If you have a wood-burning fireplace, you have a damper that controls how much air goes out the chimney during a fire. Adjusting the damper helps you burn a fire safely and efficiently. When there is no fire burning in the fireplace, the damper should be closed to keep heated or cooled air from escaping out of the chimney. If you are confused about how to use your damper effectively, you are not alone. At Ace Chimney Sweeps, we are often asked by our customers about how to open and close the damper. Since knowing how to use the damper correctly affects your safety, we would like to tell you more about operating this component of your fireplace.

Opening a Damper Image - Elkton MD - Ace Chimney Sweeps

What type of damper do you have?

Before you can learn how to open and close the damper, you need to know which type of damper you have. If your damper is located at the top of your fireplace, you have a traditional throat damper. These dampers are opened and closed by a ratcheting push or lift rod, or a screw-type rotary control. If your damper is located at the top of your chimney, you have a top-mount damper. This type of damper is spring-loaded and has a default position of open. To close a top-mount damper, you have to pull the attached chain and secure it on a hook on the side of the firebox.

How can I check to see if my damper is working properly?

According to eHow, there are a few simple tests to try to see if your damper is opening as it should:

  • Perform a visual check.
    Using a flashlight, poke your head inside the fireplace to look up into the chimney. If you have a throat damper, you can tell if it is closed if you see a barrier above your head. If you can see up into the flue, the damper is open. To visually check a top-mount damper, stand outside your home and use binoculars to see if the damper vents are opened or closed.
  • Check the controls.
    If you have a push or lift rod, push or lift it all the way to open the damper. If there is a rotary control, you can turn it clockwise as far as it can go. If you have a top-mount damper, pull on the chain. If it can be pulled down before springing back up, the damper is open.
  • Feel for a breeze. 
    If the damper is open, you should be able to easily tell by placing your hand inside the firebox to check for air circulation. If your fireplace is located in the basement, you may even be able to feel air coming down the chimney.
  • Start a fire.
    One of the easiest ways to tell whether or not your damper is open is by starting a fire. If the damper is closed, smoke will come out of the chimney and enter the room. If the damper is open, smoke will exit out of the chimney.

If you are unable to easily open and close your damper, contact us at Ace Chimney Sweeps. We can fix this problem for you so that you can safely enjoy fires in your fireplace this winter.