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Fall is here, and winter is upon us. With that in mind, now is probably a good time to get that fireplace in shape for a season or two of sitting by the fire with a good book, spouse or significant other -- without choking on fumes or having soot messes at your feet.

Yes, it's time to clean out that fireplace and get ready to enjoy it. Just don't think about how inefficient a fireplace is (is literally send heat directly out of your house), and put your strategy into action to minimize heat loss from operating that fireplace while still being able to enjoy it, both personally and fiscally.

First off, remember to use your central heat and air system to heat up your home while the fireplace is operating. This will minimize heat loss from the exchange of hot and cold air in the home.

If you have a gas-fired/fake log fireplace, install a blower system that sends heated air back into the room (as opposed to directly out the chimney or exhaust). I installed one of these years ago and the difference was unreal -- the blower heated my entire home almost, so much that I could turn off the gas furnace for half a day.

Even if you don't use your fireplace, ensure the damper is closed at all times (seal it if possible) and perhaps even seal and plug the flue completely to minimize or even eliminate heat loss from inside the home to the chimney.

We all want to enjoy those fireplaces, but at the same time, we need to minimize wasted energy and takes steps to make sure we don't let that nice hearth become a financial drain once your gas or electric bill arrives.


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