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Getting the Most Heat From Your Fireplace: The Complete Guide

Are you worried that you are not getting the most heat from your fireplace? Fireplaces can create a lovely ambiance to any room and need as much care as any appliance in your house. However, a fireplace’s primary function is to heat a room. You want to be sure you are getting the most heat from your fireplace that you possibly can.

Proper maintenance and cleaning are essential to keep your fireplace working at its best. To keep your house warm in the fall and winter, you should get it checked at least once a year. Whether it is electric, a wood, or a gas fireplace, ensure you keep your home and your family safe and warm by maintaining your fireplace. Read on to learn just how to get the most heat from your fireplace.  

Get the Most Heat Out of Your Fireplace

Whether it is wood-burning, gas, or electric, any fireplace’s primary purpose is to emit heat into a room to increase the temperature. Each fireplace has different requirements to maintain it and keep it acting like new. The most important way to keep any fireplace producing heat at peak efficiency is to perform regular maintenance.

  • A wood-burning fireplace requires the most maintenance of the three types of fireplaces. It gets dirty easily and quickly, needs to be cleaned at least once a year, and has many different mechanical parts essential to it functioning correctly.  
  • A gas fireplace is a little easier to maintain and requires safety precautions. For a gas fireplace to work, you have to hook it up to a gas line. Most come with a thermostat. When they are installed, they are fully encased into the wall so that heat will not escape. 
  • An electric fireplace requires the least amount of maintenance of the three types of fireplaces. It acts as a heating element, similar to an electric heat lamp or a space heater that heats the air. The LED fire effects add a little more traditional feel with a modern twist. 

All three types have different maintenance requirements. There are ways of getting the most from your fireplace, but you will have to keep your fireplaces updated and fix any issues that arise. 

Maintaining Wood Fireplaces

Heat is generated inside a wood fireplace during combustion when the spark from the match hits the fire’s fuel and sucks in the room’s cold air. Some of the heat will escape through the chimney along with the smoke. 

To maintain your wood fireplace and keep it working with the most efficiency possible, you have to do some work.   

  • Use suitable wood: Burn wood or leaves that are dry. If you burn leafy or wet wood, the smoke will be dark and thick. The fire will also have a hard time starting if you do not use dry wood. 
  • Get an annual inspection by a professional: Schedule the yearly inspection of your fireplace. This inspector will look at the different mechanical parts of your fireplace to ensure it is safe to use. They will look at the chimney on the outside and the inside. 
  • Clean the inside: Before you start your flame, sweep up any of the soot or leftover wood from last year’s fireplace season. Check the damper and make sure it is open for the smoke to travel up the chimney.
  • Close the damper when finished: When you are finished using the chimney, pull the chain to close the damper so that water or cold air does not come into your house. This is essential for the fireplace to work correctly. 
  • Install airtight glass doors or a heat-circulating grate with a blower: This will increase the fire’s efficiency. When you burn a fire, make sure your airtight glass doors or grate is shut and the blower is on. The blower will filter smoke and blow some of the hot air from the fire into your room. 

Wood-burning fireplaces require the most maintenance of the three types. To get the most out of these fireplaces, you have to follow the precautions and fix the issues that your professional inspector finds so that you and your family stay safe. 

The Efficiency of Wood-Burning Fireplaces

Wood-burning fireplaces sound and look great inside any room. With a combination of form and function, you can turn any room into a cozy environment. Sometimes, the problem is the heated air that the fireplace emits escapes through the chimney. 

Without taking proper fireplace safety measures or installing important energy-efficient fixes, your energy bill might stay the same or go up. Get the most from your wood-burning fireplace by using suitable wood, hiring an inspector, and cleaning. 

Use the Right Wood

A good fire is just as good as the wood that you use. You will need to use wood that has not been treated with any chemicals, which is made to be firewood. While you can go out back and chop some wood up for yourself, you can also purchase some in bundles. 

Using the right kind of wood will guarantee that your fire lasts a long time and produce the most heat possible. Burn wood that has a low moisture level. Here is a list of good burning wood

  • Seasoned or dried firewood: Wood that is seasoned has dried for several hours after being cut from a tree. Moisture inside the wood will cause the fire to be inefficient. It will likely burn out quickly. Wood that has just been cut off of a tree has much more moisture than wood left out to dry for several hours. 
  • Maple, oak, ash, or birch tree wood: If you know the kind of tree you will use the firewood from, these are the best options. These are hardwoods, and they will burn the most extended and hottest when placed in a fire. 

Burning the suitable wood that is dried is the safest and most efficient way to have a long-lasting fire. You will get the most out of your wood-burning fireplace by burning dry hardwood. 

