With a chill in the air you may be like me, thinking it's time to light up a fire and cuddle in with a warm cup of tea and a favorite book. Each time I've moved, one thing I've insisted on having in my home is a fireplace. There's nothing quite so cozy as a crackling wood fire, if for nothing else, but ambiance.
However, if your fireplace is unusable, or you reserve it only for those special occasions, it quickly becomes apparent that the chimney, designed to draw smoke and unwanted gases outside, also draws a ton of heated air outside as well.
Although you can close the damper, it's important to realize that dampers, made of metal, do not fully close to create an airtight seal and often warp over time which increases the risk of air leaking out. I found out first hand how much air I heated and paid for that the chimney sucked up, as I kept a keen eye on my heating bill one chilly winter. It finally dawned on me that there must be a better solution and I set out to find a way to create a safe and effective seal that would keep the hot air from escaping.
A friend of mine turned me on to a fireplace draft stopper, which I had never heard of.
What exactly is a draft stopper?
Draft stoppers for your fireplace are also known as chimney pillows, chimney plugs, fireplace blockers. These cost effective devices are basically inflatable dampers that create an airtight seal between the opening of the chimney and the inside of your home. They are made of 3 ply poly plastic and are incredibly easy to install, remove and reuse. This unique apparatus has a number of advantages including:
When air leaks out of your house through your chimney, it is replaced by outside air that finds its way in via poorly sealed windows and doors and any other place where the barrier between indoor and outdoor air has been compromised. Keeping the air from escaping out the chimney will reduce the overall draftiness in your home.
Reduced Heating Costs
No one likes a huge heating bill and that is exactly what you get when your chimney draws your warm out outside. Look closely, can you see the dollar bills floating up your chimney. Once I began using a fireplace blocker, I saw a sizable decrease in my heating costs.
Keep Animals Out
If you have a vented fireplace you have most likely experienced bugs, birds and even bats taking up residence in your chimney and even coming inside your house for a visit from time to time. A chimney plug will keep these unwanted visitors at bay.
Measuring For a Chimney Draft Stopper
Because not all chimneys are the same size, it is important that you measure for your chimney pillow. Be sure your fireplace and chimney are cold and that any embers are completely out in your fireplace. Clean out the cold ash to make measuring easier and cleaner. Measure your chimney about a foot or so up the chimney flue, using a flexible metal tape or two pieces of wood or cardboard extended like wings. It is okay if the measurement is only approximate - you can even get a balloon that is a little larger and be okay. Just don't get one that's too small.
Note: Most balloons come with installation instructions. You do not need any special experience or tools to install a chimney balloon.
Warning: Always make sure that the inflation valve is hanging freely. If you happen to light a fire and the balloon is still in the chimney this will allow the balloon to drop out.
Tip: I find it easiest to make a note on the fireplace screen reminding me that the balloon is in the flue.
For me, a fireplace draft stopper has been a small price to pay for all the money I've saved in heating bills, without having to give up one of my favorite features in my home - my cozy fireplace.