These days, a fireplace serves more so as a decorative element, rather than a way to heat one's home. Open fireplaces are usually no better than 20% efficient, which means they lose at least 80% of any heat generated (even with blazing fires). As you might imagine, the majority of the heat leaves your chimney through natural convection that draws the warm air up. Also, any warm air in the room is pulled up by the draft. This only further decreases efficiencies. However, there are a few steps a homeowner can take to make sure their fireplace performs at a more optimum level when heating their home.
What You Will Need
Fireplace Glass Doors
Step 1. Close the fireplace damper whenever you are not using your fireplace. Leaving the damper open, even when it is only partially open, will permit warm air to escape from your home to the outside.
Step 2. Schedule an inspection of your fireplace, including the damper and flue. As a part of this, there should also be a complete cleaning of your fireplace and chimney. Look for a properly licensed chimney sweep to perform these tasks. An inspection may reveal one of several issues, including cracks that can allow gases to enter your home or possible fire hazards. A good cleaning will remove creosote and soot from your fireplace. If left in place, the creosote and soot would not only decrease your fireplace's overall efficiency, but also increase your chances of a chimney fire.
Step 3. If your fireplace has an air vent outside, open it. Usually this vent is found on the firebox's floor. This vent allows air outside to enter into your fireplace, which decreases the warm air being drawn from a room.
Step 4. Think about replacing your metal grate with a tubular steel heating grate. These C-shaped heating grates are designed to draw cold air from the grates bottom. They are heated by the wood burning in the fireplace. The result is that warmer air is circulated back into your room.
Step 5. Consider installing fireplace doors made of glass. The unit you choose should have a screen which fits closely along the outside part of your fireplace. This type of screen will act to prevent sparks from escaping when your fireplace is being used. Shut the doors at night as the fire diminishes. This allows you to let the damper stay open so smoke can escape. At the same time this helps to prevent warmer air from escaping through the chimney. Glass conducts heat well, so closing the doors radiates the fire's dying heat back toward the room. Remember though, never close glass doors when a fire is roaring and hot, since it might cause the doors to break.