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Tips For Starting A Cold Fireplace

As outside temperatures get colder, it becomes more difficult to effectively start your fireplace. In addition to having trouble keeping kindling lit, many homeowners experience problems with smoke blow-back or poor drafting for several minutes after the fire is started. Caused by what is known as a “cold fireplace,” these performance issues can often be easily remedied. The following tips can help you better start a fire in your cold fireplace!

Tips For Starting A Cold Fireplace Image - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps of MichiganUse the right firewood.

Not all wood is created equal. The kind of firewood you use can have a major impact on fireplace performance. This includes how efficiently your fire burns, how much heat it gives off, or how much smoke is produced. To maximize fireplace performance, homeowners should try to only use seasoned hardwoods. These include ash, birch, and oak in their indoor fireplaces. Wood should be seasoned for at least six months. This is to remove the maximum amount of moisture. The lower the moisture content in the wood, the less smoke is produced and the more efficiently it burns. Freshly cut wood, as well as soft woods such as firs and pines, are slow to ignite. They also burn sluggishly and create more smoke. To start your fire quickly, intermix kindling with your stack of firewood. This helps all the wood ignite quickly instead of one log at a time.

Open the damper all the way.

Many homeowners have fallen prey to the old wives’ tale that a partially open damper is best when starting a fire. However, the opposite is true. Partially closing the damper can cause more smoke to blow back into your home. Opening the damper fully allows fresh air to be drawn down the chimney. This helps to draft the smoke and gas from the fire up and out. For effective fire safety, keep the damper completely open from when the first kindling is lit until the last coal has extinguished.

Warm the flue.

Warming the flue is one of the most effective ways to successfully start a cold fireplace. The air temperature outside is drastically different than the air temperature inside during the winter. Due to this, it can be difficult for a fireplace to properly draft between the warm and cold air. Without warming the flue, the cold air in the chimney will drop as the warm air from the fire begins to rise. This can push any smoke and gas back down the chimney and into your home. While this problem often corrects itself after several minutes, it can leave you coughing. It also creates a smoky odor in your home and even stain your furnishings or décor.

To warm the flue, place a small bundle of lit kindling or newspaper under the open damper for several minutes. Taking the time to complete this step can slowly warm the air in the flue, preventing the smoke blow-back when the main logs are lit.

Starting a cold fireplace in the winter doesn’t have to be a chore! By following these tips, you can get a great fire every time, no matter the temperature outside. For more information on starting a cold fireplace, contact Clean Sweeps of Michigan today!

Extra Protection with a Top Sealing Damper

Extra Protection with a Top Sealing Damper - Ann Arbor MI - Clean Sweeps of MIKeeping moisture, debris, and animals out of your chimney is the most important thing you can do to extend the life of your fireplace system. Many homeowners, however, worry that their chimney caps are not doing enough to protect their fireplace systems.

One of the most recent innovations in the fireplace industry – the top sealing damper – was designed as a way to provide extra protection to your chimney system. Not only can top sealing dampers protect your chimney as well as if not better than a chimney cap, but they can also help save money by improving the efficiency of your fireplace system.

What makes top sealing dampers different?

Most homes have fireplaces with throat dampers. Throat dampers are located at the top of the firebox and separate the firebox from the rest of the flue. While the throat damper seals off the firebox, the rest of the chimney is left exposed. Because of this, chimney caps are needed to protect the top of the flue from animals, water, and debris.

Top sealing dampers, however, are able to seal off the entire chimney structure from the outside, not just the firebox. Located at the top of the flue, when closed top sealing dampers prevent animals, debris, and moisture from getting into the fireplace system. Unlike chimney caps, whose mesh sides can be damaged or pulled away by animals seeking entrance, the seal created by top sealing dampers is nearly impossible to break.

Top sealing dampers and efficiency

In addition to protecting your fireplace, top sealing dampers are also popular because of the energy savings they can provide. Because traditional throat dampers leave the chimney structure open to the outside, the air temperature in the chimney can fluctuate based on outside temperature. This can affect the air temperature is surrounding rooms, causing your HVAC system to have to work harder to keep a consistent indoor air temperature.

Because top sealing dampers close off the entire chimney system, the air temperature in the chimney remains more consistent. This, in turn, keeps your thermostat from running due to reaction to air temperature changes, saving you money on utilities.

How to use a top sealing damper


This clip is courtesy of Richie Baxley at Environmental Chimney Service in Asheville NC.

Just like a traditional throat damper, top sealing dampers must be opened when the fireplace is in use to prevent smoke and gasses like carbon monoxide from building up in your home. To use a top sealing damper, a lever or pulley in the firebox is used to open the damper before fireplace use. Once the fire is completely extinguished, the damper can be safely closed.

Some homeowners worry that top sealing dampers leave their chimney exposed when they are open. However, because top sealing dampers should only be opened when the fireplace is in use, the rising smoke and hot air act as a natural deterrent to animals such as birds and small mammals. Likewise, many top sealing dampers are designed to keep large animals such as raccoons out even when open.

Even if your home as a well-sealed throat damper, a top sealing damper can provide an additional layer of protection. Contact Clean Sweeps of Michigan today to learn how a top sealing damper can protect your chimney and help save you money!

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