How To Make Your Fireplace More Efficient

BY contributor | Sat Jun 08, 2013

Efficient FireplacesThere are a lot of reasons to make your life more environmentally friendly and efficient. Not only does leading a more eco-friendly lifestyle mean that you are protecting the planet, it also means that you are probably saving money and keeping up with trends. And there are a number of ways that are becoming more and more popular. Many people are carrying reusable tote bags to the grocery store and a lot of people have started biking to work instead of driving. Bike sharing programs are popping up all over the world, most recently in New York City. For people that have already taken these steps, though, there is still much more to do. Especially around your house or apartment, there are a lot of ways to make your day to day activities greener. From programming your thermostat on a timer to adding more plant life to all of the rooms, there are a lot of steps that everyone can take to go green, save money on their bills, and improve the air quality of your home. One way to upgrade your home to be more efficient is to make your fireplace more efficient.

There are a lot of reasons to make your fireplace more efficient. To start, there are a huge range of options for efficient fireplace models. You will not have to sacrifice style or choice by going with an eco-friendly fireplace model. Another important reason to make your fireplace more efficient is that it is good for the environment. There is news in the papers everyday about climate change, so we should all do what we can to cut our carbon footprint. An efficient fireplace is a great way to cut your personal emissions. And one of the best parts about upping your fireplace’s efficiency is that it will save you money. Not only will you save on your energy bills, you will also save on routine cleaning and the costs of maintenance.

Efficiency will save you money. According to, “A fire in an open hearth is only 10 percent efficient at best, which means that 90 percent of the heat energy you’ve paid for goes up in smoke.” And because the hot air flows up the chimney, your central heating system is forced to do extra work just to keep the house warm. You can install a glass fireplace door but that will still only add about a 20 percent improvement in your fireplace’s efficiency.

Wood-burning fireplaces are very eco-friendly. Though burning wood is becoming harder to do in densely populated urban areas, it is still a fuel of choice for those homeowners who make the investment in an EPA-rated wood stove that has a catalytic combustor. You should only use wood that is seasoned or that has been split and left stacked in the sun for approximately six months. Using green wood produces a smoky fire that causes more pollution and also leaves your chimney coated in resins. This can cause chimney fires and should be avoided.

Gas-burning fireplaces are another eco-friendly, efficient option.  Shoveling ashes and carrying wood is tiring work and people that don’t want to do it anymore should consider getting themselves a gas-burning fireplace insert. It saves space and works efficiently. A built-in fan takes the heat through the room and using a thermostat lets you set up a target temperature. You can even find a model that has a timer on it – that way you can set your fireplace to have a roaring fire welcoming you when you return. Best of all – a gas-burning stove has the capacity to heat an entire small home in the winter, which will save you money over using your main heating system if it is either electric or oil-fired.

 A warning about bioethanol fireplaces. Although bioethanol fireplaces are both safe and beautiful and make great decorative fireplaces, they simply do not provide the same amount of heat that other models do. However, if you live in a place where you do not need a lot of heat, but still want to have a fireplace, then a bioethanol furnace may be a good option for you. Even though they are not exactly traditional, they are perfect for the eco-friendly, forward thinking homeowner in a mild climate.

If you care about leaving the planet in good condition for the next generation then consider investing in an efficiency upgrade for your fireplace.

Matthew Zajechowski writes about fireplace efficiency and other fireplace topics for Northshore Fireplace in Evanston.

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