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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

The fire inside

Posted by Jason Haupt - Energy

I could spend hours sitting in front of a fire. I love everything about a good fire - the smell of the wood as it burns, the soft roar and periodic pops, and the way the flames dance in the hearth.  It is mesmerizing.  However, that fire does more than just entertain. It provides heat and can make any room more comfortable and welcoming.

Fires are cozy and can provide a lot of heat for a room or most of the house, depending on how your home is designed. In fact, heating by fire can be less expensive than using electricity. Many fireplaces in homes are often just space heaters, but are much more cost effective than an electric space heater.  Fireplaces offer many benefits, but they can also be a possible source of heat loss in the colder months.  Take a few steps to reduce the potential heat loss.

  • Keep your fireplace damper closed unless you have a fire burning. Having the damper open can cause a lot of heat loss in the home. Chimneys function on the principal of hot air rising to draw the smoke out of the house. Even when a fire is not burning, the air in the chimney will cause the warm air in the room to rise through the chimney and draw cooler air into the room or the house, reducing the efficiency of your home.
  • Check the seal on the fireplace flue damper. Make sure the seal is good and tight. Although not as bad as leaving the damper open, it will still allow for heat loss in the home.
  • Check the hearth and make sure that there is not an air leak around the hearth. Many fireplaces are located on an outer wall or go into an unconditioned space. This is a potential for heat loss and is easily fixed by putting some caulking around the fireplace hearth.
  • If you do not use your fireplace, consider plugging and sealing the chimney flue. This will help to eliminate any potential heat loss. An alternate option would be to install a sealed fireplace that has an air exchanger. This will seal the room off from the chimney but still allow you to have a fire. An added bonus is that there is no clean up involved with this type of fire. The downside would be that there is no smell of wood smoke from the fire.
  • Make sure your stove or fireplace is in good condition. This has less to do with efficiency and more to do with safety. Cleaning and maintaining the fireplace or stove will make it more efficient by allowing air to move more efficiently, but having buildup in the chimney can be dangerous as well.

Fireplaces and wood stoves are a great, efficient, and inexpensive way of heating a room and making it more comfortable.

For more information about home efficiency, please contact Jason Haupt (


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