Fireplaces seem to be very energy inefficient and drafty, yet we enjoy the look and feel of a real fire. Can fireplace efficiency be improved?
The "draft" one feels when standing or sitting near a fireplace comes from the air required for combustion. Typically, this air comes from the spaces around wall openings (doors and windows) and then flows up the chimney. Like any other opening in your house, caulk should be added around the fireplace hearth so that air leaks are not possible. If outside air for combustion were introduced inside the actual fireplace combustion chamber (a vent with operable damper), the draft would be eliminated.
If you have one, keep the bottom damper open while a
fire is burning or open the nearest window 1”. Both
allow fresh air to circulate to the fireplace and out
the chimney; reducing the need for fresh air to be
pulled from cracks around the house. Remember to keep
both dampers closed when a fire is not going.
Installing tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room will also help provide your family with that warm “feel of a fireplace”.
Barbara Buffaloe, Architectural Studies, College of Human Environmental Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia
Last update: Monday, May 18, 2009