For centuries, chimneys have diligently served as the heart of a warm home. A fireplace creates a cozy atmosphere that’s inviting and relaxing and is a perfect gathering spot for the family to make memories. But in a world of thermostats and high energy bills, are they relics of the past, or can they still be energy-efficient partners? 

Keep reading to learn more about your chimney and it could be helping – or hurting – your wallet. If you have questions about improving the efficiency of your fireplace or wood stove, reach out to Northeastern Masonry & Chimney by calling us at 518-333-7231.

Understanding Chimneys & Energy Efficiency

Despite their reputation as heat producers, fireplaces are often the culprit behind surging energy bills. Even when a fire isn’t lit, a chimney can act as a natural ventilation system. Warm air constantly rises, pulling air from your home – up the chimney and out. Cold air then rushes in, replacing the warm air you’ve carefully heated. This constant exchange can significantly increase your heating expenses. 

When you do want to enjoy a fire, you could be contributing to the inefficiency problem. Fireplaces need air to burn, and that air comes from inside your home. In modern houses, this can create a competition for air which forces your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to work harder, thereby increasing your energy bill

What Can Affect Chimney Efficiency?

Several factors can affect chimney efficiency, all of which relate to how well the chimney allows smoke and fumes to vent and keeps fresh air flowing in to fuel the fire. These are some of the biggest contributors:

  • The size of the flue. A chimney flue is a vertical duct that runs from the firebox to the top of the chimney. It allows smoke, gases, and other combustion byproducts to safely exit a home. The flue needs to be the appropriate size for the appliance it’s venting. An improperly sized flue can lead to poor drafts and cause inefficiency.
  • The height of the chimney. A tall chimney may be a striking statement piece for your home, but it could also be a key solution to those eye-popping energy bills. Taller chimneys create a stronger draft which will promote better airflow and combustion.
  • The flue is blocked. Creosote buildup, animal nests, leaves, loose insulation, or other debris can obstruct airflow and limit proper venting. Be sure to keep up with annual chimney sweepings to clear out blockages.
  • The type of fuel used. Different fuels – like firewood, gas, or pellets – produce different amounts of smoke and combustion byproducts. Some fuels may require specific chimney designs or additional features to ensure safe and efficient venting.
  • The size of your home. Technically, the size of your home doesn’t directly affect chimney efficiency, but it will influence the chimney’s height. Larger homes tend to have taller chimneys. As mentioned above, this increased height is actually beneficial for chimney efficiency. 

How Can I Improve My Chimney’s Efficiency?

Your chimney isn’t a lost cause. There are ways to change your chimney from a budget enemy into an energy ally. Here are a few tips: 

original infographic stating 4 ways to improve fireplace efficiency
  • The damper is your best friend. The damper is a metal plate that controls airflow up the chimney. When the fireplace isn’t in use, keep the damper closed to prevent warm air from escaping your home. Make sure the damper forms a tight seal. If it doesn’t, call Northeastern Masonry & Chimney to inquire about a replacement. 
  • Firewood is key. If you have a wood-burning appliance, you should be very picky about the type of firewood you use. Stick with seasoned firewood at all times. Unseasoned and green firewood burns poorly and creates more creosote buildup that can block your chimney.
  • Think about a fireplace insert. A fireplace insert is a metal box placed within the firebox that improves airflow and burns fuel more efficiently. They radiate more heat into the room, significantly boosting heating output. If you have an older fireplace that can’t be restored, an insert is an affordable alternative.
  • Keep up with annual chimney maintenance. We can’t stress this enough – annual chimney inspections and sweepings are crucial. Inspections help diagnose problems in their earliest stage and regular sweepings keep your chimney free of gunk that can impact its efficiency.

Make Sure Your Chimney Is Doing Its Job

Your chimney can help you lower those costly energy bills, but it may take a little more work on your part. If you’re not sure if your chimney is functioning as well as it should, reach out to Northeastern Masonry & Chimney to schedule a chimney inspection. Call us at 518-333-7231 or click here to contact us. We’re here to help!