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How to Maximize the Heat From Your Fireplace

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Photo: Jens Lambert (Shutterstock)

Rising energy costs means that most of us will be paying more to heat our homes this winter. And unfortunately, that’s only one of many price increases we’ve seen over the last year or so. This makes it especially important to ensure that we keep the resources, appliances, and home features we do have working for us, rather than costing us extra money.

One way to do that is to make sure that your fireplace and chimney are operating as efficiently as possible. Here’s how to do that.

How to make your fireplace and chimney more energy efficient

While fireplaces can be wonderful sources of heat during colder weather, that’s only the case if you maintain it—and your chimney—properly. If you don’t, the heat loss from the fireplace could make a room or home even colder, and end up costing you money, rather than saving it.

Here are a few strategies from the U.S. Department of Energy to help you make your fireplace and chimney as efficient at heating your home as possible:

Clean your fireplace(s)

This is an obvious one, but that doesn’t mean people actually do it. And yes: Gas fireplaces get dirty, and need to be cleaned, too.

Clear a path for smoke coming out of the chimney

Now’s the time to prepare your chimney for winter, if you haven’t done so already. This means taking a look at your chimney from the outside of your home. If you live somewhere with trees, make sure there are no branches or anything else blocking the chimney.

Check the flue damper

The flue damper on your fireplace should have seals around it to prevent heat loss through the chimney. Take a look at those seals and make sure they’re tight. If not, bring this up during your chimney inspection (more on that later) to get professional advice on how to fix it, or whether it should be replaced.

Insulate your chimney

Even if your fireplace is clean, it’s not going to be as efficient as possible if your chimney isn’t in tip-top shape as well. Exiting exhaust can leave creosote behind in your chimney, which builds up over time, and can make your fireplace less effective at heating your home. But, you can prevent that from happening by installing a chimney liner, which helps to protect masonry from creosote build-up and other corrosive byproducts of the flue gases.

Close (and open) your fireplace flue damper, as necessary

When you have a fire burning in the fireplace, the flue damper needs to be open. But, if you leave it open the rest of the time, it will allow heat from your home to escape, and result in you having to pay even more to keep your house warm. If there’s even a slight chance that you might forget to open the damper back up again before starting a fire, leave yourself a note or some kind of reminder.

Upgrade parts of your fireplace

Most people don’t have extra money sitting around right now, but if you’re using your fireplace as a major source of heat this winter, it’s probably worth investing in tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system (which blows warm air back into the room).

Have your chimney inspected by a professional

Once you’re finished with your fireplace and chimney maintenance, get a professional—specifically, one certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America—to inspect the various components of your fireplace and chimney. In addition to making sure that using your fireplace is safe, they’ll also let you know if there’s anything else you can do to make it (or your chimney) more efficient.

Alternatively, if you know that you’re definitely not going to use your fireplace, you can hire a professional to have your chimney flue plugged and sealed.

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