Why You Should Close the chimney Damper During Summer
During the summer, most homeowners rarely use the fireplace. The chimney is a distant memory as many families take vacations, enjoy backyard barbeques, or spend the weekend enjoying the great outdoors. But many homeowners don’t realize the importance of closing the damper and unwittingly leave it open during the summer.
What is a damper, and where is it located?
With rare exceptions, most chimneys have a fireplace damper. The damper is a metal device that is typically installed inside the throat of the chimney. Its primary purpose is to regulate the airflow for a more efficient fire and to close the flue when the fireplace is not in use. There is usually a lever that makes it easy to open or close the damper. Some dampers open horizontally while others open vertically. If the damper is rusted or is otherwise damaged, it may not close properly or not even at all. Some chimneys have a top-closing damper that covers the entire flue. Pulling its chain closes the damper sealing the flue to the outside world.
If you haven’t done so already, here are a few reasons why you should close your fireplace damper in the summer.
Lower cooling bills
An open damper is like an open window. In the summer, when you want to stay cool, an open damper will push the warm outside air down into your living space and suck the cooled air up out through the chimney. It will also take your air conditioner longer to reach the desired temperature driving up your electric bills. Closing the fireplace damper will form an airtight seal that will prevent the cooled air from escaping through the chimney, thus increasing energy-efficiency.
Summer is often filled with blue skies and sunny days. But when the damper is open moisture will accumulate inside the chimney and firebox during humid days and when an occasional storm passes by. Moisture is the mortal enemy of masonry chimneys. It will soften the bricks and mortar and rust metal components like the damper. Even if you have a chimney cap that will deflect most rainwater, it can become damaged, allowing water and pests to get inside the chimney. Plus, humidity and a dark, warm chimney are a recipe for mold. Closing the damper when the fireplace is not in use, such as during the warmer summer months provides another layer of protection for your chimney.
Have you ever looked up inside your chimney? After months of enjoying a wood-burning fire, soot, creosote, and other contaminants stick to the flue on their way up the chimney. When the external air flows down the flue, the oxygen causes a chemical reaction that releases unpleasant odors trapped in these particles. When you close the damper, its airtight seal keeps out most of the oxygen but allows enough ventilation for the chimney to breathe.
Improves air quality
Although you may not be using the fireplace during the summer, it can still attract dust that blows in from the top of the stack. And if your damper is open a big gust of wind can blow dust, soot, and other contaminants straight into your living space. It can make a big mess on the floor and nearby furniture and reduce indoor air quality. The particles will also circulate through your ventilation so you may also need to replace your air conditioning filter more often. Closing the damper will prevent these downdrafts and improve the air quality in your home.
Since you’re probably not going to use your fireplace during the summer, it is a great time to schedule that annual inspection and cleaning that you have been putting off. Your local chimney sweep will even show you how to close your damper.