How can your fireplace hurt your heating bill?

By Todd Fratzel on Energy Conservation

Chimney Balloons Save Energy

Chimney BalloonOn a cold winter eve who of us is not tempted to go to the living room and stoke up a fire in the fireplace and read a book in front of the crackling hearth? You may be thinking “I am doing myself a favor by supplementing the furnace with additional heat”. But the dark secret about your fireplace is, you are making your house colder, and making your heating bill rise. WP&L Energy stated in their newsletter that, “Using a fireplace each night can actually raise your monthly heating bill by about 20%.”

The reason for this is the air action that a fireplace initiates in our home is wasteful. The second the damper is opened, air that your furnace worked hard to heat begins pouring out of the top of the chimney. As the fire in the hearth accelerates, the combustion process grabs heated air from your home and burns the oxygen and combustible gasses in it. The heat that is created in this combustion quickly rises and grabs more heated inside air and tosses it up the chimney. While the fire burns the home is drawing in cold outside air from other places (i.e. windows, light sockets, doors, etc) to replace the air that is escaping the home through the chimney. This is referred to as the “stack effect”.

Fireplace Cutaway Showing Heat LossEven while the wood fireplace is not being used, the traditional metal dampers tend to leak air since they warp and degrade rapidly in the extreme heat and corrosive soot environment. The cold draft that comes out of a fireplace is an indicator that the damper is not sealing well. To correct this problem, I recommend a removable and reusable fireplace accessory called a Chimney Balloon fireplace damper. The Chimney Balloon inflates into place in the flue and seals it off to stop fireplace odor, heat loss and cold chimney draft. This inflatable fireplace damper is not a one-size fits-all item. It comes in hundreds of standard and custom size combinations that can fit any fireplace flue or damper configuration.

Chimney Balloon InstalledWood burning fireplaces are wonderful nostalgic centerpieces for many American homes. But a homeowner should be aware of the issues associated with fireplace use and keep them from being a home energy drain.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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3 Comments

  1. Aaron Klimchuk says:

    Wow! I’ve never heard of the chimney balloon before. Quite an ingenious product. I am one of those people that loves to get a fire going on cold winter nights, so I’ll be sure to try this here in the next few months.

  2. Joan McRedmond says:

    Can this ballon be used when the fire iss lighting?

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