Annual Inspection by a Professional

Hire a chimney sweep or chimney inspector to come out every year well before the fall to inspect your chimney. Doing this will guarantee you and your family’s safety. If you have a lot of buildup inside your chimney that you cannot see, this inspector will clean it.

They will also see any structural damage or work that needs to be done so that there is no risk of a chimney fire or other issues. If your damper is not working correctly, this inspector will diagnose the problem and recommend solutions. 

Schedule an inspection so that a minor issue or crack does not turn into a more significant problem before using the fireplace. Also, if your chimney is blocked by a bunch of grime that has not been cleaned, your fire will not burn correctly. 

Clean the Inside of Your Fireplace

As the owner of your fireplace, you should do some periodic cleaning of your fireplace in between burns. If you do not, soot and dust will build up and prevent your fire from burning properly and efficiently. 

  • Sweep up the soot: Keep a small handheld broom and dustpan near your fireplace so you can clean it easily. 
  • Remove any wet logs: If you forgot to close the damper after using your fireplace and there was a rainstorm, more than likely, some water leaked down into your fireplace. 
  • Check the airflow with a lit rolled-up newspaper: Before lighting a blazing fire, check how the air is flowing with a burning rolled-up newspaper. Stick it up in your fireplace. If the flame flickers up, your damper is open and ready to use. If the flame is sideways, the damper is not open. 
  • Purchase a grate: This metal firewood holder will sit at the bottom of your fireplace and is integral to keeping your fireplace clean. 

Ensure that the damper is working correctly and is open before you start your fire. Your house will fill up with smoke and harmful gases like carbon monoxide if you do not. Fires need oxygen to burn effectively, and the chimney provides the necessary oxygen. 

Install Airtight Glass Doors 

There are different kinds of wood-burning fireplaces. There are open-air fireplaces, fireplaces with doors or mesh, and fireplaces with airtight glass doors. Once you have a fireplace in your home, you can choose what to add to it to make it more efficient. 

Open-air fireplaces do not have any type of covering separating them from the house. Providing the most ambiance, this is a straightforward and clean design. It also allows for the hottest air to escape the chimney with the smoke and gasses from the fire. 

Fireplaces with mesh or gates with openings offer a little more efficiency than open air but still let air escape through the chimney. You can still hear the fire crackle and see the smoke travel up the chimney.  

The most efficient addons are airtight glass doors with heat-circulating blowers. Wood-burning fireplaces will cause air to escape through the chimney. The doors will allow the air to stay inside, and the blowers will blow precious heated air into the house. 

Maintaining Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces can be installed into a house with a wood-burning fireplace. A thermostat can control gas fireplaces, which are easy to operate. 

There are two kinds of gas fireplaces: vented and ventless fireplaces. These fireplaces require the same maintenance. They have different levels of efficiency, but the upkeep is the same.  

  • Annual inspections: Even though the upkeep is different, gas fireplaces require yearly inspections. 
  • Periodic cleaning: Check the lava rocks or ceramic stones for any cracks or breaks. Also, do a visible check of the outside of your chimney or the inside of your fireplace. Clean around your fireplace so nothing accidentally gets caught inside.

Gas fireplaces are less work than a wood-burning fireplace, but they still require a little maintenance. With a gas fireplace, you can purchase ceramic logs that look like the real thing but do not turn into messy soot. You should still get it inspected annually. 

The Efficiency of Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces can last a long time if the maintenance is up-to-date. They are even more efficient because they heat objects around the fireplace like lava rocks and ceramic logs. 

The two kinds of gas fireplaces have different efficiency ratings. One type is vented, which requires air from a tube or the chimney to help start the fire. The other does not require air from outside. 

  • Vented gas fireplaces: These fireplaces have a vent at the top of them that lets outside air help with the combustion of the fire. It also vents out harmful gases. 
  • Ventless gas fireplaces: Ventless gas fireplaces do not have vents and are more efficient than vented. They keep as much heated air in as possible. 

The less space that air has to escape, the hotter your house will be because the hot air will stay inside. Ventless might be the most efficient of the two, but regular maintenance is still required. 

Annual inspections

While visible checks can be helpful, a professional technician’s annual inspections check the gas line and ensure the fireplace is working smoothly. They will clean your fireplace using a vacuum, check the vents, and suggest further maintenance. 

Periodic Cleaning

In between inspections, clean the outside of your fireplace. You can vacuum any dust, pet hair, fuzz, or anything that might catch fire near your fireplace. 

If your chimney is blocked by too much buildup or the venting pipe is obstructed, there can be no air draft that causes the combustion to happen within the fireplace. If there is no draft, carbon monoxide or other harmful gases will escape into your house. 

