November’s almost here, and for many of us who are lucky enough to own one, that means firing up the fireplace and thinking about how to get the best value out of the wood we chop or buy.
But to fireplace expert Gary Ridge of American Chimney Pros in Wayland, Mass., by far the most important first step is to make sure you’re not going to burn your house down. That means getting it inspected and cleaned if you haven’t recently, having an expert look for “broken flue tiles, little cracks that open into the wood walls, and third-degree creosote. You look up and see really shiny, shiny black stuff that looks like tar. That actually is what catches the chimney on fire.’’
You can treat it with a $20 creosote chemical log to neutralize and remove the creosote, which, Ridge said, “I highly recommend, but that's not going to fix any structural problems. You can't just go out and spend twenty bucks on this log to get rid of the creosote and expect your chimney to be safe.’’
Once it’s inspected, one way to save money is to leave a little mess after your first fires. “If you leave some ash in there, it'll help protect the floor of the fireplace , plus it won't burn up the wood as fast. If it's all completely cleaned out, it's getting so much oxygen underneath it that it's just going to burn the fire up a lot quicker.
But if you think an open fireplace fire's going to reduce your gas or oil heat bill -- as a rule that'll almost never happen because open fireplaces pull more heat out of your home overall than they may pump into one room. Ridge said there’s nothing you can safely do to address that, “besides putting in an insert or wood stove, because basically, it's just heat going up. It'll heat this room up, but it's pulling all of the oxygen out of the other rooms to keep this fire going up the chimney.’’
For actual cost savings on your oil or gas bill, you want a properly installed “insert” in the fireplace that burns wood or gas and has two liners in it – one pulling in fresh, cold air down the chimney to fuel the fire, the second sending heated exhaust up a different part of the city. That way, it’s cold air from outside that’s ultimately going up your fireplace chimney, not air you paid the gas company or oil dealer to heat.
With video editor Lauren Kleciak and videographer Daniel J. Ferrigan