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Your fireplace creates a warm, cozy atmosphere during wintry weather, but don’t let it add unnecessary dollars to your electric bill.

Of course, fireplaces heat the room they’re in – unfortunately, often at the expense of the rest of the house. Most of the heat in traditional fireplaces goes up the chimney, instead of warm- ing living spaces – and the draft pulls heat from other rooms too. So, if your thermostat is located away from the fireplace, it will work harder to main- tain room temperatures for the rest of the house.

A fireplace insert can help boost your fireplace’s energy efficiency. However, the emissions from old in- serts and fireplaces without inserts are up to 20 times worse than using U.S. Environmental Protection Agen- cy-certified wood stoves, pellet stoves or gas/oil furnaces. So look for a certi- fied insert if you want to supplement your home’s heating.

Contact a local retailer to learn about efficient stoves and inserts that will circulate hot air into a room to help lower heating costs. But keep in mind the disadvantages of using high-maintenance fires as heat sourc- es, including the fact that they require constant attention and ash disposal can be a hassle.

If you don’t have an efficient insert but love a crackling fire, follow these measures for safety and improved efficiency:

  • Seal the cracks. While sealing drafts around your home, don’t forget to check the chimney. Smoke and heat that escape through cracks can pose a fire hazard, and it’s best to hire a pro- fessional to fix cracks in high-heat areas.
  • Fight the draft. If you plan on a long-lasting fire, lower the ther- mostat to save energy – be pre- pared to wear a sweater in other rooms – and resist the temptation to crank up the temperature after the fire goes out.
  • Get a clean sweep. A National Fire Protection Association stan- dard suggests having your chim- ney and fireplace inspected once a year – and cleaned or repaired when necessary. Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, an annual inspection may find blockages from animal nests, structural deterioration or other problems.
  • Batten down the hatch. Keep the chimney flue closed when not using your fireplace to prevent conditioned or heated air from escaping.
  • Install tight-fitting glass doors. Controlling the airflow in your fireplace improves combustion efficiency by 10 to 20 percent and reduces air leaks up the chimney.
  • Choose your wood wisely. Wood that’s dried at least 6 months pro- vides the best heat, so avoid any that’s wet or newly chopped. The harder the tree species, the longer your fire will burn. This makes ironwood, rock elm, hickory, oak, sugar maple and beech good choices. Store wood off the ground and away from your house to remove the threat of termite infes- tation, and cover the top to lessen moisture (but leave the sides open for circulation).

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