In many cases there are things homeowners can do to remedy a fireplace that’s drafting inefficiently. And fortunately, it’s easy to tell when this is happening by the sudden appearance of smoke or cold air in the house. Here are some things you’ll need to know to fix draft problems when the fireplace is operating and when it isn’t.
Fireplace is in use
Smoky air is supposed to rise: Because hot air is lighter, or less dense, than cool air, when hot air is on the bottom and cool air is on the top, the hot air will rise. This is an overly simplified explanation of how and why chimneys work. When there’s a drafting problem, don’t blame the hot air. Blame something that’s somehow keeping the air from rising.
Air-tight house: Many newer homes are quite well-sealed, the theory being an air-tight house will keep inside air inside and outside air outside. This is good, except when you’re running your fireplace. As we said, hot air naturally rises, but it won’t rise efficiently if it has too little air inside the home to propel it. Cracking a window near the fireplace often solves this problem.
Wrong chimney size: If air-flow issues have been happening since the fireplace was installed or since you moved into the home, the culprit might be an improperly sized chimney. For air to flow correctly, the chimney has to be the proper size for the fireplace it’s drafting. If you suspect this is the problem, have your system inspected by a professional chimney services technician and follow his or her recommendations.
Chimney obstructions: Even with a properly sized flue, if obstructions are present within it, smoke won’t draft properly. Obstructions can include creosote and soot buildup as well as debris such as leaves, twigs, animal nests and dead animals like squirrels and birds. A thorough chimney cleaning is recommended on a yearly basis to remove obstructions before they create a serious problem.
Cold flue: While hot air rises through cool air, it will be impeded by very cold air. If drafting problems always happen when you first start a fire, hold a safely burning log or rolled-up newspaper with its tip on fire up into the flue. It won’t take long – all you want to do is warm up the air.
Fireplace is not in use
Faulty damper: If cold air is swirling into your home, or inside heat is escaping through a fireplace that’s not in use, most likely there’s a problem with the damper. When a damper is damaged, it may not form a solid seal when closed. If you suspect this is the problem, you may be able to inspect the damper yourself. If you can’t, have a professional inspect it. In most cases, replacing the damper is the solution.
Add a fireplace insert: If you have a traditional masonry fireplace and have drafting problems, consider adding a fireplace insert. Drafts will immediately be eliminated or significantly reduced. Ask your hearth retailer about the advantages of fireplace inserts and if one of these appliances would be right for your home.
Chimney Solutions of Indianapolis is your local expert for solving fireplace drafting issues. We provide chimney inspections, chimney cleaning services, repairs, replacements and sales of the finest home-heating appliances. Visit us at 5316 W 56th St. in Indianapolis, IN, or reach us by phone at (317) 757-6979.