How can you efficiently use a natural fireplace to heat a home and what are types or brands of fans to use to blow the heat so it won't escape up the chimney?

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Besides having a fireplace insert with blower installed. There is very little you can do to help a wood burning fireplace be an effective heat producer for your home. Here are a couple of items that may help, but keep in mind fireplaces by design tend to leak interior air when they are dormant and are inefficient at heating your homes interior when you use them. When the fireplace is dormant:
1) Inflatable damper
If you use your fireplace at all it is likely that your damper is not in prime condition. The US Department of Energy says that on average 15% of a homes heat loss is through the fireplace damper. Dampers are made of metal and they are heated and cooled regularly so they tend to warp and corrode over time. You can use a chimney balloon or inflatable damper to seal the chimney off air tight and stop this type of heat loss. 2) Tight fitting glass fireplace doors
Installing tight fitting fireplace doors can help you control the amount of inside air your fireplace has access to while it is burning. However, since they are not an air tight device they are not very efficient at stopping heat loss when the fireplace is dormant. Unfortunately, using glass doors actually reduces the amount of radiant heat your fireplace can cast into the home. 3) Chimney Top Dampers
This is a particularly usefully product if you have no damper on your fireplace at all. This damper is installed on the top your your chimney like a cap and it has a spring loaded closure system that allows you to close the cap when you are not using the fireplace. This helps to prevent the massive heat loss caused by a chimney that is always open.
However, There is one known negative issue to this solution. Since you are closing your chimney from the top you are still allowing much home heat to rise and fill the chimney. This air eventually cools and sinks and can create a slight cold draft sensation at the hearth. Furthermore, it can make your fireplace give off a foul odor since the fumes from the ash and creosote deposits in the chimney are not allowed to exit the chimney. After years of regular use a locktop damper can warp [Since it is made of metal] and become less efficient. This usually takes longer to happen than a standard damper though since it is further from the heat source. Retain heat when the fireplace is being used:
1) Burn Dry Wood:

You would be surprised how much energy and BTUs are robbed from a fire if you are using under seasoned wood. Most hard woods will properly dry after 24 months of being stacked in a dry environment with at least some air circulation (ie a yard shed or a garage. Some more dense and sappy wood can take longer. Wood that has too much moisture tends to bubble and sizzle when burned and also it creates a terrible moist creosote collection that is hard on your chimney. It often also makes the room smell bad after it is burned and occasionally it will not burn all the way down to ashes. 2) Iron Firebacks
Iron Firebacks have been used to cast radiant heat from a fireplace into a room for centuries. Some more recent developments in stainless steal have some manufacturers making light weight stainless firebacks that work the same as their heavy antique counterparts do. Firebacks work in two ways they retain and release heat after the fire has gone down, and they help to reflect heat outward during the warmest part of the burn. They are not terribly effective at real energy savings but they are certainly better than nothing. 3) Heatalators
This is a brand name for a product that is made by many different manufacturers and often refereed to as a grate heater. The concept is usually the same though. Some steel tubes with an internally mounted fan are mounted or set in the fireplace around the location of the burn. The tubes heat during the burn and a fan blows the heated air through the tubes and out into the room. They are mildly effective at harnessing the BTUs that the fire would normally spit out the chimney. They also allow a person to keep the glass doors of the fireplace closed and still enjoy the heat of the fire.
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