Fireplace Damper Basics
A fireplace damper is an essential part of the operation of any home fireplace. An improperly used or malfunctioning fireplace damper can lead to an inefficient fireplace.
A fireplace damper is a metal frame that shapes the throat of the fireplace and features a hinged lid, or valve, to regulate the draft and to close the throat when the fireplace is not in use. The damper serves to keep heat from escaping and warming the outdoors. By closing the damper partway, the heat circulates lower and remains in your home to provide warmth not matched by gas or electric heating systems. A side benefit of this effect is a significant savings in your heating bills.
A damper will also reduce the number of times you will need to tend a fire in your fireplace. When starting a fire, oxygen is needed to allow the combustion process to ignite. Opening the damper lets air in the fireplace. Leaving it open will allow the fire to build up so that when you close the damper it will keep blazing for a longer period.
The types of fireplace dampers that are available include throat-mount, which is made of cast iron, and top mount. They can be bought in fireplace stores or built to your fireplace’s exact dimensions. If you have a large flue and/or an unconventionally shaped one, you will more than likely need to have one made to order. Damper/cap combinations are commercially available as well. They can be bought in home improvement stores, fireplace stores, and online retailers at low prices.
Properly working dampers form a seal which don’t allow air to seep through. As a fireplace ages though, the metal plates that form the damper become warped from the effects of heat and moisture. As the seal worsens, more air can escape up the chimney even when the damper is closed.
If your fireplace is over 20 years old, it would be advisable to hire a professional chimney sweep to inspect check your damper to gauge its efficiency in keeping warm air in and cold air out. If the fireplace damper is not working properly, a new one will save you money for many years.
Each fireplace has unique needs, but most will need a fireplace damper. Using a damper will benefit your home, your heating bill, and the environment.