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9 Tips to Keep Your Fireplace Running Efficiently This Winter

Relaxing near the fireplace

Do you love the warm glow of your fireplace on a cold winter night, but wish it could warm your home more efficiently? While most homeowners don’t count on their fireplaces as a primary source of heat, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be nice to turn the main thermostat down a bit and save some money on your heating bills.

Fortunately, there are some great ways to improve your fireplace’s efficiency and keep your home cozier throughout the winter. Here are our best tips for getting the most from your fireplace this winter.

1. Use Only Seasoned Firewood

Whether you’re cutting your own firewood or getting it from a local source, it’s important that the wood you load into your fireplace has had time to dry, or season. Firewood that has not had time to properly season (green wood), creates excess smoke and won’t produce as much heat.

It typically takes 6 to 12 months for freshly cut wood to dry and season properly. Properly seasoned firewood should contain 20% moisture or less.

You can check the moisture content of your wood with a wood moisture meter, which typical costs less than $20. It’s also a good idea to test any wood you plan to purchase to ensure it is ready to burn.

To keep wood dry, store it off the ground, split-side down, to allow air circulation around the wood. Be sure to cover stacked wood with a tarp to protect it from rain and snow.

2. Start Your Fire the Right Way

While starting a fire might seem simple enough, there is a technique to building a strong-burning fire that produces more heat, using less wood. Here are some tips to get your fire started right:

  1. Start Small – First, make sure all of the air controls on your fireplace are open before you start the fire to provide the air your fire needs to grow. Start with shredded newspaper and small pieces of kindling. After you’ve loaded the newspaper and kindling, add one or two logs on top, then light it.
  2. Let the small fire grow until it is roaring before adding additional wood.
  3. When you’re ready to add more wood, be sure to keep space between the firewood to encourage air flow and keep the fire burning.

3. Maintain Proper Airflow

Be sure to regularly remove the ashes from your fireplace in order to maintain airflow and keep your wood burning efficiently. This provides a lot more heat. Store the ashes outdoors in a metal container with a cover to prevent smoldering ashes from igniting carpets, curtains, or other household items.

4. Circulate the Heat

While fireplaces provide a lot of heat in the immediate vicinity, they don’t radiate heat throughout a room without a little help. To circulate that heat throughout the room and make your home more comfortable, use a ceiling fan set to rotate counterclockwise on a low speed setting. As warm air rises, the ceiling fan will push the air down the walls and towards the floor, helping to circulate it throughout the room.

5. Add Glass Doors

Open fireplaces are notorious for drawing warm air out of the room and up through the chimney. This can make your room feel colder, even when you have a nice fire going. To minimize heat loss, consider replacing your fireplace’s screen with tempered glass doors. Keeping the doors closed while the fire is burning will increase the temperature in the chimney, effectively reducing the draft and keeping more heat in your room. For best results, be sure that the doors are tightly fitted and sealed with a fiberglass gasket.

6. Consider a Fireplace Insert

You can improve the efficiency of your fireplace tenfold by installing a fireplace insert. Similar to wood stoves, fireplace inserts are made from cast iron or steel and designed to radiate heat from the fire out into the room. The insert turns your fireplace into a closed chamber that can be vented so that it draws air from the outside instead of from the room, keeping the room much more comfortable. Inserts also get hotter and stay hot much longer, providing much more heat than the fireplace can on its own.

7. Fireplace Retrofitting

If you prefer the beauty of an open fireplace, you can still improve efficiency by retrofitting your existing fireplace, essentially adding a new fireplace to your existing space. New fireplaces are often less drafty and more efficient than older models. Plus, retrofitting is also a great way to upgrade the look of your fireplace at the same time.

At LanChester Grill & Hearth, we specialize in fireplace retrofit installation throughout Chadds Ford, Downingtown, Exton, Lancaster, Reading, West Chester, PA and Wilmington, DE. Most of our fireplace retrofits are installed in a single day and are quite affordable, too.

8. Close the Dampers When Your Fireplace Is Not in Use

Keep more heat in your room when the fireplace isn’t being used by closing the damper. The damper is a hinged metal plate that sits right above the throat of the chimney and controls the flow of smoke and air from the fireplace and through the chimney.

To close the damper, locate the lever on the front of your fireplace and move it to the closed position. Be sure to open it again when you’re ready to start your next fire.

9. Service Your Fireplace & Chimney Annually

Properly maintaining your fireplace and chimney not only improves efficiency, but also keeps your family safer.

Soot buildup in the flue lining of your chimney can reduce the draft and hinder wood burning. Soot and ash buildup in the fireplace can also affect the heat transfer rate by as much as 50% with just one-tenth of an inch of layered soot.

Creosote buildup in your chimney, a by-product of the wood burning process, can also hinder efficiency and creates a fire hazard.

For best results, have your fireplace and chimney cleaned by a professional at least once a year, shortly after you stop using your fireplace in the spring.

As you can see, there are many ways to improve the efficiency of your fireplace to keep your home cozier throughout the winter. Using seasoned firewood, starting your fire properly, circulating heat with a ceiling fan, and having your fireplace and chimney cleaned regularly are great ways to get started.

But if you’re looking for even more efficiency, and you live in eastern PA or the Wilmington, DE area, LanChester Grill & Hearth is here to help you get the most from your fireplace this season and beyond. Be sure to visit our showroom in Gap, PA to talk with our knowledgeable staff and see our great selection of fireplaces and inserts.