How to make your fireplace more efficient

There is something very special, even romantic with an open fire. We all visualise being round the fire at Christmas or a romantic scene in a chalet. As lovely as they are they are pretty inefficient.

It is thought that up to 90% of the heat goes up the chimney when lit and when not lit it lets valuable heat up the chimney too.


Some suggestions on how to make your fireplace more efficient.

Check your damper. A fireplace damper is most commonly found in the throat of a chimney made of masonry, sitting above the firebox. The damper is designed to seal your fireplace shut whenever you are not burning a fire. In order to keep heated air from escaping, a damper is necessary. Always have your damper checked to ensure efficiency.

A fire back panel which can be placed at the back of the fireplace in order to protect the back surface from fire damage. The fire back is good for fireplace efficiency because it absorbs the fire heat and radiates heat back into the house.

A fireplace heater – blower system is very efficient because it can pull air from your room, circulate it through and then blow the warmed air back. There are many claims of increasing efficiency – they do make a difference.

Draft eliminator is a draft stopper which is cheaper and tighter than a throat damper. This device is used to reduce heat loss when you’re  not using your fireplace.

These additions to your fireplace will, of course, cost you money. But in the end they will save you money every year and make your fireplace far more economically and practically efficient than it was before modernisation.

Another efficiency is to get the most from your logs. Seasoning them is crucial. When a tree is first felled its timber can contain as much as 60% water. But if they’ve been air-dried for a year then brought indoors a few weeks before being used, their calorific value can increase by up to 50%. Seasoning also greatly reduces the amount of smoke logs emit when lit. (Household pollution is a key drawback of open fires)

Increasing surface area by chopping logs to a diameter of about 10-15cm can increase efficiency too. So can burning smaller, hotter fires by allowing each log to burn right down before placing on another.

And remember chimneys should also be swept twice a year.

But if you are using an open fire as your main source of heat and not just, say, to heat a living room on the coldest of days, the best option by far is to consider installing a wood stove. The latest generation of stoves can even heat radiators by using back boilers. Contact the National Energy Foundation (, tel: 01908 665555) for more details

Thanks to the following references: