How to Use Your Damper the Correct Way
The damper is the part of your masonry fireplace system that controls ventilation inside the chimney flue. Problems are avoided when you know how to use your damper the correct way. Below, learn the what, when, why, and how of chimney dampers. For damper installation, repair, or replacement in the Houston TX and Conroe TX areas, contact the qualified chimney pros at Guardian Chimney Sweep.
What is a Damper?
A fireplace damper is a metal door inside or above the chimney. An open damper allows airflow inside the chimney flue, and a closed damper stops the exchange of air from the indoors to the out-of-doors. Open the damper before starting a fire and close it after the fire and hot coals have died out. There are two basic types of dampers, as follows:
- Throat dampers are located just above the fireplace at the base of the chimney. Different types of mechanisms open and close throat dampers, such as handles or cranks.
- Top sealing dampers, also known as chimney cap dampers, are less common than throat dampers. Top sealing dampers are installed at the very top of the chimney. A chain or cable inside the fireplace is used to open and close a chimney cap damper.
How to Prime Your Chimney
Hot combustion gases from fires rise and travel up the chimney to the out-of-doors. Sometimes, though, it’s not enough to simply open the damper because you know how to use your damper the correct way. In frigid temperatures, the chimney can become filled with a cold column of air. This is more prone to happen if your chimney is built into an exterior wall, and what’s needed is to prime the chimney flue.
The typical way to prime a chimney is to create a torch using rolled-up newspaper. Carefully light the paper torch and place it near the throat of the chimney, which is just above the fireplace. This may be needed more than once to displace the cold air inside the chimney and allow for a chimney draft that draws out the combustion fumes.
How to Tell Whether the Damper is Open
Many inexperienced people have started a fire without first making sure the damper is opened. The result is always the same—toxic smoke billows into the home, creating a potential health risk. Carbon monoxide is among the gases produced by wood fires, and carbon monoxide exposure can be deadly.
Different ways to determine whether the damper is opened:
- If you have a top-sealing damper and you can’t tell whether it is open, go outside and check. As necessary, use binoculars.
- Use a flashlight to look above the firebox into the chimney. If you have a throat damper, make sure it is fully opened before starting a fire.
- Put a lit match to a piece of paper and carefully hold the paper up toward the throat of the chimney. The damper is open if the smoke is drawn upward.
Why it is Important to Close the Damper
It can be very costly to keep the chimney damper open after the fire has gone cold. The heated air inside your home will be drawn up the chimney, causing your winter heating costs to skyrocket. Periodically check your throat damper to be sure it creates a seal because the metal can warp over time.
To test whether your throat damper works properly, first close the damper. Next, light a match, blow it out, and hold it up toward the damper. If the smoke goes up instead of into your room, the damper doesn’t seal sufficiently. You can schedule damper repair or replacement by contacting chimney sweep experts.
Contact Guardian Chimney Sweep About Your Damper
The certified chimney professionals at Guardian Chimney Sweep have the know-how to ensure that your chimney and fireplace components are working properly. We offer damper installation, repair, and replacement. Feel free to call if you can’t figure out how to use your damper the correct way. For chimney cleaning, chimney inspections, masonry repair, flashing repair, chimney cap installation, fireplace installation, and more, contact us today.
Fill out our contact form or call us at any of the numbers below.
Toll-free: (888) 306-6069
Conroe: (936) 271-9781
Houston: (713) 401-2011