Bracing for Winter: The Fireplace

The Providence Journal – By Andrea L. Stape

Make that heat-sucking hole in the wall more comforting to you and your budget

CUMBERLAND, RI — With heating costs this year expected to rise significantly compared with last winter, it’s time to turn that gaping brick hole in the living room into something other than a heat-sucking money pit.
Fireplaces are not heat sources. When they aren’t being used, they can leak warm air. And when they are being used, they are 90-percent inefficient because they “take heated room air, burn it and send it out the flue,” said Rich Davis, category manager of fireplaces for, a home-improvement Web site based in New Jersey.

“The masonary fireplace is an open window to the outside,” he said.

There are several things homeowners can do to stop their fireplaces from sending heating dollars out the chimney. And for those willing to invest some money, such as the Bousquets, it’s possible to actually turn those fireplaces into cost-effective heat sources.

To start, think of the fireplace as a doorway. Most fireplaces have a damper at the top of the firebox, which acts like the door. This should always be shut if the fireplace is not in use. Also important is to make sure that the seal along the damper is tight. Because it’s directly above the fire, the damper can become warped after long use.

If you don’t plan to use the fireplace, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests sealing the flue with a Fireplace Draftstopper.

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