Winterize Your Chimney for Energy Efficiency
With winter just around the corner, millions of homeowners are getting ready to light their fireplaces for the first time in months. Unfortunately, most traditional masonry fireplaces are not very energy-efficient, losing up to 80 percent of the heat they generate. Whether the fire will keep your home warm and cozy or cool and drafty will depend on the efficiency of your fireplace and chimney. Here are a few things you can do to winterize your chimney and increase home energy efficiency.
Inspect the Chimney and Fireplace
The first step in winterizing your chimney is to schedule a chimney inspection. The top-to-bottom inspection will reveal any masonry cracks, flue liner damage, and other problems that could be negatively impacting the chimney and reducing energy efficiency. Throughout the winter, the masonry is often exposed to precipitation that frequently freezes and thaws during the day and night. This freeze-thaw effect can be detrimental as it accelerates the deterioration of bricks and mortar, leaving gaps in the chimney that allows air to escape and moisture to enter.
Clean the Flue
Operating a fireplace with a dirty flue is like driving a car with a dirty carburetor. They both reduce energy efficiency and increase pollution. The accumulation of by-products, dirt, and other debris in the flue inhibit air circulation and the venting of smoke and exhaust. Also, combustion gases are corrosive, especially when exposed to moisture, which can damage the flue liner, thus reducing energy efficiency. For best results, it is recommended to have a professional chimney sweep clean the flue annually. The chimney sweep will eliminate the creosote, soot, ash, and other debris collecting in the flue that will not only help prevent a chimney fire but will also increase your home energy efficiency.
Repair Masonry Damage
Masonry damage, including spalling bricks and gaps in the mortar joints, contributes to heat loss, reducing energy efficiency. In addition to heat loss, masonry damage can also allow moisture to leak inside the chimney, where it can cause extensive damage. When minor damage is caught early, usually through annual chimney inspections, they can often be repaired with a tuckpointing process that fills in the voids with a new mortar material. Making timely masonry repairs also reduces the risk of fire and exposure to harmful contaminants.
Install a Chimney Cap
A chimney cap is a simple device that can increase your home’s energy efficiency. It acts like a protective cover keeping small animals, pests, and debris from blocking the flue while allowing smoke and fumes to escape. If the cap is missing or damaged, pests and debris like leaves and twigs can clog the flue pipe. An open flue also increases the risk of a sudden downdraft. When this occurs, soot, ash, and carbon monoxide gas can get pushed down into the fireplace and out into the living space. The cold outside air will also chill the flue, further reducing heating efficiency.
Replace Worn Damper and Gasket
The damper plays an integral role in reducing energy loss. When the fireplace is not in use, the damper should form an airtight seal when shut to prevent air leaks. However, its proximity to the firebox can expose it to high temperatures causing it to warp around the edges. A worn rubber gasket can also prevent the damper from completely closing, allowing air to escape making your home feel drafty. Inspecting the damper and gasket regularly and replacing it when necessary is a simple way to increase home energy efficiency.