Maintaining Electric Fireplaces 

Electric fireplaces are very easy to clean. They do not have a burning flame within them, so there is no chance of any soot buildup. Most electric fireplaces come with a heating coil inside them and some LED lights that mimic the flicker of a fire. 

You can control the heat setting in electric fireplaces, allowing for better, more efficient fireplace usage. There are a few steps to cleaning electric fireplaces to help them work properly. 

  • Unplug and check the power cord: Electricity is fueling the fire. Check that all of the electrical pieces are working correctly and not damaged. 
  • Clean the inside: Dust might accumulate over time. Vacuum or dust the inside of the electric fireplace. Clean the inside glass. 
  • Clean the outside: Ensure you clean the outside of the glass with a glass-cleaning solution. 

Electric fireplaces require the least amount of maintenance of the three types of fireplaces. They act as space heaters that can look as modern as gas fireplaces or as traditional wood-burning fireplaces. 

You still need to do a little upkeep to keep your electric fireplace running efficiently, just like any household appliance. Ensure your fireplace is getting electricity, clean the inside, and clean the outside of the fireplace. 

Check Electrical Cords

Even though this fireplace does not require a lot of maintenance, it is still hazardous when not properly maintained. Inspect the electrical components and the plugs. Replace anything that needs fixing. 

The electrical plugs and cords help the fireplace get power. Mice and other rodents love to chew on cords. If there are any tears or bite marks, get the cable fixed and get some mouse traps. 

Clean the Inside 

To clean the inside, have a broom and dustpan, clean cloth, or vacuum ready. Also, make sure the fireplace is turned off and unplug any cords or cables. 

  • Dust and clean underneath the heating element coils. 
  • Wipe down the heating element with a dry cloth. Make sure nothing is obstructing or leaning on the component. 
  • Clean the glass on the inside of the fireplace. 

The fireplace inside needs to be kept clean because the element can get very hot. You want the heater to keep running efficiently, and the easiest way to ensure that is to keep it clean. 

Clean the Outside

There can be dust and buildup located around your electric fireplace. Think about your electric fireplace as a space heater. Space heaters need to have free space around them, and the same is true about electric fireplaces. 

The outside glass should be cleaned as well with a glass cleaning solution and dry cloth so that you can see the flame effect. Cleaning the glass should prevent dust build-up on the inside of the unit. 

Understand How Your Fireplace Works

Your fireplace can heat an entire room and lower your monthly energy bill. The problem is, how much heat comes off your fireplace depends on what kind of fireplace you have, how well you maintain your fireplace, and if your house is well insulated. 

If the fireplace installers did not install your fireplace correctly, there is most likely air from inside the house that is escaping. If your fireplace There are several things to think about when getting the most heat out of your fireplace. 

  • The kind of fireplace you own: You could have a wood-burning, gas, or electric fireplace. Each of these has its ways of heating a room and transferring heat from the fireplace to the room. 
  • The fireplace’s installation: If your wood-burning fireplace has any openings or cracks next to the fireplace unit, there more than likely is air escaping through the chimney. When the air is heated inside your house, the heat will rise either in your home or up the chimney. 
  • If your fireplace has all of its working parts: If you check the elements like the damper before using it and clean your wood-burning fireplace at least once a year, then you have a working fireplace that should heat a room or part of a room. 
  • If your fireplace is open-air or has a cover: Your fireplace will not be as energy-efficient without tempered glass doors that open and close. These doors can reduce your energy bill by keeping the air that the fireplace is heating up inside your home. 

One fireplace probably cannot heat a whole house. The amount of room your fireplace will heat up depends on the kind of fireplace and the room’s size. If it is a small cabin with one room, your well-maintained fireplace will do a lot of work. 

How Do Fireplaces Heat a Room

Fireplaces heat a room by emitting heat from the fireplace and into the room. Heat and air have to take up space and find places to go. If your fireplace is well made and maintained, your fireplace should heat a room. 

Depending on how old your house is, where you live, and what climate you live in, you could have one of these three kinds of fireplaces. There are three types of fireplaces and three different ways that your fireplace can heat a room: 

  • Wood fireplaces: A wood-burning fireplace usually has stones or bricks around it and has a chimney attached. It burns wood, has a damper, and gets dirty fast. An advantage is if the power goes out in the winter, you can use your wood-burning fireplace to get some heat. 
  • Electric fireplace: An electric fireplace acts as a space heater in your room. While it does not give off the same smell as a wood fireplace does, you can still enjoy some warmth in your room. This fireplace relies on electricity, so if the power goes out in the winter, you will not be able to use it. 
  • Gas fireplace: Your gas fireplace is controlled by the amount of gas coming out of the pipes and the fuel or the wood that you will burn. Light the fire kindling and wood first, then turn on the gas to keep the fire going. 

