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All About Your Fireplace Damper

All About Your Fireplace Damper Image - Seattle WA - Pristine SweepsMost homeowners know what their damper is and how to use it, but may not understand how it is important to the overall safety and efficiency of the chimney and fireplace.

What is a fireplace damper?

A fireplace damper is a piece of metal that acts as a barrier between the firebox and the rest of the chimney. Located at the top of the firebox, dampers are opened and closed when the fireplace is in use to prevent smoke, gas, and other byproducts of combustion from blowing back into the home. Dampers are also used to help keep moisture, animals, and unconditioned air out of the firebox and home.

Two types of dampers

There are two types of dampers that can be used in your home.

  • Throat damper: Throat dampers have been used for years and are found in the majority of homes. Sitting at the top of the firebox, throat dampers close off the firebox from the rest of the chimney, while the top of the chimney is open to outside air and protected by a chimney cap.
  • Top sealing damper: Top sealing dampers are one of the most recent innovations in the chimney industry and are beginning to be used in more and more homes. Top sealing dampers are located at the top of the flue where the chimney cap traditionally sits. Top sealing dampers are still opened and closed using levers or pulleys when the fireplace is or is not in use. When closed, the top sealing dampers closes off the entire chimney system from outside air. This can help reduce heating and cooling costs as unconditioned air in the chimney is not affecting air temperature within the home.

Signs of damper damage

Whether it’s from years of use or overexposure to heat or the elements, dampers can become damaged and need to be repaired or replaced. The following are three signs that your damper may be damaged.

  • Broken pulley or lever: Pulleys and levers are used so that the damper can be opened and closed when the fireplace is in use. If this mechanism breaks, the damper can become stuck in one position. This can impact the safety and efficiency of your fireplace system – and even prevent you from using your fireplace altogether.
  • Loss of airtight seal: If you can feel or hear air coming through the damper when it is closed, your damper has most likely lost its airtight seal. This can happen after years of exposure to heat or if the damper has been forcibly opened or closed.
  • Rust: Rust on the damper indicates that there has been a chimney leak. If the leak has already been repaired, the damper can be replaced before the rusting metal deteriorates further. If the leak is new, its source should be identified and repaired before you repair the damper; this keeps future damper damage from occurring.

The damper is an important part of your fireplace system; it protects your home from exposure to outside air while helping the fireplace to vent safely and efficiently. For more information on fireplace dampers or to schedule an inspection to check on the condition of your damper, contact Pristine Sweeps today!

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Advantages of a Top Sealing Damper

Chimney and fireplace technology continues to make advances, helping homeowners save money and run their appliances with maximum energy efficiency. One such chimney component that continues to grow in popularity is the top sealing damper.


This clip is courtesy of Richie Baxley at Environmental Chimney Service in Asheville NC.

What is a top sealing damper?

In most fireplaces, the damper can be found at the top of the firebox. The purpose of this damper is to separate the flue from the firebox, keeping the warm air inside your home in while keeping drafts and cold air out.

Unlike a normal damper, top sealing dampers are located at the top of the flue. When closed, they seal off the entire flue and chimney structure from the outside. This prevents any cold air, moisture, debris, or animals from entering the flue when the damper is closed.

Advantages of a top sealing damper

One of the biggest advantages of the top sealing damper is that they help keep chimney structures warmer. This prevents your chimney from being “cold”, which can cause smoke to blow back into your home when you attempt to start a fire. Likewise, having the flue closed to outside air means that rooms near the chimney or flue are less likely to experience dramatic shifts in temperature in the summer or winter months.

Because the top sealing dampers close off the entire flue, they are often considered a more energy efficient option than traditional dampers. They also prevent downdrafts or “whistling” chimneys, which can occur with regular dampers even when the damper is closed. Likewise, when the top sealing damper is closed there is no loss of heated or cooled air from your home, and outside air in the chimney will not affect your interior temperature.

Do top sealing dampers need chimney caps?

Top sealing dampers work as a replacement for chimney caps. Because they seal off the top of the chimney when not in use, it protects your chimney from moisture, leaves, branches, and other debris from falling into the flue.

When closed, the dampers are also effective at keeping birds, small mammals, and raccoons out of the flue and chimney structure. When the fireplace is in use and the damper is open, the smoke from the fire acts as a natural deterrent to keep animals away from the chimney. In addition, the design of many top sealing dampers will keep large animals such as raccoons out even when the damper is open.

Because the chimney is essentially open when the damper is open, it is extremely important to close top sealing dampers when the fireplace is not in use. Without doing so, water, debris, and animals – all of which damage the fireplace and chimney – have easy access to your chimney.

If you’re interested in learning more about top sealing dampers and whether or not it would be the right choice for your chimney system, contact Pristine Sweeps today. Our highly trained and knowledgeable staff would be happy to discuss the pros and cons of top sealing dampers and whether or not it would be a good fit with your fireplace needs.