How to Open Your Chimney Damper
Unless you have a vent-free fireplace, the first step you should take before lighting a fire in a wood-burning fireplace or gas fireplace is to open the damper. If you start a fire when the damper is closed, you’ll realize the mistake quickly when the room fills up with smoke. Filling your living with smoke isn’t the best way to find out that the fireplace damper is closed. We’ve got a few tips to help you find out if your damper needs to be opened and how to do it.
The damper is a vent that controls airflow in and out of the chimney. When you aren’t using your fireplace, it should be closed to prevent heated and cooled air in your home from escaping. A closed damper also stops cold drafts from coming down the chimney. When you are using your fireplace, it needs to be open so that smoke can vent outside. It also allows fresh air to come in to feed the fire.
How to Know if the Damper is Open
There are 3 ways to tell whether or not the damper is open without lighting a fire.
• Feel for a Draft
Before lighting a fire, you can tell if the damper is open by placing your hand into the fireplace. If you feel a draft coming down the chimney, it is a good indicator that the damper is open. If you don’t feel any cold air coming down the chimney, it means that the damper is closed.
• Visually Check
Another way to find out if the damper is open is to do a visual check. If your chimney has a traditional damper, all you need to do is shine a flashlight up the chimney. If you can see the sky, it is open. If you see closed metal or ceramic slats, you know it needs to be opened.
If you have a top-mounted damper, you might not be able to see whether or not it is open by looking up the chimney. If you go outside with a pair of binoculars and look up at the chimney, you should be able to see little pieces of metal or ceramic sticking up if the damper is open.
• Look at the Controls
The best way to tell whether or not the damper is open is to check the controls. How your damper is controlled depends on the type of damper your chimney has. If your chimney has a traditional throat damper, it will either be controlled by a metal rod or a knob (also called a rotary style). If your chimney has a top-mounted damper, it will be controlled by a metal chain.
How to Check the Controls & Open a Damper
Do you see a knob near the fireplace or a metal rod inside the firebox? If you see one of these, you have a traditional throat damper. If the knob is turned counterclockwise all the way or the rod hangs down low, it means the damper is closed. You should turn the knob clockwise, as far as it can go, or push the rod all the way up to open the damper.
If there is a metal chain in or besides your fireplace, it means that your chimney has a top-mounted damper. If the chain is tightly attached to a hook, the damper is closed. To open it, take the chain off the hook and let it go. You should feel the chain spring up as the damper opens.
After you’ve opened the damper, you should feel air coming down the chimney. If you don’t feel any air coming down the chimney or if you’ve opened the damper but your fireplace is still smoking, you should contact a chimney specialist. The damper could be warped or broken. You shouldn’t use your fireplace until the problem is solved to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you’re having a problem with your fireplace damper, give us a call!