Electric fireplaces act as a space heater for a room and only heat a small area. Wood burning fireplaces are not known for their heat-generating heat-generating capability due to outside drafts, but they are a nice ambiance. Gas burning fireplaces can be used with natural wood or fake wood and are typically in a room for the look. 

Fireplaces and Heat Transfer

Fireplaces give off heat by transferring heat from the fire to the air and the objects around the fireplace. This is called conduction and convection. Fireplaces can heat a whole room. 

You can increase your fireplace’s efficiency and decrease the amount of heat escaping through the chimney by following some guidelines. Wood, electric, and gas fireplaces all act differently and have different maintenance requirements. 

Wood Fireplaces

Wood fireplaces can add a relaxing element to any room. It is also a huge selling point to homeowners. While it is a lot to maintain, it can help save you money on energy bills if kept clean, properly maintained, and inspected once a year. 

It is comforting to hear the fireplace crackling while reading a book or drinking your cup of hot chocolate in the winter. Wood fireplaces can keep an area or small room heated. There has to be another heat source to heat a whole house. 

The fire produced by the wood fireplace creates radiant heat that travels around your room. This heat helps you feel warm, but it can also, in turn, make you cold because some of the internal heated air can escape through the chimney.  

A wood-burning fire utilizes radiant heat transfer through convection and conduction. 

  • Conduction: Heat transfers from the fire to the air. 
  • Convection: Heat gets transferred from the fire to objects like stones or bricks around the fireplace. The rocks then emit heat into the room, changing the temperature.  
  • Radiant heat: Heat gets transferred from something that emits heat to an object or nearby objects. Fireplaces radiate heat to people and things within your home. 

Convection and conduction produce radiant heat through heat transfer. A wood-burning can act as a conduit for this heat transfer to begin. It is up to you to maintain the fire and keep these processes going. 

Gas Fireplaces

A gas fireplace is very energy efficient because it does not let out any air from inside the house. Your wood-burning fireplace can convert into a gas fireplace. Gas fireplaces rely on vents and are temperature-controlled. 

Gas fireplaces are usually one box unit that can go in any wall. You can even heat two rooms by placing them in a wall between two main rooms in your house. Because the gas fireplace is usually sealed inside the wall, little to no air will escape. 

There are two types of gas fireplaces, both with different features. They are more energy-efficient and cleaner than wood-burning fireplaces. 

  • Ventless Gas Fireplaces: A ventless gas fireplaces needs the air from inside the room that it is located inside to start burning. Since there is no passageway for the air to travel, all of the heated air will stay inside.  
  • Vented Gas Fireplaces: A vented fireplace has a vent pipe that goes from your fireplace out to the outside of your house. They do not need outside air from the room it is in, but they take air from the outside through these vents. Since the vent is leading directly outside, there is no risk of gas exposure within the house. 

Gas fireplaces hook up to the gas line you already have in your house to produce heat. To give a little more ambiance, you can purchase ceramic logs that look like firewood safe to put inside your gas fireplace. 

Electric Fireplaces

An electric fireplace simply plugs into the wall and can become an extra piece to add to a room. It acts a little like a space heater but is more decorative than one of those clunky metal heating elements. 

These fireplaces do not require a ton of maintenance like wood fireplaces do and do not need to be hooked up to a gas line. They simply emit heat from the fireplace and into the room without the hassle of smoke or ventilation. 

  • Bring in cool air: The room that your fireplace is in has cool air. The cool air is sucked into the fireplace to be heated up. 
  • Heat the air inside using a heating coil: A heating element then heats the cool air. The flame effect that electric fireplaces usually have on the front is fake and made up of LED lights. 
  • Push air out: After the air is heated, the air is forced out into the air inside of the room to replace the cool air. Heat rises, so the heat will rise through the room, causing the temperature to rise. 

These fireplaces require the least amount of work or maintenance and are not extremely expensive. They can heat up to 400 square feet of space and keep you warm through the winter months. 

Need More Help?

You can always ask us here at Fireplace Tips, but you should know the other resources available to you! Here are the resources we recommend.

  • Chimney Safety Institute of North America (CSIA): The CSIA is your BEST resource for fireplace and chimney safety at home. They’re a non-profit governed by a volunteer board of directors dedicated to the education, training, and certification of chimney and industry related professionals.
  • Self-Sufficiency and Off-Grid: If you’re like me and passionate about off-grid and self-sufficiency, see my number 1 resource—Abundance Plus. Check out their Frugal Homesteading Course on growing 90% of your own food. Get 7-days free and 10% off with the code: TYLER10