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FRIDAY, JANUARY 5, 2007
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Seal fireplaces when not in use to keep in warmth

Dear Jim: We have some firewood, so I have been using our open masonry fireplace to help lower our heating bills. It is not helping and the house actually feels colder.

Is there anything I can do?

- Thomas M.

Dear Thomas: If you have a standard open masonry fireplace, your house may actually be colder than if you did not burn a fire.

Although the room with the fireplace may be warm when a fire is burning, overall more heat is being drawn from the rest of your house and lost up the chimney.

What makes things worse is most chimney dampers do not seal well and already-heated room air is sucked up your chimney 24 hours each day.

When you are not using your fireplace, insert an inflatable chimney balloon (also called chimney pillow) into the flue to seal it. Battic Door makes an easy-to-install one. There also chimney-top dampers that operate from indoors.

When your fire is burning, your goals are to minimize the amount of heated room air lost up the chimney and to maximize the amount of heat output into the room.

You will always lose some heated room air because the fire does need combustion air.

If you reduce the combustion air too much, this will hinder the combustion process and create excessive creosote deposits.

Tight-sealing fireplace glass doors are one way to improve your fireplace efficiency. If you do not have an air circulation blower in your fireplace, the only heat you get from it is radiant heat.

A large glass area will transfer the most radiant heat to the room.

Good-quality fireplace doors have adjustable slots to control the amount of combustion air.

If you burn your fireplace often, it makes economic sense to invest in a heat-circulating grate. These are add-on devices that circulate room air through pipes in the fire.

Models with a built-in thermostat and variable-speed fan provide the best heat control and efficiency. The front of some are less than 1.5 inches high, so they fit neatly under tight-sealing glass doors.

If you have access from a crawl space or basement beneath the fireplace, run a duct from outdoors to the front of the fireplace.

Install a tight-sealing adjustable register cover over it. When burning a fire, open the register so outdoor air will be drawn in for combustion. This reduces the amount of heated room air being drawn from your home.

The following companies offer fireplace efficiency products: Battic Door, (508) 320-9082, www.batticdoor.com; Country Iron Foundry, (800) 233-9945, www.firebacks.com; Diamond W Products, (800) 653-3668, www.diamond-w.com; Northline Express, (866) 667-8454, www.northlineexpress.com; and Thermo-Rite, (800) 321-0313, www.thermo-rite.com.

Conducting heat

Dear Jim: I can feel a lot of heat coming from the dishwasher, but the kitchen is plenty warm. Is there a good way to duct this heat to other rooms in my house where the heat is needed more?

- Miles T.

Dear Miles: I don't know of a good way to duct that dishwasher heat throughout your home. If you do your dishwashing and clothes washing at the same time, you might run your furnace blower to distribute all the warm air.

The best way to save energy when using your dishwasher is to wait until you have a full load and set it for the shortest cycle which is effective. Also open the door and let the dishes air dry instead of using the heating element.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Decatur Daily, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.

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