05 Aug How to Tell if a Damper is Open or Closed
Relaxing by the warmth of a crackling fire is one of the best things about the cold season. Once the temperature starts to drop, chimneys paint the sky with clouds of smoke from fireplaces. While most homeowners know how to open their dampers to start a fire, too many have no idea how to use it to control that fire.
At ProTech Chimney, we want you to be safe every time you use your fireplace. Knowing how to tell if your damper is open or closed is one of the most critical aspects of fireplace and chimney safety.
What is a fireplace damper?
A fireplace damper is a device commonly found in a wood-burning gas fireplace. It’s designed to seal your fireplace closed when you’re not using it. There are three main types of dampers:
- Fireplace dampers are a type of damper usually located at the base of the chimney and around its throat just above the firebox
- Flue dampers, which you can find at the base of a flue
- Chimney cap dampers, which are typically located at the top of a chimney
Most dampers are made out of ceramic or metal. These materials can withstand the intense heat of fires, and can also handle exposure to air, smoke, and gasses.
Importance of a Fireplace Damper
Not all chimneys or fireplaces have dampers. In fireplaces that do have them, dampers play several essential functions:
- Helps start a fire
Fires need oxygen to ignite. Opening the damper allows air and oxygen to get into the fireplace and build the fire
- Releases contaminants
An open damper also allows pollutants like soot, smoke, carbon monoxide, and other harmful gasses to escape through the chimney instead of entering your home.
- Conserves hot and cold air
A closed damper keeps your home cozy during winter and conserves heated air by keeping in the warm air and preventing heat loss. During summertime, it retains cooler air inside the house. This leads to higher energy efficiency and more comfortable living space throughout the seasons.
With so much depending on the position of the damper, every homeowner with a fireplace should know how to operate it correctly.
How can you tell if the damper is open or closed?
ProTech Chimney experts recommend following several steps to check if your damper is open or close. To avoid injuries, only do this when your chimney and fireplace have cooled down completely. Never check your damper open right after putting a fire.
Follow these steps to tell if your damper is open or closed:
- Conduct a visual check.
Lean in under your chimney just outside of your wood burning stove. You should find a metal device just within the chimney or flue opening. The damper is open if you can see through the damper up to your chimney. If you only see a metal plate, the damper is in a closed position.
Can’t see into your fireplace? Use a flashlight or the torch function on your phone.
For a top-mounted chimney damper, you need to position yourself outside your chimney. If you see a metal plate or object at the top of the chimney, then you most likely have a chimney cap damper. You can open or close the damper using the controls in your fireplace.
- Try to find the damper handle.
To be able to tell if your damper is in a closed or open position, you need to find the damper controls. A traditional wood stove usually has a throat damper at the base of the chimney flue. Look for a metal handle with a rotary-style screw or a latch in the center of the chimney throat. Aside from the fireplace flue, this handle may be located on the fireplace opening as well.
For chimney cap dampers, look for a chain inside your fireplace. In general, chimney cap dampers are closed if the chain is hooked to the wall surround of your fireplace. If it’s hanging freely, the damper is closed.
- Check if you can feel a draft.
Place your hand inside your fireplace, at the topmost part. If you feel a draft, your damper may be open.
Another way to check is to roll up a newspaper or match and light it up. Place it inside your fireplace, near the top section. An open damper will pull up the smoke and flames upward, while a closed damper will not. You can also listen for the rush of air to see if the damper is open or closed.
Pro-Tech Chimney: Your Fireplace, Flue, and Chimney Experts
Finally, confirm your damper inspection by scheduling a fireplace and chimney inspection with Pro-Tech Chimney. Regular fireplace maintenance – including a damper inspection – is essential to a safe and efficient fireplace. Aside from fireplace maintenance services, we also offer Long Island chimney and fireplace cleaning services and chimney repairs.
Dealing with a sudden chimney, HVAC, or fireplace damage? Our 24-hour emergency services have you covered.
Our team at Pro-Tech Chimney serves all of Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk Counties. For inquiries and to set a schedule for fireplace and chimney service, reach out to us using our convenient Contact Form. Let’s keep your fireplace and chimney in top condition!