Increase the Efficiency of Your Existing Fireplace

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A roaring fireplace definitely seems warm and inviting on cold winter nights, but many older fireplaces are only 10% efficient! How does improved comfort, energy conservation, reduced energy costs, reduced noise, and improved indoor air quality sound? Here are some tips to increase your fireplace’s efficiency:

  • Add glass doors to your wood-burning or vented gas fireplace. They will reduce the amount of cold outside air that enters your room through the chimney when the fireplace is not in use. During the summer, glass doors also help to keep conditioned air from escaping your home. Glass fireplace doors typically cost $200 and up.
  • Add a fire grate which holds logs lifted up in a way that forces heat forward and into your house.  You’re able to burn un-split logs which burn longer and cleaner (less carbon emissions)
  • Don’t forget to close the damper when the fireplace is not in use.
  • Weatherstrip your fireplace by using a reusable, inflatable plug that is inserted into the fireplace beneath the damper (part of it hangs down into the fireplace to prevent you from building a fire before removing it). Cost: around $55.
  • Add a “fireback” or “hearth reflector” to wood-burning fireplaces. A fireback is a sheet of metal, sized in proportion to the fireplace, that’s placed against the inside backwall of the fireplace. It helps to radiate and reflect heat back into the room. Stainless steel firebacks generally run between $50-150, while heavier (and costlier to ship) cast iron firebacks run from $250-700.
  • A top sealing damper replaces the fireplace throat damper and is installed at the top of the chimney to reduce air infiltration. It costs around $200.
  • A fireplace heater dramatically increases the convection heat (hot air) coming from your fireplace and also serves as the grate on which to place logs. It generally costs $250 or more.
  • Install a fireplace insert (pictured here). A fireplace insert seals off the opening of the fireplace and increases its efficiency by about 65%! Emissions from your fireplace are also reduced. Prices generally run upwards of $1,300.
  • Hire a chimney sweep to clean and remove creosote from your fireplace once a year for $80-200.
  • Burn only seasoned wood (wood that has been cut at least a year ago and kept dry) to produce the most heat with the least amount of creosote build-up.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Tag(s): Energy, Greening the Home


2 Responses to “Increase the Efficiency of Your Existing Fireplace”

  1. Eddy M on December 12th, 2009 1:10 am

    I have actually heard that open fireplaces run at a negative 10% efficiency. WP&L power put out a newsletter article that said using an open wood fireplace will make your heating bill go up 10%! It sounds so counter intuitive, but it is true! The fireplace sucks the heated air out of your home and lulls you by casting a little token radiant heat at you.

  2. Tim Wheeler on August 29th, 2010 7:44 pm

    This can be the case if your fireplace is not set up right. How ever there are quite a few ways to improve the efficiency of your fireplace. Since most of us don’t use our fireplaces to heat our homes on a full time bases, the important thing to remember is to make them as efficient as possible. By using the fireplace tips in the above article you can use and enjoy your fireplace. As a fireplace remodeling contractor in the Seattle area we can not only can beautify your fireplace, but it can be set up to be 80% efficient. That’s a lot of extra heating that your fireplace can produce.

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