Enjoy your fire, safely

October 15th 2012
Enjoy your fire, safely

The warm and comforting glow of a fire is a welcome treat as winter evenings bring a crisp chill to the air. Whether you curl up in front of a wood-burning or a natural gas fireplace, it’s important to know how to enjoy your fireplace safely.


Wood-burning fireplace

When a wood-burning fireplace is in use, air is continually drawn out of the home and up the chimney. This air must be replaced to maintain the air balance flowing in and out of the home. This is essential for the safe operation of all fuel burning appliances. This balancing act ensures adequate air for complete combustion and ventilation of the flue gases.

If the air balance is altered because of poor air supply or a blocked chimney, carbon monoxide (CO) and soot can be produced and down drafting can occur. To prevent smoke and flue gases (CO) from entering your home, follow these precautions:


  • When a fireplace is in use, an open damper allows the smoke and gases to exit.
  • Ensure an adequate fresh air supply into your home before lighting the fire.
  • Some fireplaces come with their own combustion air duct. If yours is not equipped with this, you must have a fresh air supply nearby (such as an open window).
  • Keep the fresh air supply open, even overnight, until the fire is completely out.
  • After the fire is out and the ashes are cold (or when the wood-burning fireplace is not in use) close the damper. This will prevent air and heat loss up the chimney, and cold air drafts from coming down the chimney.


The first line of defense against CO is the proper installation, use, maintenance and inspection of all your fuel-burning appliances. The second line of defense is a properly installed CO detector. When you are about to purchase a new CO Detector, make sure it is approved to the latest standards. Look for CSA 6.19 or CSA 6.19-01 on the package.

Consider installing glass doors on your wood-burning fireplace. The doors will prevent heat in your home from escaping up the chimney, saving you money on your heating bill.

You may also want to consider purchasing a Draftstopper they are designed to prevent drafts from conventional wood burning fireplaces when not in use.


Natural gas fireplace

Natural gas fireplaces can operate over 60 percent efficiency; whereas, a typical wood-burning fireplace operates at 10 per cent efficiency. (Efficiency refers to the amount of heat that is extracted from the flame and is used to heat the home). Remember to have regular inspections performed on natural gas fireplaces, along with all natural gas appliances.


Types of natural gas fireplaces


  • Fireplace Insert: natural gas fireplace that fits inside an existing masonry fireplace.
  • Natural Vent Fireplace : natural gas fireplace that has a type B vent (a four inch manufacturer-recommended venting pipe used to exhaust the combustion gases of fireplaces, hot water heaters and other small natural gas appliances) going up a fireplace chase (the enclosure on the outside of the house that the metal chimney runs through).
  • Direct Vent Fireplace: natural gas fireplace that uses a single outlet, dual pipe system to draw combustion air and vent exhaust. The vent is typically installed directly behind the fireplace or slightly above and behind.
  • Free Standing Fireplace: wood stove appearance, with the benefits of natural gas. Can be either natural-vent or direct-vent.


Other Options


Pellet Stoves and Inserts: They are environmentally friendly, extremely clean burning and cost effective. Pellets are made from 100% waste sawdust, dried and compressed, creating an ideal heating fuel.

Electric Fireplaces:  A great option if you live in an apartment and you want the look and feel of a fireplace when installing a gas unit is simply not an option. While they are not meant to heat a large area, they do provide some added comfort to a room.