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How to Turn your Inefficient Fireplace into an Efficient Alternative Heat Source

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efficient_fireplace_clean_sweeps_of_MI_ann_arbor_MIAccording to the National Association of Homebuilders fireplaces are one of the top three features new home buyers look for in a home. A warm, crackling fire is a welcoming and inviting addition to any living space during the cold months of winter. What many homeowners fair to realize, however, is that their fireplace may actually be losing more energy than it is creating.

As fireplaces and chimneys age, they may become more inefficient. As the warm air from a fire rises, cold air from outside can flow in, filling the room and negating the effects of the fire. Thankfully, there are several products available to homeowners to help improve the efficiency of their fireplaces, making them excellent sources of warmth all winter.

Fireplace inserts 

For many homeowners with traditional, wood burning fireplaces, a fireplace insert represents a low maintenance, high efficiency replacement option. Fireplace inserts are glass-fronted fireproof boxes that create a closed combustion system, trapping the hot air created by a fire before it can escape up a chimney. Inserts are able to efficiently heat a room, especially with the addition of a fireplace blower.

While fireplace inserts have traditionally been exclusively gas, they can now be powered by several different fuel sources including electricity, wood, pellets, or coal. This wider variety of choices gives homeowners the ability to choose an insert to better meet their needs. Although inserts are considered to be the most energy efficient choice for fireplaces, only inserts approved by the Environmental Protection Agency should be installed in residential homes. The EPA designation ensures that the fireplace insert has undergone rigorous testing regarding both its safety and efficiency.


Dampers, or the metal plate that separates a fireplace from the rest of the chimney, are designed to have a snug, airtight seal. Over time, dampers may lose their original seal, allowing cold air or moisture to enter a house through the chimney. Because they are exposed to both hot and cold air – as well as the elements – it is recommended that dampers should only be repaired or replaced by licensed professionals.

While closed dampers can prevent unwanted cold air from entering a room, dampers should always be left open when a fireplace is in use. Doing this prevents smoke and other harmful gasses from entering the home, allowing them to travel safely up the chimney instead.


Sometimes seen as only decorative, firebacks are large metal pieces placed at the back of a firebox. The primary purpose of a fireback is to reflect heat back into the room, preventing warm air from travelling up the chimney and out of the room. In addition, firebacks protect the fireplace masonry from damage from long-term exposure to fire and heat. Because of the ease of installation and the number of different styles they are available in, adding a fireback is a fast and easy way to improve the efficiency of an existing fireplace without undertaking a major remodel.

Fireplace doors 

Professionally fitted fireplace doors are an attractive, decorative way to seal their fireplace when not in use. Like firebacks, fireplace doors are available in a number of different styles and finishes, giving homeowners the ability to choose a style that fits their décor and budget.

Similar to the damper, fireplace doors should always remain open while the fireplace is in use. The primary way they improve efficiency is through a combination of preventing cold air from entering and warm air from leaving when the fireplace is not in use.