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Heating Efficiency and the Truth about Traditional Fireplaces

Masonry Fireplace

Masonry Fireplace

Beautiful, picturesque masonry fireplaces are popular in the U.S., even as the general population is increasingly more interested in finding ways to cut the cost of living. If you ask just about any realtor, you will discover that the amenity most home buyers want is a fireplace. The truth that many people don’t know, however, is that old-fashioned fireplaces are grossly inefficient and are often the cause of higher utility bills. The good news is that there are solutions and ways to enjoy all the charm of a fireplace while also benefiting from greater energy efficiency.

What’s the Problem with Open Fireplaces?

The standard open fireplace and masonry chimney indeed increases the value of your home by as much 125% or more of the cost to build it, but the inefficiency of the “heating system” can also potentially increase your utility costs every month of every year. Even if you frequently light fires in the fireplace for warmth in winter, it doesn’t change the fact that older masonry fireplaces are incredibly inefficient.

Between 80% and 100% of the heat produced in an open fireplace goes up the chimney instead of into the home. When you add that statistic to the fact that an old-fashioned fireplace can also draw 10% more cold air into your home than if you didn’t have it, you can easily conclude that it doesn’t qualify as a legitimate heat source.

How to Have Efficient Home Fires

While no amount of expert engineering can significantly increase the efficiency of an open fireplace so that it becomes a viable heat source in cold winters, there are very sensible and energy-efficient ways to enjoy a crackling fire in your home. Thanks to modern engineering, you can burn logs in fireplace inserts, factory-built fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves that meet strict requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Each of these appliances, which simply modernize traditional fireplaces, is extremely energy efficient. There are some modern wood-burning appliances that achieve combustion so complete that they are classified as smokeless appliances and do not require any type of venting.

The combustion process achieved in fireplace inserts, factory-built fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves produces far less creosote, smoke, soot, and pollution. Less creosote means a safer chimney, since creosote is highly flammable and can cause a hazardous chimney fire.

In addition to providing more warmth to the home, these well-insulated appliances do a much better job of helping to lower your electricity bills. Each of the modern appliances has glass or metal doors which create an effective seal and prevent air from flowing in and out of the chimney when the fireplace isn’t being used. A standard fireplace has dampers which are supposed to serve that function, but dampers are seldom airtight.

Wood Burning Fireplace Insert

Wood Burning Fireplace Insert

Fireplace inserts provide the solution which most closely resembles a standard fireplace but while greatly improving efficiency. Whichever modern wood-burning appliance you choose, however, is available in numerous styles and varieties. No matter what your décor, there is an efficient wood-burning appliance that will provide that beloved look of a fireplace in your home.

Be sure to contact our chimney technicians for professional installation of your efficient heating appliances. Be aware that your home insurance may not cover your appliance unless it is installed professionally.

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