Total Chimney Care's Blog

Chimney Dampers and How a Top Sealing Damper Can Help You

With rising energy costs, we know you want to do everything you can to save money on heating this winter. An excellent way to reduce the loss of energy is by installing a chimney damper. Chimney dampers are installations which seal off the flue of your fireplace, preventing heat (or cool) from escaping your home. There are several types of chimney dampers, some which are installed at the throat of your chimney close to the fireplace, and some which are installed on the exterior of your chimney. No matter which you choose, you’ll experience a marked difference in the amount of heat lost through your chimney system.

Open damperWhat is a chimney damper? 

If you’ve ever used the fireplace in your home, chances are you’ve used the chimney damper, perhaps not even knowing it. A chimney damper is an installation which is opened to allow smoke to exit your home, and closed to seal your chimney when the fireplace is not in use. A damper’s primary function is to prevent the loss of valuable (and expensive) heat and air conditioning through your chimney, but serves other purposes as well. One benefit of a chimney damper is to prevent animals, droppings and debris from the outdoors from entering your home through your flue. Another benefit is to prevent moisture from accumulating in your chimney, which can actually cause structural damage to your chimney system. The area in which you live can be a determining factor in deciding which type of damper to install in your home; ask your service technician what she recommends for your location.

What are the types of chimney dampers? 

While there are many variations of each, there are essentially two types of chimney dampers: chimney throat dampers and chimney cap dampers. Chimney throat dampers are installed directly above your fireplace, and chimney cap dampers are installed at the very top of the chimney. Chimney cap dampers are excellent devices for preventing the entry of animals into your warm and inviting fireplace, and also serve as a barrier to protect against the entry of rain and other elements. Chimney cap dampers may need to be left open, however, as your fireplace smolders, leaving your fireplace susceptible to the elements.

Which damper should I choose? 

There are several variations in dampers, including cost, ease of installation and efficiency. No matter which you choose, always have your damper installed by a professional, certified technician. Failure to do so can put your home and family in unnecessary danger. Choose a damper with a rubber or rubber-like seal, which will “lock” your chimney airtight, preventing drafts through the chimney. This seal will keep the elements out and the air conditioning in. Most older models are cast iron, and will not effectively save energy. Do shop according to budget, but realize that sometimes you get what you pay for. A low cost damper can also mean a low quality damper, causing a cost in energy bills which will more than offset the savings on the damper’s price. Finally, be sure to consult with your technician regarding what damper is best for your climate, location and the structure of your fireplace. He can recommend a product to you which will save you money in the long run.

At Total Chimney Care, we service and install all types of dampers. So if you have questions about your damper or would like to upgrade to a top sealing damper, contact us today.

By Steve Sobczak on August 21st, 2014 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Turn Up the Heat!

Good Draft = Good Performance

Traditional fireplaces create a comforting ambiance on a cold winter day, but the warmth, unfortunately, is usually more show than substance.  The explanation is 100% science-based really.  We’re all aware that hot air rises; as such, the majority of the heat produced by your fire attempts to escape through your chimney.  Not only that, this fleeing hot air creates an updraft that sucks even more warm air up and out of the room.  If you really want to maximize the heat output of your fireplace, keep reading.

Burning dry, seasoned wood is one way to maximize safety and performance.

Burning dry, seasoned wood is one way to maximize safety and performance.

Start with Good Materials

An easy first step to increasing the performance of your fireplace is to burn seasoned firewood.  Freshly cut (green) wood burns inefficiently and produces large amounts of smoke with little to no real heat to speak of.  The majority of the heat energy produced from burning the wood is used to evaporate the excess moisture in the wood rather than going into heating your home; this excess moisture also attempts to put the fire out as it’s burning.  Seasoned wood, on the other hand, has had ample time to dry and burns much more efficiently than its green counterparts.

Once you’ve got your seasoned firewood arranged in the fireplace, you can open the damper as wide as possible to increase the amount of air to the fire.  More science: this will improve the combustion and increase the amount of heat produced by the fire.  It’s important to note, however, that one drawback to this increased combustion is that your wood will ultimately burn faster (loosely translated, you’ll have to add seasoned wood more often to get a continuous flow of heat).

Keep It Going

Having your chimney inspected and cleaned by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep yearly can also make it possible to boost your heating performance, as the process removes creosote buildup inside that can significantly restrict air flow.  Once your fireplace and chimney have been cleaned, you can replace the screen in front of the fireplace with tempered glass doors, and keep the doors closed while the fire is burning.  Doing this will increase the temperature of the fire in your fireplace and reduce the amount of warm air that the fire draws from the room.

Following the steps mentioned above will enable your fireplace to provide your home with more heat than it might otherwise produce.  We take pride in the service we provide to each and every one of our customers.  Take a minute to call or ask one of our technicians what is available for your particular unit that can help it last longer and/or perform better.  One call is all it takes!

 

By Steve Sobczak on November 30th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment

Help! My Fireplace is Too Smoky!

There’s nothing that’s quite as relaxing in the dead of winter as a nice roaring fire in your fireplace; a nice sense of calm floods your body.  You start to forget about the unkind words you received from your co-worker.  Finding out that little Timmy is failing three classes suddenly becomes a little less stressful.  Now, imagine how quickly that sense of calm would vacate the premises if you suddenly realized that the time you just spent to get that roaring fire going in your fireplace was a waste because your room was beginning to fill with smoke.

Blockages in your chimney can contribute to improper draft which results in a smoky fireplace.

Blockages in your chimney can contribute to improper draft which results in a smoky fireplace.

Fireplaces that smoke are simply, for whatever reason, not pulling the smoke up the chimney as they should.  There are a lot of possibilities when this happens.  Sometimes there is a blockage; perhaps a bird has decided to build a nest and make your chimney home.  Sometimes a large tree in your yard can grow over your chimney and impede the airflow.  Perhaps the opening of your fireplace is simply too large for the size of your flue, which results in smoke taking the path of least resistance and overflowing back into your home.

The issue could also be that there is a downdraft caused by air movement off of your roof.  If you’re making home improvements and add storm windows on your house to make it more air tight, this could result in your fireplace being unable to get enough combustion air; this would result in the smoke spilling back into your house.  Needless to say, the causes of the smoke are more numerous than you may have originally thought.

Cold air is far denser than warm air; hence the reason warm air typically rises.  Based on this little science factoid, one would assume that the warm air should always rise out of your chimney, taking the smoke produced right along with it.  Creating a warm air siphon will allow the fire to burn properly and draw correctly.  The quick and easy fix for this would be to crack a window in the same room as your fireplace to increase the pressure in the room, thereby causing the warm air to be drawn up the chimney and taking the smoke out of the house.  If this isn’t successful, you might also want to consider preheating your flue system by rolling up a few newspapers and lighting them in the fireplace.  Making sure your damper is propped open is another easy way to make sure the smoke has a way of escaping.

Unless you’re hanging out backstage at a Willie Nelson concert, being in a room full of smoke probably isn’t your idea of a good time.  The good news is that there are steps you can take to remedy these situations.  You can get a tutor for little Timmy, and you can take the steps listed above to hopefully get the smoke to vacate your home.  If all else fails, call the professionals!

By Steve Sobczak on October 17th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , | Leave a Comment