. Another method is to put a dollar bill between the damper and the damper plate. Close the damper and pull on the dollar bill. If the bill slides out easily, then there’s a leak.
Cost Saving Measures
Most top-mounting dampers include a special gasket type seal to prevent air leakage. This gasket can be in the form of injected silicone, a refrigerator door type seal or a seal like the old flat gasket on grandmother’s glass canning gar. These revolutionary dampers seal in heat and prevent cooled air-conditioned room air from escaping. The cost-savings of $150-200 a year is an investment that will pay you back many times over during the life of this product. Top-sealing dampers also seal out rain, pests and can include spark arrestors.
Top-Sealing dampers are easy to use. A stainless steel cable drops down the flue and through a bracket that is attached inside your fireplace. To open, you simply pull down on the cable, move it to the open position and release. The damper opens. To close the damper, you just pull down on the handle and secure it in the closed position. Special handles are available for people with arthritis or disabilities.
A Glass Barrier
Another way to save energy with a standard fireplace is with glass doors. Putting glass doors on a fireplace is like installing a storm window on your house. It provides another barrier between you and the cold outside. Cold air can permeate through the brick in a fireplace when it is exposed on an outside wall of the home. A set of glass doors helps to hold the cold at bay. However, all glass doors have gaps and don’t seal completely tightly. The best way to seal out the cold air drafts is with a top-sealing damper.
Be aware that sealing up your home with weather stripping, insulation, caulking, siding and new windows reduces air infiltration, which helps save energy, but it may eliminate the air source that your fireplace needs to operate correctly. This means the fireplace that worked well last year may not draft well this year. Your chimney professional can diagnose and help solve this type of problem.
Energy Common Sense
To obtain the maximum amount of heat from your fireplace without sacrificing heated room air, have it analyzed by a chimney professional. By simply installing a top-sealing damper with a good seal, you can save as much as 8% on your heating bills. Installing glass doors can maximize savings. Inquire with your chimney professional to see if your system is a candidate for these energy-saving measures. Be earth smart and use your energy sense.
Reprinted, with permission, from the December 2008 issue of The Chimney Sweep News, an independent trade magazine for chimney service professionals. Jim Gillam, editor/publisher. 541-882-5196. www.ChimneySweepNews.com