Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
So, you’ve installed a wood-burning fireplace to give your room a rustic and cozy look reminiscent of the good old days. But like other fireplaces, you’ll notice it doesn’t heat the room so efficiently. Can you add a fan to your wood-burning fireplace to make it more efficient?
You can add a fan to most types of wood burning fireplaces. To do that, you need a fireplace-rated fan and a fire-resistant cable running under the firebox. If your fireplace isn’t compatible with a fan, you can install a blower kit, which comes with a fan, thermostat, and the necessary wiring and connections.
Read on to learn about how a fireplace fan works and how it can help your room get warmer. I’ll also give you some tips on how to get the most out of your wood-burning fireplace.
What’s a Fireplace Fan, and How Does It Work?
A fireplace fan is an accessory that maximizes your fireplace’s heating power. It can help circulate the warm air in the fireplace faster.
You can mount the fan outside the fireplace or inside it. If you put it inside, it should go outside the firebox.
A fireplace fan doesn’t improve the unit’s ability to produce warm air. Instead, it just moves the air to make the airflow around the fireplace and the room more effective.
The fan pulls the ambient air from the room inside and forces it out of the fireplace. As the air circulates inside the fireplace, it gets hot and warms up the room. The warm air goes up near the ceiling and forces the cold air down, which goes through the same process, making the overall ambient air warm and nice.
In addition to making the room warmer, it helps circulate the air inside the room by replacing the previously warmed-up air with newly warmed air.
Without a fireplace fan, you have to rely on the radiant fireplace’s heat to warm up the room. Radiant heat travels in a direct line. It warms furniture or people in its direct path, without affecting the other parts of the room.
The fan changes radiant heat to convective heat, which circulates through a fluid such as air.
Does a Fan Work for a Wood-Burning Fireplace?
Some people think only gas-burning fireplaces can work with a fan, which isn’t true. Almost all types of fireplaces support fans.
You can add a fan to wood fireplace inserts and stoves. An insert is a sealed firebox that goes into an existing brick-and-mortar fireplace to boost its heating efficiency. Wood stoves are freestanding fireplaces with vertical vents.
Even if your fireplace doesn’t have the essential parts to add a fan, you can add a fan kit to the unit. You can even put a fan in hand-built fireplaces made with brick and mortar, although the task is a bit more challenging.
But first, you should make sure there’s electricity running under the fireplace in the form of a junction box. To check the junction box, plug a lamp into the box and turn it on and off. If there’s no electricity, fix the issue and then order a kit.
You need a fireplace fan that fits your unit. To install the kit, you can follow the instructions in the unit’s manual or ask a certified fireplace dealer to install your fan correctly and safely.
When buying a fireplace, look for one with an option for a fan. Even if you don’t want to add a fan at first, you may decide to do it in the future. So, a unit with this option gives you the flexibility to upgrade it.
Some fireplaces already come with a fan included. This way, you always have the option to use it if you want to.
However, you should know that a fireplace fan works with electricity. So, if you’re off the grid or live in an area with frequent power outages, you won’t be able to use your fan much. In this case, go for a fireplace that’s an exclusively radiant type or install an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) in your house.
Different Parts of a Fireplace Fan
Although there’s a wide variety of fireplace fan models, they all function in essentially the same way.
Fans have several heat-resistant metal tubes connected to a motor. When you turn on the fireplace fan, it draws cool air from the room into the bottom tubes. The cool air circulates through the tubes and gets heated by the fire under the tubes. Then, it enters the room through the top tubes.
How Does a Fan Help Your Fireplace?
A fan can increase your fireplace’s efficiency. Since most fireplaces rely on radiant heat to warm the areas, they can warm up whole rooms efficiently. Most of the generated heat goes out of the chimney before getting the chance to emit into the room.
A fireplace fan can make the heating process more efficient by reducing warm air that travels upwards. Some warm air still gets out of the chimney, but it’s much less with a fan. However, since it’s outside the firebox, it doesn’t affect the burn rate or the heat output. That’s why you don’t need to worry about your firewood burning faster than normal.
Another advantage of a fireplace fan is that you don’t need to turn it on whenever you use the fireplace, which means you can use the fireplace in warmer months and keep your room from getting too hot.
Plus, these fans are discrete, meaning they won’t affect your room’s aesthetics. The fan and its bottom tubes go under the fireplace, and the top tubes will be at the top of the firebox.
And if you’re worried about the fan making noise, you’re right. Like any other fan that works on a motor, it generates some levels of noise. However, modern models are much quieter than older ones. They’re also smaller, more long-lasting,and more powerful. Moreover, most models come with variable speed control, so you can adjust the fan’s rotation speed and hence its noise.
How To Make Your Fireplace More Efficient
Besides using a fireplace fan, there are other ways to help you add to your fireplace’s heating capacity. Here are some:
Install a Fireback – A fireback is a metal insert made of cast iron or stainless steel installed in the back of the firebox. It absorbs the heat that may go up the chimney and reflects it into the room.
When you add a fireback to your unit, you’ll immediately feel the effect. And the thicker or larger the fireback is, the stronger the radiation because it can retain more heat for more extended periods.
Use the Correct Type of Wood – The degree of heat produced by your fireplace depends on the firewood you use. For example, hardwood generally produces more heat than softwood because hardwood is denser and can burn for longer.
Plus, hardwood varieties are less resinous, which means they produce less tar building the flue. Tar can also reduce the fireplace’s efficiency, taking us to the next efficiency-maximizing factor.
Keep the Flue and the Fireplace Clean – Over time, creosote and tar can build up in the flue lining, restricting the airflow coming into and out of the fireplace. When there’s less air flowing into the fireplace, the fire will be small, and you’ll have less heat. Since you can’t tell exactly how much tar accumulates in your flue over a certain period, it’s better to have it professionally checked at least once a year.
Regularly cleaning the fireplace also maximizes the airflow by removing extra ash. However, don’t remove the ash completely because you need it to insulate the hot coals’ new bed and boost its heat output.
Make the Fire Properly – The way you make the fire affects its efficiency. Lay some small bits of crumbled newspaper topped by small pieces of dry kindling. Then, put the logs of firewood on top.
Don’t tightly pack anything as it will block the airflow. There also shouldn’t be too much of a gap between materials because the airflow can’t transfer heat effectively.
When the fire warms up the chimney, you can add more logs to get the fire going.
Place larger bits on top of smaller pieces in a crisscross pattern to increase the airflow. But the large pieces can be close to each other because it keeps the fire for a longer period and increases the heat output, leading to higher efficiency.
Use Dry Firewood – Everyone knows that dry wood can burn better than damp or moist firewood. Although all kinds of firewood contain some moisture, the levels vary depending on the type.
The best type of firewood is kiln-dried wood processed in a hot kiln to get the moisture out of its pores. In addition to increasing your fireplace’s efficiency, kiln-dried firewood is easy to use and naturally seasoned.
A fireplace fan can help make your room warmer by overcoming the biggest problem with fireplaces: inadequate heating. All types of fireplaces rely on radiant heat to warm up spaces, reducing their efficiency and making them lose high percentages of heat.
You can add a fan to a wood-burning fireplace as long as it has an electric box underneath. However, you can add the fan kit to other types that aren’t compatible with a fan when installing them.
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- Regency Fire: Fireplace Blowers Explained – How Fireplace Fans Work
- Full Service Chimney: Fireplace Blower Fans: What You Need for Heat
- Fireplace Universe: 9 Ways to Get More Heat From Your Wood-burning Fireplace
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