Many people love the warmth of a real, wood burning fireplace. Nothing beats dozing off next to a wood fire while sounds of crackling soothe you to sleep. But, what do you do when the crackle and pops dull to a sizzle and it seems like your roaring fireplace has lost its edge?
Well, you check out this article, that's what you do! Over the next couple hundred words, I will take some time to discuss the things that may be holding your wood burning fireplace back from operating as efficiently as it should. I know, I know, you can thank me later.
Options not specific to the appliance:
There are many things that can cause a fireplace or stove to lose effectiveness. But for this section we will focus on trouble shooting ideas that are not specific to a certain appliance.
If a stove or fireplace blower is available for the unit you have, it is a good idea to invest in one. Fireplace blowers prevent hot air from stagnating around your appliance. When turned on, they push warm air further into the room. While they can't heat a larger space than already set for the wood burning fireplace you own, they can heat up that area in a faster amount of time.
- fireplace blower
Some thermostats are capable of cycling the main HVAC blower in your furnace without turning the furnace on. This pulls heat from around the stove and circulates it through your house. This feature can be very helpful because it will conserve your electricity while maximizing the heat output of your wood fireplace.
If you happen to have low doorways but high ceilings and struggle to "push" heated air throughout your home and away from your fireplace, a doorway fan may be a good option for you. They typically hang right in the corner of the doorway. No bigger than about 4 square inches, they are light and portable. Doorway fans are great for homes that tend to have warm air pooling in one room, leaving other rooms cool and uncomfortable.
- doorway fan
Choose good firewood:
Choosing good firewood is a simple but easy solution to get the most out of your wood burning fireplace. We recommend that you use wood that has been "seasoned" and left to dry long enough for the moisture to evaporate.
If you use freshly cut or "green wood", it will burn inefficiently and produce large amounts of smoke. To be certain your wood is seasoned, give it an entire year to dry out before throwing it in your fireplace. Wood with a moisture content higher than 20% will require more energy to burn off excess moisture and will produce less heat overall.
- green wood
Also, its important to note that hardwoods, like Douglas Fir, Oak, Ash and Beech take longer to dry and are harder to light. Though, they burn the longest and produce the most heat. While softwoods like cedar and pine are the exact opposite. They grow quicker, dry faster and consequently burn faster too.
Using real wood comes with pros and cons. The sound and look of a real fire are incomparable. Though, soot and creosote build up on the inside of your chimney from burning real wood. Your chimney has to be cleaned regularly to avoid the damaging effects of these by-products.
So, naturally, a wood burning fireplace takes more effort to maintain and how well you maintain it determines how efficiently it operates. A cleaner chimney means a better draw for your fireplace. Keeping your wood fireplace drawing air with minimal obstructions helps it operate at maximum efficiency.
- chimney cleaning
It is a good practice to have your chimney swept every few months during burn season. If you typically burn softwood like cedar or pine, then you may need to sweep your chimney more frequently. You can buy a chimney brush (and check out this guide on how to choose the right brush) and do it yourself. You could also have a professional come out as often as you need.
Replace the screen in front of the fireplace with tempered glass doors:
Modern fireplace screens are decorative and allow a good level of protection from flying embers and ash. Though, adding glass doors to your fireplace will help maximize the heat your fireplace puts out. It may seem backward that adding a door, which closes off the firebox, will help increase the amount of heat in your room. But it is true.
- glass doors
When a fireplace or wood burning stove is open to the room, the firebox ends up acting like a vacuum and sucks out all the air, warm or cold, from the room. When the glass doors are closed, combustion happens in the chamber and heats radiates through the appliance. It can seem a bit confusing at first, but if you give glass doors a try and keep them closed during the burn process, you will notice a huge difference in how efficiently your appliance works.
Consider a central location for your wood burning heater:
When you are installing a wood stove, fireplace or fireplace insert, it's important that you choose a central location for setup. Without a fireplace blower, it is likely that heat will stagnate in one area of the room. If you put the wood stove or insert in the corner, that means the other side of your room won't feel heat with the same intensity as the side the appliance is located.
So, we recommend that you set it up in the middle of the room so heat can disperse as evenly as possible. If for some reason, you are unable to install the fireplace in a central location, it will be necessary for you to get a fireplace blower to ensure your room disperses heat in all directions.
- central fireplace
As a side note, if you have vaulted ceilings, a lot of heat will be lost at the top of your room. So a ceiling fan will help push the hot air down to the level you are seated at.
If you'd like to redistribute the heat from your wood stove or fireplace insert to other places in your home, you could have a contractor install an air return in the ceiling above the appliance. After that, he would need to make a plenum box, with an inline fan, that mounts in the attic to pull heat from the fireplace and duct it to other portions of the home.
All of the above options are good to keep in mind if you have a wood burning heater (of any type). But, now I'd like to move on to a few recommendations that are specific to certain appliances.
Options specific to the appliance
If you have a wood burning fireplace insert:
One way to get the most heat out of your fireplace insert is taking advantage of depth adjustments the units may offer. Some of the surrounds are made with sliding brackets that allow you to move the unit forward or backward depending on how big your hearth is.
It's a good idea to push it out as far as you can, so heat projects off the front of the unit into the room. With an insert, heat can get trapped behind the chassis and make it seem like the insert isn't heating well.
- firebox diagram
This is why many inserts come with fireplace blowers. Inserts are considered handicapped in a way and need that extra boost to heat a room as well as a stove or masonry fireplace installed at the time of construction.
If you have a wood burning fireplace:
If you have a wood burning fireplace, installing a hot air take off system is a great way to redistribute heat through your home and take advantage of the power of your unit.
You will need a 6-inch duct that comes off the unit to start. This duct, along with an inline fan, helps move warm air to other rooms in your home. You could also run the duct up to the plenum of your furnace and redistribute the air through your home that way. Considering there are a few options and it involves a lot of knowledge about the specifics of the appliance it is best to not try to attempt this installation yourself. Hiring a professional will ensure it is done right and won't have to be redone in the near future.
With that, we have reached the end of this article. I hope you are coming away from this with a few helpful tips to maximize the heat from your wood burning heater. Don t worry. You don't have to memorize all this info today. This article will be here if you ever need to circle back around and refresh your memory.
As always, our NFI certified techs are here to assist you with any questions you might have. Please call 800.203.1642 or email us by clicking this link.