“Traditional fireplaces draw in as much as 300 cubic feet per minute of heated room air for
combustion, then send it straight up the chimney.” Even though modern designs of traditional fireplaces attempt to reverse the negative side-effects, “fireplaces are still energy losers.” (Energy.gov Wood & Pellet Burning)
I was really shocked to read that. I suppose I was under hypnosis of the flame, believing the illusion that because I, sitting next to the fire, was warm, the rest of the living spaces were warm too. Of course, I never noticed this energy drain because once I built a fire, I would stick around to enjoy it. However, recently I began to pay more attention to my home’s energy consumption, and I am becoming more aware of even slight environmental changes. I am realizing which rooms stay chilly no matter what, which windows leak, and whether or not using my fireplace is beneficial to my home’s climate.
In an Earlier Blog Post, we established that the fireplace is one of The Big 3 locations within your home where energy is lost. But we have this instinctual connection to fire, not to mention it can be quite cozy. Not everyone is ready to give up that fateful relationship. If you consider yourself one of those people, there are alternatives to traditional fireplaces. It is important, nonetheless, to keep in mind that wood burning is hazardous to your health and all the living things surrounding you; it is damaging to the environment and the atmosphere releasing hundreds of chemical compounds upon combustion. In addition, your family is breathing in a lot of soot and ash, as well as dust pulled into living spaces from drafts around your house. Increasing the efficiency of your wood-burning appliances will ensure a minimal effect on your family’s health and the health of your surrounding environment.
According to Energy.gov, wood and pellet burning appliances can be more efficient than hearth and chimney systems built into the home. Some of the options include catalytic and advanced combustion stoves, as well as pellet-burning appliances. When replacing older wood burning appliances remember to check for an EPA certification emblem on the new one.
Catalytic wood stoves and advanced combustion wood stoves produce more heat and clean their own exhaust. Heated oxygen is vented above the fire to lower the temperature of combustible gases, allowing them to burn longer. This more thorough method of heat production burns hotter, with less fuel, and safer, reducing the amount of creosote, the solid build-up of soot, ash, smoke, and other gases, inside the chimney.
Pellet- burning appliances use compacted organic fuel from repurposed scraps or other recycled products. This fuel is a more quickly renewable option than wood logs from trees. These stoves can be expensive to purchase, but low installation costs keep the price between wood and pellet burning stoves comparable. When it comes to smoke emissions, pellet stoves burn cleaner than any other option. Even still wood and pellet burning appliances only heat the space in which they sit, so they should be installed where a majority of your time is spent.
If this news comes too late, or you really enjoy the ambience, turn off the heat in your house before starting a fire to conserve energy. Catalytic or pellet-burning fireplace inserts are another way to increase heat production and energy efficiency of your existing fireplace. Also, modern fireplaces fitted with a heat exchanger can distribute heat to rooms around your house, or to a basement auxiliary fan. This can make your fireplace nearly as efficient as a wood-stove, while achieving an EPA certified status of low emissions.
Professional installation of not only fireplace inserts, but wood and pellet burning appliances, will ensure maximum possible control over heat and fire by making the system as air-tight as possible. If you no longer wish to use your existing fireplace, have an inflatable stopper or plug installed and seal the flue.
In an upcoming blog, I will discuss the effectiveness of utilizing the central air conditioning system without any “help” from fire.
By Nick Ring.