Is your chimney making your house colder? It seems like a counterintuitive question. After all, the chimney is supposed to contribute to a warm and cozy atmosphere! But in some cases, yes, it may be doing the opposite – and sending your heating costs right through the roof. Why, and what can you do about it?

Are You Heating the Outdoors?

Nothing is as comforting and homey as snuggling up and watching the flames of a crackling fire on a cold night. But when you have a wood-burning fireplace, it can certainly feel as if you’re losing more heat than you’re generating. Unfortunately, this can be true. According to some estimates, between 80 and 90 percent of the heat created in a wood-burning fireplace goes up in smoke. That is, it just flies right out the chimney. Another way to look at it: for every $100 you spend on wood, you get $10 to $20 of heat.

What’s happening?

When you light a fire, it needs to eat. To do so, it draws the oxygen it needs for combustion from the room, creating byproduct gasses (mostly carbon dioxide). As the air warms, waste gasses travel up the chimney, carrying away a lot of heat. You feel radiant warmth in front of the fire (which is why it’s toasty right there and chilly in the next room).Air from cooler parts of the house or outside swoosh in to replace the air that your fire needs. The net effect is that it can feel colder in the areas that are not directly adjacent to the fireplace.

Even when the fire is not burning, you still deal with the fact that warm air rises. It will travel up and out through the chimney. Cold air comes in to take its place. While this is important for creating an optimal draft (i.e. the force that pulls smoke up and out of the chimney, while allowing cool air in to feed the fire), too much cold air is… well, cold!

What Should You Do?

When the fire is not burning, make sure you close the damper completely. This will keep warm air in the home. When you do have a fire lit, close the damper partially to minimize the loss of heat. You may also consider installing an electric blower to circulate the warm air more effectively.

Another option is to install inserts with vents that pull air from the outside rather than from the room. This will create more radiant heat than an open fireplace. If you do love the look of your open fire, you may want to retrofit it with a deeper firebox.

Fireplaces are warm and cheery features in many homes, and there is no substitute for the cozy feeling they impart. Just make sure you’re heating your house, not the great outdoors!

And as always, no matter what your heating source, make sure that your chimney is inspected and cleaned annually. Brick + Ember’s team of certified professionals will ensure that your system is safe for use. Get in touch with us to schedule your service.