Wood Fireplace: 7 Tips for Safety and Efficiency
Maximizing your fireplace’s efficiency will save you trips to the wood pile and keep your home more comfortable on cold winter evenings. Following these 9 tips will boost your fireplace’s efficiency and ensure you can enjoy your fireplace without risking your safety.
1. Schedule a chimney cleaning and inspection once a year.
Chimney sweeps are as important today as they were a hundred years ago. Fires burn safer and more efficiently when the chimney is free of soot and creosote. Along with removing all of the buildup on the chimney walls, a professional chimney sweep will inspect the chimney during a cleaning to ensure that the damper seals, and the lining and structure of the chimney are in good condition. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that all homeowners and renters with a fireplace have the chimney swept and inspected at least once a year because it is the most effective way to reduce the risk of a fireplace related fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
2. Test your carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector.
Before you light the first fire in your hearth every year, make sure to check the batteries of your carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector. You should have one of each placed near the fireplace. Carbon monoxide is tasteless and odorless. Without a functioning detector, you may not realize your fireplace is venting carbon monoxide into your home until too late. Earlier warning of a chimney fire, from your smoke detector, can save your life and your home.
3. Replace a poorly sealed damper.
The damper is the vent in your fireplace that allows smoke to escape up the chimney when it is in use and prevents drafts when the fireplace is out. If your fireplace is drafty even when the damper is closed, it is a sign that the seals on the damper are warped or rusted. Replacing a poorly sealed damper will help you to cut down on your energy costs year-round.
4. Keep the damper closed when the fireplace is cold and open when it is in use.
It is important to make sure that the damper is open whenever you use your fireplace and closed when you aren’t. If you keep the damper closed when a fire is burning, smoke will be forced into your home instead of being able to escape up the chimney. Along with being bad for your furniture and lungs, this increases the risk of carbon monoxide exposure. Opening the damper will allow smoke to vent correctly. Keeping the damper open all the time will allow hot/cold air from outside into your home and will also let the heated/cooled air in your home to escape forcing your HVAC system to work over time. This is why it is important to close it as soon as the fire burns out.
5. Ensure your chimney has an intact liner.
A chimney liner has two important functions: insulating the chimney to improve its efficiency and protecting your home from the corrosive and toxic chemicals in the flue. An intact chimney also ensure that less flammable creosote builds up along the walls of the chimney because, by heating the air that feeds the fire, it improves the fires efficiency. A more efficient fire produces less dangerous creosote. It is not safe to use a fireplace that does not have an intact chimney liner to protect your home from the high temperatures and harsh chemicals that vent through the chimney. If your chimney’s liner is missing or damaged, call on a professional to have it replaced before lighting another fire in the hearth.
6. Only burn seasoned wood.
When you use your fireplace, make sure to only burn wood that has been cut and dried for 6 to 12 months. This time allows the wood to season, or dry out, so that it burns completely without producing large amounts of smoke and particulates. It will also burn hotter and longer. Seasoned hardwoods, like oak, beech, maple and hickory, burn the most efficiently in contrast to softwoods like spruce or pine.
7. Build the fire slowly and keep adding wood as it heats.
You do not need to overload your fireplace to effectively heat your home. Instead, start with a good foundation of kindling and a few logs. Slowly added logs to the fire as needed to keep it gently roaring.
We hope that these tips help you keep your family safe and warm throughout the chilly winter months. If you need a chimney cleaning or inspection, give us a call! Our CSIA certified chimney sweeps at Hudson Valley Chimney Service can help.