What you need to know about chimney dampers
You wouldn’t turn off the heater and throw open your living room windows in the dead of winter, would you? But are you creating the same chilling effect with your open burning wood fireplace chimney? If your damper isn’t working correctly, this is exactly what you may be doing.
The open top end of a chimney allows a draft to be created, which pulls smoke out of the fireplace and into the outside air. It’s a helpful design – when there’s a fire going. But if the damper doesn’t create a tight seal, an updraft or downdraft will be the result. Where updrafts are concerned, when there’s no fire in the fireplace, what’s going up in the draft?
Warm household air that you’re paying for.
Test the efficiency of your chimney damper
It is estimated that as much as 8 percent of heating costs in the average home are spent on heat that’s being lost through chimneys during times when fireplaces aren’t in operation. Are you losing this much? Are you losing more? Here’s an easy way to find out.
Close your damper as completely as possible. Light a match (or use incense) and blow it out just inside the fireplace. What happens to the smoke? Does it flow upwards toward the chimney as if it’s being pulled? If so, there’s a problem with your damper. Same thing if the smoke blows out into the room, which would be caused by a downdraft through the chimney.
With a damper inside your fireplace, you can perform an initial inspection and see where it’s not making a tight seal. Over time, dampers can begin to work less efficiently, and if this is the case with your damper, you should have it inspected by a chimney and fireplace professional.
This individual may be able to make any necessary repairs and, in the worst-case-scenario, can tell you if you need a new damper. Dampers installed outside on the top of the chimney opening are a great solution if replacement is needed.
A top-mounting damper is considered by many the most effective way to seal off the chimney to prevent warm air from escaping the house and cold air from getting in. These dampers can easily be opened and closed by a cable that runs down the flue and attaches to the fireplace.
Don’t forget to close your damper
Even a perfectly working damper won’t do its job if people forget to close it when the fireplace isn’t in operation. This happens more often than you might think. A wide open damper on a cold day with no fire in the fireplace is a guarantee of huge amounts of lost heat and huge increases in the cost of keeping the house warm.
United Fireplace & Stove member stores across North America are here to help people get the most out of their fireplaces and stoves. To shop for a new heating unit and a full line of hearth accessories, contact a member store near you today.