7 Tips to Make Your Fireplace as Energy Efficient as Possible

A fireplace with flames and a log.

A roaring fire is a great way to stay warm during those cold winter months, but you might be surprised to learn that fireplaces are not an efficient way to heat a home. In fact, a typical open fireplace is less than 15% efficient, which means over 85% of the heat escapes through the chimney. Fortunately, you can make your fireplace much more efficient by following these seven simple steps.

1. Buy a Top Sealing Damper

A top sealing damper on a chimney.

The most common form of a damper in a fireplace is known as a throat damper. Top sealing dampers, however, are more efficient because they seal the chimney at the very top, which prevents unwanted debris or small animals from entering the flue. The damper also helps keep the outside air from entering the house and vice versa. If the throat damper in your fireplace is old and in need of repair, consider replacing it altogether with a top sealing variety. Not only are these more energy-efficient, but they are also easy to install.

2. Insert a Fireback

Adding a cast iron fireback is a great way to get more heat out of your fireplace. The fireback works by absorbing the fire’s heat and returning it into the room. The fireback also protects the back wall of the fireplace and can even add a great deal to the overall aesthetic of the unit.

3. Install Glass Doors

A modern fireplace encased in glass.

One of the biggest investments you can make is installing glass doors. These doors section off the fireplace from the rest of the room, which makes it easier to heat up. They also reduce the flow of air going into the chimney while still releasing heat into the house. Glass doors are also a great safety measure if you have pets or children that roam close to the fire. For wood burning fireplaces, it's a good idea to buy doors that come equipped with a screen mesh. The mesh will allow you to open the doors, but not worry about embers flying into the room from the fire.

4. Use a Heater Systems

A heater system works by circulating fresh air from inside the house into the fireplace. The air is heated by the fire and a blower sends it back into the house. These types of systems are usually closed, which prevents smoke from entering the house through the blower. Heater systems come in a lot of shapes and sizes, but a quality one should have little trouble heating an entire room all by itself.

5. Burn the Right Wood

A stack of firewood.

When you burn wood in the fireplace, make sure it's not freshly cut. You should only burn wood that has been seasoned or been dried in the sun for at least six months. Burning fresh wood creates more smoke than burning dry wood and leaves behind a coat of resin in the chimney, which cuts down on efficiency.

6. Seal the Fireplace During Summer

The fireplace should be properly sealed during the warmer months. This will help ensure none of the conditioned air inside the home escapes through the chimney when it's not in use. You can seal the fireplace with inflatable plugs. These plugs are easy to install and are very affordable. Many chimneys come equipped with a lock at the bottom that serves the same purpose, so make sure you double-check your fireplace before purchasing plugs.

7. Install a Proper Insert

A man installing a fireplace insert.

The only true way to make your fireplace as energy-efficient as possible is to install an insert. An insert is pretty much just a wood stove with a steel liner that rests inside the chimney, but it's much more efficient than a traditional fireplace, especially if you buy one that has the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s stamp of approval. The one downside to installing inserts is cost. They typically run well over a thousand dollars, but they will pay for themselves in the long run.