A fireplace is a cozy and effective way to stay warm during the winter months, and provided you use it responsibly, it can also be a safe and efficient heating option. In addition to an annual inspection, these simple tips will keep your fireplace burning safely and efficiently all winter long.
- Keep the glass doors open when a fire is burning. This will direct heat into your living space rather than allowing it to escape through the chimney. To prevent sparks from entering your living space, use a fireplace screen instead of closing the doors.
- Have a chimney cap installed. A chimney cap will reduce downdrafts and prevent rain, snow and various objects from falling into your chimney. Stainless steel caps are preferable to galvanized metal because they won’t rust.
- Install a sealed damper. Dampers prevent heat loss, but a poorly sealed one won’t do a very good job. Top-mounted dampers also function as rain caps.
- Keep the damper closed when you’re not using your fireplace. This will keep warm indoor air from escaping through your chimney, Open the damper only when the fireplace is in use.
- Burn dry, cured firewood and nothing else. Use wood that has been split, stacked and dried for 8 to 12 months. Keep your wood pile covered on top to keep it dry, but leave the sides open for air flow. Avoid burning lumber, crates, painted wood, construction scraps or other treated wood, as these can release chemicals into your home and reduce air quality.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These are essential safety items whether you use a fireplace or not. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be located in bedroom areas as well as the room where your fireplace is located.
- Have your chimney cleaned at least once a year. If you burn more than 3 cords of wood annually, you should have your chimney cleaned twice a year.
- Build a fire slowly. Add more wood as the fire heats, and keep the damper all the way open at first to increase draw. Occasionally burning the fire hot with the damper completely open will keep smoke from lingering and prevent creosote from developing.