Friday, December 2, 2011

Ask Ida

Can I burn wood without losing heat?

Dear Ida B. Green,

I love my wood fireplace but I understand I'm losing a lot of heat out the chimney. Any solutions?

Signed, Chim-Chiminey

Dear Chim,

There are some problems to consider with open fireplaces. The first is the negative house pressure created when burning any flame inside your house. The fire requires oxygen to burn and will suck air out of your house, which will then pull new, cold air in through the many small and large openings in your home's exterior envelope (i.e. walls, windows, etc.). And, if your thermostat is in another room and still trying to keep that room up to your preferred temperature, you're heating that new air before it's pulled into your fireplace and goes up in smoke. Oddly enough, it can actually be more energy-efficient to crack a window near your fireplace so the outdoor air is supplied directly to your fire and not causing cold air to be sucked in throughout the house.

The second problem is present after the fire is out and the damper is closed. Make sure your chimney sweep checks to see if your damper is tight and then add at least one more barrier to stop heated air from escaping up your chimney. Options include glass doors, insulated fire screens and even balloon-like plugs that can be inserted below the damper.

Keep it Green,


—Elizabeth Jeffrey

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