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How Your Fireplace Moves Heat

Introduction

Heating your home with a fireplace is incredible. And it’s very rewarding when you have a wood stove with firewood that you cut and seasoned yourself. 

And hopefully, the fireplace will generate lots of useful heat to keep you and your family safe and warm. 

But many times your fireplace can produce way too much heat. You’ll get an intolerable build-up of heat in the room where your fireplace is at. 

In today’s post, I’ll tell you why it happens and give you a few options that you can try to get it fixed.

How Do Chimneys Work

Before we talk about how your fireplace moves heat, let’s do a quick review of how the chimney works

Because this will help give us an idea as to why the heat might not be circulating as you’d hope in your home. 

Even though you can’t see it and sometimes you can’t feel it, the air in your home is always moving. Many different things contribute to air movements, such as stack effect, wind loading, interior mechanical systems, and fuel-burning appliances.

chimney caps & no caps

Stack Effect

You know the old saying: warm air rises.

That’s exactly what’s happening here. But it’s more accurate to say that the colder air is pushing the warm air up. That’s because the cooler air at the bottom is denser and heavier than the warm air.

It’s like a water hose, where the water from the faucet is pushing the water in the hose out.

As the warm air is being pushed up, the trapped air forces its way out, even if it has to force through the smallest openings, such as light fixtures and window frames.

All while the colder, outside air is trying to push its way in.

Wind Loading

Wind loading is the effect on your interior house pressures caused by the wind.

Whenever the wind blows on a building, it creates high pressure on the side that it hits and low pressure on the other side.

Any open windows or doors on the side the wind hits will help to pressurize the house, helping and increasing the chimney draft.

On the other hand, openings on the other side, downwind, will depressurize the house and increase the likeliness of back-drafting from your chimney.

Backdrafting reverses airflow and causes the smoke to come into your house instead of up the chimney.

Interior Mechanical Systems

This could be your furnace, water heater, fireplace, or woodstove.

These need a lot of air for combustion. Unless they were built to draw air from outside, like direct vent appliances, operating them will reduce the inside air pressure.

Natural Circulation of Heat

Your fireplace will generate a lot of useful heat. But sometimes it will produce way too much heat in the room where the fireplace is at.

And unfortunately, sometimes it won’t heat the rest of the house as well as you’d like. Some people may say that when they use their fireplace it actually makes the rest of their house colder.

Let’s take a look at what causes the excess heat

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Location of the Chimney & Stove

Your chimney will work better when it is centrally located rather than if it’s at one end of your home.

Interior chimneys also tend to radiate heat much more effectively and efficiently than a chimney with the three sides exposed to cold, outside temperatures.

Design of Your Home

Open floor plans are pretty neat since they can be heated more efficiently.

Open floor plans allow the heat to seek out cooler areas of your home, whereas older homes with lots of walls, small doorways, and other barriers in the way don’t allow your heat to move around as freely.

Windows & Insulation

Large windows or when you have a lot of windows may contribute to some extra heat escaping. The connection between the wall and the window needs to be sealed very tightly for that to happen.

What’s interesting is that you don’t want it to be sealed too tightly.

Newer homes are sealed very tight and the problem is that the air isn’t able to move around as efficiently as possible.

Multiple Stories

Do you have a basement that you can’t seem to keep warm in the winter?

My in-laws do. When we visit for Christmas, I always sleep in the basement, while my fiance stays in her old room.

The in-laws keep their home warm (>70 degrees) and I can’t sleep like that. I like the cold.

The reason the basement stays so cold that homes with more than one floor allow the heat to rise to the upper floor.

The cold air from the basement is pushing the warm air on the main floor with the fireplace up to the top story of their home.

Improve Circulation of Heated Air

Unfortunately, most of those things mentioned above can’t be fixed once your home is built.

Luckily, there are things that you can do to “patch” things up to make it more bearable.

