How efficient is an old fashioned fire place?

Wed 26th Jun 2013 - 3:02pm Energy and Heating How efficient is an old fashioned fire place?

Benjamin Clarke

In these times of environmental concern, the traditional open fireplace has lost some of its appeal but it is still a favourite for many people. There can be fewer more cosy settings than relaxing in front of a glowing real coal or log fire: this familiar picture brings back many precious memories to a lot of people. Today, there are still many benefits to having an open fireplace; but there are also several drawbacks that must be considered.

With energy prices increasing all the time, your fireplace needs to produce energy in a cost effective way. Tradition and cosy fireside scenes are all well and good, but we need to be practical also: in these times of austerity measures, cuts and price rises, inflation and unemployment, money is scarce, we could all do with making savings, producing less waste.

So just what are the facts, how efficient is an open fireplace compared to other means of generating heat, energy, and running a domestic central heating system.

First thing to realise about open fires is: when you have a fire going in the fireplace, it does in fact often pull warm air out of the room, this in turn means your central heating system needs to work harder to maintain the correct temperature. Fire dampers are very inefficient, and do little by way of keeping warm air within the home, and cold air out.

In some instances, instead of keeping heating costs down, you could actually be doing the exact opposite. But there are effective ways to take make sure the fireplace is working to its utmost capacity. There are a couple of simple and inexpensive things that you can do to turn your fireplace into a cost effect heat resource. These tips will help make your fireplace produce heat more cheaply.

The first thing to do is to take out your damper and replace it with a top sealing damper. This type of damper is fitted at the top of your chimney, and operates on the same system as a storm door. A top sealing damper is great for preserving warm air in the house during the cold winter months: and cool air from escaping in the summer months. These aren’t difficult to fit yourself, and can be easily purchased online.

Another effective heat retaining tip is fit a fire-back into the back of your fireplace. A fire back is made from cast iron plate that will add to the room decor, while at the same time protecting the back wall from damage. The fire-back itself is heated from the fire, providing even more heat in the room, again, improving the efficiency of your fireplace.

A chimney is designed to remove all the by products of combustion safely from the home to the outside air. To achieve this an updraft is created because the flue gases rising from the fire are lighter than the surrounding air. If these gases cool too quickly in the flue, or the flue itself is too small, or too large or encounters extreme, adverse wind pressure, the updraft is dramatically reduced, and leads to sluggish performance or fume emissions into the room, which is not only grimy and unpleasant, but can be extremely dangerous.

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