Typical fireplaces trade energy saving for ambiance

Tobie Blanchard, Reichel, Claudette Hanks  |  1/4/2011 1:07:32 AM

News Release Distributed 01/05/10

A roaring fire in the fireplace may sound like the perfect escape from the bitter cold weather in Louisiana. But while a fireplace can offer ambiance, it won’t raise the temperature much in your home, and it could raise your energy costs.

“From an energy standpoint the typical fireplace is actually a loser rather a help in conserving energy, if you are also using your furnace at the same time,” said Claudette Reichel, LSU AgCenter housing specialist.

A fire needs air to feed it, and Reichel said most fireplaces draw that air from inside the home.

“It’s sending your furnace-heated air up the chimney, which causes more cold air to leak into the home to make up for it,” she said. This makes your heater work harder to warm up the rest of the house and can result in a larger energy bill.

Reichel recommends a fireplace with an outside source of combustion air. These types of fireplaces have either a duct that comes in from the outside or a double-pipe flue. They also have a fireplace door or a sealed chamber that keeps the fire from using indoor air.

“Besides being more energy-efficient, these fireplaces also are safer for indoor air quality. It cannot back-draft,” she said.

While it may seem counterintuitive, Reichel said the best time to use your fireplace is when it’s not very cold. If you do use your standard fireplace, the specialist recommends turning off your furnace and closing off rooms not in use. Put a small crack in a window near the fireplace so the fire will draw in the air coming from outside.

When you are done with the fire, extinguish it as quickly as possible.

“You can’t close the flue until all the embers have died, and an open flue will continue to create a draft in the house,” Reichel said.

Reichel also offered a few safety tips. She suggested each winter having a professional inspect the chimney to make sure there is no creosote build-up which could cause a chimney fire.

Also have protection in front of the fire to keep flying embers from reaching flammable materials.

Tobie Blanchard
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