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Fired Up - are your dollars going up the chimney?

An open masonry fireplace can result in higher overall heating costs because it can actually cool the air in your house. What should you look for in an efficient wood-burning fireplace? 

The fireplace opening attracts heated indoor air, then releases the warm air through the chimney. The resulting vacuum draws cold outdoor air into your house through windows, doors and gaps. You may feel comfortable in front of the fireplace, but your heat pump or furnace runs like crazy trying to keep the rest of the house warm.

    Every efficient wood-burning fireplace or insert will have tight-sealing glass doors between the room and the chimney to block the loss of already heated room air. When used properly, the efficiency of a good fireplace can be higher than that of an old furnace.

    A heat-circulating fireplace provides the best efficiency and most heated air output. Many of these operate without a fan and rely on the natural flow of room air around a superhot firebox. If you want more heat output and better control of the flow of heated air, install an optional blower kit, which can usually be added after installing the fireplace.

    For the greatest efficiency and least amount of draft indoors, install an outdoor combustion air kir with the fireplace. Make this decision before you install the fireplace because a duct has to run to it to bring in the outdoor air. It is often run under the floor to the front of the firebox.

    Airtight fireplace inserts are often the most efficient design and provide the longest burn time on a load of firewood and the greatest maximum heat output.

    Questions? Send them to James Dulley at


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