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.
People love sitting around fireplaces listening to the crackling and popping of firewood and enjoying the warmth of the fire. Lighting a fire in the fireplace is an excellent way of keeping the cold at bay on those chilly days. Interestingly, the question of whether a fireplace makes your house colder does often arise.
A fireplace can make your house colder when not in use because some warm air in the home exits through the chimney and some cold air enters in its place. As a result, the house becomes colder. When the fire is on, the chimney sucks some heated air from the house, too.
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss this question further. I’ll also explain how the fireplace makes your house colder when there’s no fire and when there’s fire. I’ll also suggest ways to prevent the fireplace from making your home cold.
How the Fireplace Warms the House
The materials that make a traditional fireplace are stones or bricks. The fireplace has a fire pit or firebox that contains the fire and a flue and chimney that bring in air and enable smoke and other exhaust gasses to escape. Some chimneys also have a damper, a movable cover that should prevent cold air from entering the house when there’s no fire.
The typical fuel people used in traditional fireplaces is wood. However, today fireplaces have evolved. You can use other fuels, including coal, charcoal, propane, natural gas, and others. The type of fuel you use in your fireplace depends on the type of fireplace you have.
Any time you light a fire in your fireplace using firewood, the chimney brings in oxygen from outside, enabling the fire to burn. The hot coals and the fire’s flame send out heated rays. When these hot rays strike the people in the room, the people feel warm, and the room also gets some warmth.
How the Fireplace Makes Your House Colder When Not in Use
The fireplace can make your house colder when it’s not in use. You see, the chimney brings in cold air from outside, and the air enters the house and spreads into the rooms, as an open window does. As a result, your home becomes colder, which could worsen during the colder months of the year.
In addition, the chimney also sucks out some of the warm air from the house. Some heated air your boiler or furnace produces also exits the house through the chimney. When all this happens, your home becomes colder.
Unfortunately, when you have a fireplace, the flow of cold air and the sucking of warm air through the chimney is continuous. The chillier the weather outside gets, the more the room’s temperatures dip. According to some studies, the chimney can suck over 1000 cubic feet (28.32 cubic meters) of heated air per minute.
How the Fireplace Makes Your House Colder As the Fire Burns
As the fire burns merrily in the fireplace, the chimney and flute are busy sucking in the oxygen to keep the fire burning. At the same time, they suck out the smoke and exhaust gasses so that they don’t spread into the house. They also suck out some heated air that the fire has already generated in the room in the process.
As the heated air escapes from the house and the cold air gets into the house through the chimney, most of the fire’s heat goes to waste. So, if you’re near the fire, you feel warm, but people in the rest of the house may feel cold because the heated air in the rooms is pulled out and lost through the chimney.
How To Prevent a Fireplace From Making Your House Colder
As mentioned earlier, the fireplace can make your house colder when the fire is burning and even when there’s no fire. Below are several ways that you can prevent the fireplace from making your home chilly.
Close the Damper When the Fireplace Is Not in Use
The damper prevents cold air from entering the house through the chimney. If you close the damper when the fireplace isn’t in use, you’ll stop chilly air from getting in or warm air from leaving the house through the chimney. Closing the damper can be especially helpful during the colder months of the year.
However, always remember to open the damper before you light a fire so that smoke and other exhaust gasses can escape through the chimney. Forgetting to open the damper before setting a fire can be not only uncomfortable but also dangerous, as exhaust gasses are toxic to breathe in.
Install a Chimney Balloon
You can reinforce the damper using a chimney balloon or plug when there’s no fire in the fireplace. You fix this inflated balloon up the chimney to ensure that no cold air enters the house through the chimney. You should remove the balloon before you light a fire, but if you forget, the balloon deflates from the heat.
Install Tempered Glass Fireplace Doors
These doors seal the firebox’s mouth when it’s not in use and thus prevent cold air from entering or warm air from leaving the house through the chimney. As a result, your home will stay warm even in the seasons when temperatures dip. In addition, some fireplace doors look lovely, and they could improve the appearance of your fireplace.
Although a fireplace has numerous benefits, if you’re not careful, it could end up making your home colder when the fire’s on and when there’s no fire.
The continuous flow of cold air into the house through the fireplace and the loss of warm air from your home also through the fireplace could raise your heating bill. However, if you take the necessary steps, you can prevent the fireplace from making your house colder.
- CSIA: The Ultimate Guide To Using Your Fireplace
- Construction Resources: Design Guide: Different Types of Fireplaces
- Energy Education: Chimney
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