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Your Fireplace and Your HVAC System Don’t Always Mix

Don’t Let a Fireplace Burn Through Your Wallet

heating, energy efficiency

Everyone enjoys using a fireplace, especially around this time of year. Sitting on the sofa, enjoying a cup of hot cocoa or adult beverage when it’s cold outside: for some, it just doesn’t feel like the holidays without a crackling fire.

Nevertheless, there are some things you should know ahead of time before savoring this traditional symbol of hospitality within your home.

It seems counterintuitive that a crackling fire might in turn raise your energy bills, but used or maintained improperly, your average fireplace can cost you a lot throughout the year. First and foremost, a fireplace wastes a lot of energy when the damper is left open after the fire is out. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that this circumstance alone can result in your energy usage increasing by up to 30% in 12 months alone.

Did you know that more than 75% of the wood you’re using to burn a fire disappears up the chimney along with the heat? While charming to look at, a crackling fire is not an efficient way to heat your house.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the fire itself generates carbon monoxide and other harmful chemical byproducts. Inhaled frequently, these are dangerous pollutants that exacerbate allergies and can even kill in situations without proper ventilation. Good air filters are very important in these situations, and you may want to consider installing an air purifier if you use the fireplace a lot.  Finally, we’ve all read the news stories of horrible fires generated by homeowners who assumed it was safe when they threw ashes away in an indoor wastebasket, only waking later to the house encompassed by flames. Never, ever leave ashes anywhere but inside your fireplace, or safely outside in a metal garbage can, once the ashes have fully cooled and even been dampened with water.

Proper fire and fireplace handling is essential, not only for your household budget, but also for your health. Before using your fireplace, make sure:

  1. Dampers are open when the fire is going, and closed when the fire is out.
  2. The fireplace is clean and in good condition before use.
  3. The damper seal has been inspected by a professional, and deemed functional and safe.
  4. You have considered installing glass fireplace doors for fire safety and to further block out cold air from the chimney when the fireplace is not in use. Leave them open when the fire is burning.
  5. You’re using dry, seasoned wood free from chemical or paint treatments as fuel.
  6. You have functioning carbon monoxide and smoke detectors throughout the house, all with working batteries.
  7. You have installed a chimney cap.

Did you know even President Richard Nixon was said to enjoy the fireplace so much in the White House that he would turn down the air conditioning low enough in spring, summer and fall to justify burning a fire in the Oval Office fireplace all year round?  We would never suggest using your HVAC to do that, but gee, it must have been cozy.


Have questions about the best ways to save energy with your HVAC system all year round? Call the company Southern California relies upon for all their heating and air conditioning needs. Air-Tro has been keeping California comfortable since 1969! (626) 357-3535.