Ways you can improve your fireplace's efficiency

There's nothing quite like curling up next to the fire, but they can be quite costly. Here's some changes you can make to your fireplace to make it more efficient.

Ways you can improve your fireplace's efficiency

Know your fireplace

  • A traditional fireplace, built by a mason, starts below the frost line with a concrete foundation. It will typically end with a tile-lined flue that runs from the firebox to above the roof.
  • A masonry fireplace can rob your house of furnace-warmed air and pollute the environment with unburned toxic gases, while producing flammable creosote and creating a fire hazard.

Damper decisions

  • A damper closes the flue when the fireplace is not in use.
  • An ash door on the floor of the firebox lets you sweep ashes into a chute that you can easily empty from the basement or an opening outside.
  • If the damper doesn't have a tight seal, a traditional fireplace can draw warm air up the flue even when it is not in use.
  • A quick fix is to place a large sheet of clear acrylic over the fireplace opening when it is not in use. If the surround is smooth, suction will hold the plate tightly in position.

Doors for safety, efficiency and look

  • Glass doors can be mounted without much trouble in the fireplace opening.
  • Better models will have vents above and below, and will seal tightly to the fireplace.
  • The glass radiates heat into the room and cuts the loss of heated room air up the flue.
  • Most glass door assemblies also include metal mesh screens that pull across the fireplace opening for spark control when the glass doors are open.
  • Glass doors aren't difficult to install in most models.
  • Many fireplace stores and home centres will install glass door assemblies for you for a modest fee.
  • Units to fit arched fireplace openings can be special ordered.

Totally tubular grates

  • A tubular grate with extension tubes and a blower can circulate heat into the room and improves fireplace efficiency.
  • The fan draws cool room air at floor level into the tubes. Once heated, the air is blown back into the room.
  • If your fireplace is a standard size, you can buy and install a tubular grate yourself. Just plug it into a receptacle near the fireplace opening and be sure that the electrical cord is properly insulated.

The facts on firplace inserts

  • A fireplace insert is essentially a small wood-burning stove that fits into the firebox.
  • The best models include catalytic converters and secondary combustion chambers. These create higher fire temperatures and burn off pollutants, and include a fan to circulate the heat in the room.

Fireplaces offer a nice place to get warm during those cold days, but they can also get in the way of a properly heated house. With the right accessories and information, however, your fireplace can save you money and keep you warm.

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