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How can I Improve Fireplace Efficiency?

Slightly opening a window near a fireplace will improve its efficiency.
One way to increase fireplace efficiency is by cracking the window closest to the fireplace.
A fireplace grate can ensure more heat reaches the room by elevating the wood.
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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2014
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Improving fireplace efficiency is an excellent way to save money during the winter months, as it means that less fuel will need to be burned to generate heat. Additionally, better efficiency from your fireplace usually means releasing less pollutants into the atmosphere, which in addition to reduced consumption, makes it an environmentally-friendly choice that helps both the planet and your local air quality.

Some simple steps can improve fireplace efficiency drastically, allowing you to keep your living space warmer while burning less. One of the first steps is reducing the amount of heat lost through the chimney when there is no fire burning. This can best be done by installing glass windows in the front of the fireplace, which will allow you to seal off the fireplace when it’s not in use, making sure heat from the inside isn’t bleeding away up the chimney.

Unlike having a stove or installing metal doors, glass windows will still allow you to enjoy the visual aesthetic of your fireplace, while gaining much of the benefit of a closed stove system. When a fire is burning, glass windows will actually help conduct the heat into your room in a distributed fashion, making this a technique to improve your fireplace efficiency both while the fireplace is in use and while it is dormant.

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An extremely simple step that can be taken to make your fireplace more efficient is to simply find the nearest window to the fireplace and to open it just a little bit. At the same time, if the fireplace is in a closed room like a den, you can close the doors to the rest of the house, making the room a closed system. Having the window slightly open means that the fireplace will draw colder air from the outside if it needs to, rather than drawing in already heated air and losing much of that heat through the chimney.

An even better step to improve fireplace efficiency, if you have the ability, is to install a special intake next to the fire. This intake can pull air in directly from the outdoors, rather than having to pull it through the room from a nearby open window. This ensures greater efficiency by keeping warm air in the house where it belongs, and setting up a flow of warm air coming out of the fireplace into the house, rather than having the fireplace constantly sucking in warm air and losing it through the chimney.

Many devices can also be purchased to improve fireplace efficiency. A radiant fireplace grate, for example, holds the logs up off the ground of the fireplace, making sure more heat is disbursed out into the room, improving efficiency quite dramatically for a very small investment. Electric fans can also be purchased and installed in the form of grate blowers or tube heaters, which will constantly push hot air out into the room, decreasing the amount of heat lost through the chimney and improving overall fireplace performance.

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anon351336
Post 8

I have been in the solid fuel open fire business since the 80's and have to say some of the posts here may be misleading.

There is no perfect system for all fireplaces to make the "open fire" more efficient, by the very nature of the building, chimney flue and the environment surrounding it.

A solution to one fireplace improvements could be a problem for another.

For a start, you need to know how a chimney works in terms of the combustion process and the type of fuel you use.

The appliance, or in the case of open fires, how big the throat of the flue is at point of entry into the flue itself, knowing the bigger the throat the more wasted heat you will have.

Next comes the flue itself, and if you have a damper control in it (already built into most stoves and cookers).

Finally, the air supply for the combustion process in the fire ad correctly stated above would require underfloor local air feed under or very close to the fireplace for maximum benefit. (Baxi used to do it years ago.)

Recent developments with retro fit chimney flue dampers are having a big impact on open fireplaces. The best device of all is a simple plug to stop heat being sucked out of an unused fireplace and which is clearly indicated with a drop cord for safety reasons. --Patrick G

anon261327
Post 6

Professional chimney sweeps sell radiant firebacks. They push heat into the room the fireplace is in up to 20 percent.

anon251227
Post 5

Fitting a Windkat to your flue has been proven to increase fireplace and stove efficiency by between 5 percent and 20 percent. The effectiveness of the Windkat Chimney Pot at promoting a constant even draw has been confirmed by the Environmental Agency of Bavaria in Germany.

anon238408
Post 4

@write79: Well, that would be the opposite of what this article says, if you keep doors closed while having a fire.

@calpat: I would be careful using sappy wood like pine all of the time. It creates lots of build up inside your chimney, called creosote, which, unless you have a pro clean your chimney at least one time per year, it can cause a chimney fire. I've successfully used hard woods like maple, black cherry, etc., but I realize in different parts of the country hard woods to burn are difficult to find, like in New Mexico, etc.

All in all, my main question is: If you don't have doors or an insert, or stove, (I have a plain old fireplace with a screen), is having a fire burning even efficient? Someone told me having a fire burning on a cold day is like having a window open, and makes the rest of the house colder. True?

calpat
Post 3

I think that a lot of times fireplace efficiency has to do with the kind of wood you burn as well. For instance, if you want a long, steady burn then you need to go with thick, soft, sappy woods like pine.

Using woods like this can keep your fire burning at a more constant temperature without you having to babysit it all the time, and can improve efficiency as well.

write79
Post 2

@anon145449 -- What kind of fireplace doors do you have? I have glass ones and I've read that it can actually be dangerous to keep them closed all the time. In fact, I read that keeping glass fireplace doors closed while a fire is burning could, over time, cause damage to the glass, due to the extreme heat. If you have these kinds of doors, then your instructions for the glass door set are likely to include a warning to keep the doors open while a fire is burning.

anon145449
Post 1

I wonder if i should have the fireplace doors open or closed while i have a fire, if i also have a blower attached to the fireplace. please respond if you have an idea.

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