Dampers are designed to seal off the firebox from the rest of the chimney structure, creating an air-tight seal to prevent losing cooled or heated air up the chimney. Unfortunately, many homeowners use their dampers incorrectly or have dampers that have lost their seal; studies have shown that as many as 80% of all chimney dampers are left partially open when not in use.
Even when they are closed, dislodged dampers may cause drafting problems. Understanding what causes them – as well as how they can be repaired – can help you get back to enjoying your fireplace sooner.
What is a chimney damper?
Most chimneys have throat dampers that separate the firebox from the rest of the chimney structure. Located at the top of the firebox, the damper is designed to create an air tight seal when closed. This prevents airflow between the heated and cooled air within the house and the outside air in the chimney structure.
How do dislodged dampers cause drafting problems?
Over time, chimney dampers can lose their air tight seal. Damper damage can be caused by chimney leaks, long term exposure to heat from the chimney, or the damper being opened or closed too forcibly. If the seal is lost, you may experience drafting problems.
Damper drafting problems can have a number of symptoms. One of the most common signs of drafting problems caused by the damper is energy loss between your home and the outside air. A persistent cold spot in front of the fireplace during the winter – even when the damper is closed – can be a sign that your damper has lost its seal. Likewise, dislodged dampers may suffer from downdrafts, especially on windy days. When this occurs, gusts of air can blow down the chimney and into your home; these downdrafts are often accompanied by a smoky persistent smoky odor that lingers long after the fireplace has been used.
Dislodged dampers don’t just cause drafting problems – they can also cost you money. When the damper is left open when the fireplace is not in use, heating and cooling costs can increase by as much as 30%. Even closed dampers that have lost their seal can continually let air in, increasing your heating and cooling costs each month.
Studies have shown that even well-fitting and correctly installed throat dampers may not be able to solve all drafting problems. Because of this, more and more chimney sweeps are recommending installing a top mounting damper.
Top mounting dampers sit on top of the chimney at the entrance of the flue. When closed, they seal off the entire chimney structure from the outside. This not only prevents drastic temperature changes and differences in the chimney structure but can also almost eliminate problems with downdrafts and similar drafting problems.
A dislodged damper can do more than just let small amounts of air in and out; it can also lead to chimney drafting problems as well as lead to higher energy bills. Whether your damper has become dislodged or you’re interested in replacing it with a top sealing damper, contact Mountain Man Fireplace & Chimney today to find out what a new damper can do for your chimney!