Fireplace Efficiency

When considering a fireplace, you obviously want something that produces heat and looks great but in addition, you want an efficient fireplace. Today, you will find some great fireplaces designs coupled with new technologies to provide the highest level of efficiency possible. With this, you would enjoy a nice, toasty room and in many cases, actually reduce the cost of your monthly utility bill.

Weatherization Myth

Some people believe that conventional fireplaces work great with newer homes or those that have been weatherized, which is a myth. The truth is that these fireplaces can create significant problems with indoor air quality. Additionally, conventional fireplaces with a new or weatherized home could have horrible results, potentially causing serious injury or worse. The problem is that negative energy is produced, which is a bad problem.

Wood Types

Throughout the country, fireplaces have long been a part of the home design for hundreds of years. In fact, in many regions of the country, a home without a fireplace is considered uncommon. To understand efficiency, you need to know what you should and should not do when burning a fire. For instance, some people believe that any type of wood can be burned, which is untrue. Green wood would cause a tremendous amount of smoke while not producing much, if any, of a fire. In addition, some types of woods burn slow or cause smoke so you always want to choose quality wood.

Fireplace Position

The position of where the fireplace is built is also an important factor. For instance, you should not have the fireplace directly across from the home's thermostat. In this case, if you do not have any type of windows or glass doors, what happens is the infrared radiation of the fireplace becomes confused, believing the house is warm. However, the heat from the fire is simply fooling the thermostat, making it register as if the entire home were being heated.

Outside Air Supply

Another myth is that house air requirements do not matter. The truth is that a fireplace needs its own dedicated outside air supply. If not, and if the fireplace were not sealed tight from the house, in conditions of high excess air, the fireplace will actually use as much as 1.4 air changes per hour of heated air. This means warm air from the house is being pushed right back out through the chimney, costing you excessive money.

Heat Exchange

Finally, you will also hear about heat exchange, which can be confusing. Keep in mind that conventional fireplaces have few ways of collecting heat from the flue gases and flame, thus transferring the heat to the interior of the home. Many times, the only way for the heat exchange to occur is by using firebricks in the chamber. Sometimes, people believe this is the case for all types of fireplaces but in fact, prefabricated fireplaces are usually designed with a second wall, which helps with heat exchange into the house.

Problems Hindering Efficient Use

Are you tired of using your fireplace only to find its level of efficiency is less than it should be? If so, you have a number of options that can help. Although you could always have a professional come out to perform an analysis, we suggest you consider things you can do yourself first, saving you money and possibly time.

Poor Heat Transfer

For starters, a common efficiency problem has to do with poor methods of heat transfer going into the home. Typically, a fireplace that has a convective passage around the casing would not be as effective. Because of this, you will find a number of manufacturers that are now installing fans to help circulate the air. Just keep in mind that while these fans work, they also use a good amount of electrical energy. When looking at fans, you want something that is energy efficient. Additionally, we recommend you go with quality to avoid excessive noise.

Excess Air

Then, you might find that your fireplaces uses excess tramp air, especially if it has glass doors. To help reduce this air, the problem is that the fireplace is probably not fitted tightly. Although the fireplace can still operate, even burning longer because of the air being supplied to the fire, you are likely losing heat into the home. In this case, you may need to consider different doors. The reason is that tempered doors do not hold heat, making them safe. However, these doors also do not transmit infrared radiation, meaning heat to the home is significantly reduced.

Incomplete Combustion

You may also find your fireplace being inefficient due to incomplete combustion. When this happens, two things happen to affect the efficiency of the fireplace. First, high excess heat develops, which is a serious problem affecting the efficient operation of the fireplace. Second, due to the incomplete combustion products, volatiles in the wood actually bypass the flame, moving directly up the chimney. As a result, you lose even more efficiency, not to mention the new problem of pollution that seeps indoors while affecting the air outside.


Finally, if your fireplace has a leak, then you are not getting the full benefit of the fire. For example, a masonry fireplace chimney has a cross section of tiles, which represents an area of leakage for air escaping from a heated home. The main problem with this is that the leakage can occur while the fireplace is in use or not being used. Although a damper is designed to help cut off leaking cold air from the outside, these too are usually not effective. The better solution would be to have a rooftop damper installed, giving your chimney a complete seal so air is not leaked into the home or hot air leaked out.

Other Alternatives

Today, just about every home in North America has at least one fireplace. While sometimes the fireplaces are used for romantic nights at home or an occasional party, other people use the fireplace as a vital means of heating the home. Regardless of the reason, or how often your fireplace is used, you want the most efficient fire possible, which means a warm home but also a safe home.

Airtight Wood Stoves

The exciting thing about fireplaces is that new developments have taken place over the years to include better materials and improved technologies. For instance, airtight wood stoves are a huge seller and when designed well, they can heat an entire home. Typically, the stoves are designed to transfer heat via long-wave radiation. When it comes to warming up a home, to include walls, floors, and even furniture, an airtight wood stove is one of the most effective choices you have.

Wood-Combustion Designs

Then for conventional fireplaces, which have long had efficiency issues, you have solutions here as well. For example, new, wood-combustion designs are made to preheat both primary and secondary combustion air, as well as any insulated combustion zone. This means you have an airtight fireplace with special doors and glass windows made from pyroceramic to help transit infrared radiation. The good part of this option is that these designs can be built in similar to that of a zero-clearance fireplace, or if you prefer, retrofitted into an existing entry for a fireplace.

Pellet Fireplaces

Another great way to enjoy an efficient fireplace is with a pellet unit or masonry heater. Pellet fireplaces are small but very effective. Made from wood, as well as other biomass wastes, these pellets actually create significant heat without polluting indoor or outdoor air. Although the pellet fireplaces might be more expensive than some of the advanced combustion fireplaces, they are an excellent investment. The key thing to remember in this case is that you have to continue buying pellets, which are more expensive than traditional wood.

Masonry Heaters

Then for masonry heaters, these fireplaces are considered a favorite throughout Northern Europe and although not widely used in the United States, their popularity is growing. With this, wood would burn for approximately two hours at a very high rate. From there, flue gasses go through the masonry in a specific path that helps remove but also store heat. From there, the stored heat is dispensed throughout the house over a 22-hour period. Again, you have many different options but without doubt, these mentioned are some of the most efficient.