The Critical Jobs of a Chimney Damper
The chimney damper is a critical fireplace component for maintaining safe and efficient use. Its job is to prevent smoke and fumes from filling up in your home when using the fireplace. It also allows sufficient air (draft) to circulate in the flue to start and maintain a fire safely and seals the fireplace shut, preventing downdrafts and energy waste when not in use. It also helps keep small animals and pests from entering your home through the fireplace.
The Two Types of Chimney Dampers
The throat damper is the traditional chimney damper. It is a metal or cast-iron plate installed in the chimney’s throat, just above the firebox. A rubber gasket forms an airtight seal when the damper is closed. However, its proximity to the firebox makes throat dampers prone to creosote and soot build-up that can inhibit its operation without regular chimney cleaning. In addition, the intense heat, moisture intrusion, combustion gases, and oxidation can damage the damper and gasket, preventing it from opening or closing correctly.
A top-sealing or top-mount damper is installed at the top of the chimney, functioning as both a chimney damper and a chimney cap which is why it is often called a chimney cap damper. It prevents moisture, wildlife, pests, and debris from getting in the flue whether the damper is open or closed, eliminating the need for a separate chimney cap. When shut, a top-sealing damper prevents outside air from circulating in the flue, making it more energy-efficient than traditional throat dampers.
When to Open and Close the Damper
- Open the damper when starting a fire in the fireplace. It is hazardous to start a fire with a closed damper because smoke and carbon monoxide will fill up your living space. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that depletes oxygen and can be fatal. Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, and dizziness.
- Keep the damper open while the fire is burning in the fireplace so that the smoke and fumes will vent up the chimney. You can partially close the damper about one-third of the way to control the heat and flames, but don’t shut the damper entirely until the fire is out.
- After the fire is extinguished, close the damper to keep the heat in your living space.
- Close the damper when you’re not using the fireplace. It will prevent conditioned air in your home from escaping through the chimney and will also help keep small animals and pests from becoming uninvited house guests.
Signs Your Chimney Damper May Need Repair
Whether you have a traditional throat damper or a top-mount damper, it should open and close easily. A damper that is difficult to operate or doesn’t open or close fully are signs that the chimney damper may need repair or replacement. You may also notice the area near your fireplace is draftier than other areas of the home. Since a damaged damper can be hazardous and allow moisture and pests to get into the chimney system, it’s important to schedule chimney repairs with Certified Chimney Sweeps®, like Chimney Saver Solutions right away. Our trained and experienced technicians provide chimney damper repairs throughout Greater Richmond, VA, and surrounding areas. Schedule an appointment today.