You may think nothing compares with the comfort and coziness of sitting in front of an open fireplace on a cold winter night, but you may secretly worry about the effects on the environment or with the cost of heat loss up the chimney. The good news is, you can transform your traditional open fireplace to an environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient source of heat. According to Skip Hayden, director of renewable and integrated energy systems at Natural Resources Canada, new combustion wood-burning fireplaces are 70 percent efficient and emit only 10 percent of the pollution of traditional fireplaces. If that isn't an option for you, there are other things you can do to improve your fireplace's efficiency.
WOOD BURNING INSERTS
Fireplace inserts look like a traditional wood-burning stove that fits snugly into the opening of your fireplace. They still provide the comfort of radiant heat from burning wood and typically have glass doors so you can enjoy the flicker of firelight.
- Logs last three times as long as logs in an open fireplace. That means you will burn approximately 1/3 the amount of wood to operate your fireplace for the same amount of time.
- Woods burns at a higher temperature in an enclosed fireplace insert than an open fireplace. This means more heat directed into your living area to keep your family warm and toasty.
- Fireplace inserts prevent drafts up the chimney that can whisk away heated air from the room and prevent cold air from entering through the chimney.
- They reduce smoke emissions from 40 grams per hour to 1 gram per hour, which means less pollution enters the air.
- Fireplace inserts can be relatively expensive and may cost between $2,500 and $5,000 or more in Canadian currency.($2,000 to $4,000 in U.S. currency)
- They require professional installation and may require improvements to the existing chimney.
If a fireplace insert is out of your price range at the moment, you can still improve the efficiency of your open fireplace by adding glass doors.
- They allow you to view the fire.
- They are less expensive than inserts.
- If you are a handyman, you can install the doors yourself.
- Glass fireplace doors improve energy efficiency and reduce drafts.
- Many glass doors cannot be closed while the fire is burning, or pose the risk of breaking if they are closed during use.
- Air often leaks around the edges, allowing some heat to escape up the chimney.
- Replacing Dampers
The damper is located in the chimney and opens or closes to regulate the draft up the chimney. While these typically fit snugly, they can warp or bend over time. If you notice an increased backdraft from your fireplace, check the damper and replace it if necessary. This will reduce the amount of cold air that filters into your home when the fireplace is not in use, and will help your fire burn efficiently.
- Installing Chimney Caps
The chimney cap sits on top of the chimney and works with the damper to direct the flow of air. It also prevents air from the outside from entering your home through the chimney. If you do not have a chimney cap, or you suspect yours is not functioning properly, install or replace the existing cap. You can buy a new chimney cap at a home improvement center and install it yourself with a screwdriver and a little courage. If accessing the roof is a problem, call a professional who has the tools to get the job done safely.
If you are considering upgrading your fireplace to improve its efficiency, talk to your heating professional first. He can offer advice based on the construction and layout of your home and direct you to making sound decisions.