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Making Wood Burning Fireplaces Efficient

Wood burning fireplaces are typically ill efficient when heating a home. The large chimney opening combined with a large fireplace will draw most of the fire's heat outside with the smoke. Older chimneys, with metal dampers, may cause cold air to fall back down through chimney when no fire is burning in the fireplace. Regardless of age, all fireplaces can be made more efficient when burning wood. Increasing efficiency means that more of the fire's heat will be radiated back into the home.

Metal damper
Glass doors
Grate heaters
Fireplace insert

Replace older metal dampers with a new efficient model. While the damper does nothing  for increasing the wood burning efficiency, newer models will seal off the chimney when no fire is present. This in turn reduces the overall amount of cold air falling down a chimney in winter weather.

Install a set of wood burning-fireplace rated glass doors. The doors prevent large amounts of  warm air from being drawn up the chimney when the fire is burning. Most glass doors come with small air regulation vents to control the amount of combustible air. Heat is then radiated through the special glass back into the room.

Use a set of grate heaters. The grate heater actually holds the fire in a cradle of metal tubes. Cold air is drawn in through the lower tube openings. Hot air is then pushed out at the top. The upper hot tubes generally protrude slightly past the mantle of the fireplace. This arrangement pushes the hot air into the room.
Use an approved fireplace insert. A fireplace insert is perhaps the most energy efficient way to burn wood in a fireplace. The thick steel unit mimics a freestanding woodstove for efficiency. If needed, the large doors open up to reveal the fire inside, much like a traditional fireplace. Special considerations may be required for the proper installation of a fireplace insert. Consult a certified technician for details.

Words to the Wise:
Consult local home regulations as some restrictions may apply in some areas of the country concerning wood burning fireplaces and devices.