And with some of these, you won’t even notice that you have a circulation issue. Your home will be warm and you’ll be happy.

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Blow Air into the Room

One of the easier fixes is to place a fat at floor level (a normal box fan should work fine) and blow the air into the room.

The cooler air from the other rooms will blow in at floor level and will stay there. It will help push the warmer air to the top of the room and then circulate to the other parts of the house.

If you place the fan to blow air out of the room, you’ll be pulling cool air out of the heated room and pushing into the other parts of your house.

Add a Mini Fan

You can install a mini fan in the doorway of the room with the fireplace. This fan should be blowing out of the room since it should be located high where the warm air is located. 

Be Strategic with Vent Placement

Your vents can be installed high on the wall between two rooms. This way heat can easily flow from one room to another. 

They can also be installed on the floor allowing for heat to rise from one level to another. 

Stairways always act as a natural chimney because it allows the warm air to rise to the upper levels of the house. 

You don’t always need floor vents because the stack-effect is pushing warm air up. 

Vents can even be purchased with booster fans, which help assist the natural airflow. They are recommended for through-the-wall vents, but you don’t necessarily need them for floor vents.

Use Your Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are a great tool to help circulate the heat within a room. But they don’t do too much to move heat from room to room.

You can use your ceiling fan to push warm air down to make the room more comfortable.

Quick Tips for Hiring a Chimney Company

If you are still unsure about the circulation of air in your chimney, it may be time to hire a chimney company with experts in chimney physics.

Hiring anyone to come into your home to fix something like your chimney shouldn’t be a task you take lightly.

So I created a list that you can use to make sure you make the right decision when you need someone to help you in your home.

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How to Hire, What to Look For

When you’re hiring a chimney company, you should always ask the following questions before allowing them to come into your home:

  1. Can the company provide references? 
  2. Does the company carry a valid business liability insurance policy? 
  3. Does the company ensure that a certified chimney technician will be on the job? 

If they guarantee all three of those, then you are in a good spot. The technicians don’t necessarily need to be certified by the CSIA, but I do recommend putting in a bit more due diligence before accepting a certification that’s not by the CSIA. 

This is because certifications are a tricky thing, especially in an unlicensed industry like ours. Any company can craft a list of job-related questions and sell them as an exam and certify those who pass. 

Certifications

I recommend you take a few extra minutes in your research before making your hiring decision to learn more about the certification the company has. Here are a few tips to make sure the certification is reputable: 

  • Is the word “certified” just part of the business name or is it an earned designation? 
  • Is the certifying body a for-profit business or non-profit? 
  • Does the certification need to be maintained and renewed through continuing education as the industry evolves, or is it well enough to be certified through a one-time exam? 
  • Is the certifying body well-established or are they relatively new to the scene? New doesn’t mean “bad” but you should make sure the requirements for certification are more or at least equally stringent as those of more established certifications
  • Is the mission statement of the certifying body focused on educating and protecting homeowners or is it more focused on making it easier to earn a certification? 
  • Does holding the certification require following a code of ethics? 

If you can answer all of these questions, then I think it will be safe to allow the company in your home to work on your chimney.

Please note that If you are hiring a chimney company to install a cap for you, most of the time, they will need to buy the cap themselves. This is primarily for liability and insurance purposes. 

Besides, it’s probably cheaper for them to buy a cap at the dealer discount than for you to buy one at retail cost.

It doesn’t matter if you are in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Blacksburg, or some other city anywhere in the USA — if you have any questions about the safety of hiring a chimney company, please don’t hesitate to email me at mitchell@patriotchimney.net or call me at 540-225-2626. I’m happy to help!

Final Thoughts

Patriot Chimney has a few CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps that you can trust with your home and family. During your service, you can expect your technician to inspect your chimney with a video camera so we can give a full top-to-bottom, inside out inspection. 

We’re licensed, insured, certified, and guarantee you’ll be happy with your service.

 

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