If you are not as familiar with your chimney and fireplace as you should be, let us inform you about one of the many parts that is critical to your fireplace—the damper. The damper in your fireplace should be found along the bottom of the chimney throat, above where your fire burns, and is operated by a handle or chain. It is what lets smoke in and out of the fireplace and what keeps air from coming in your home when you are not using your fireplace. Basically, a damper is a door between your chimney and fireplace.
Whenever you plan on starting a fire, the damper is something you should be dealing with. It should be opened any time you plan on burning a fire, else your house could fill with smoke or your damper and fireplace could become clogged. Additionally, do not close your damper until your fire and all the embers are completely put out.
Depending on the age and type of fireplace and chimney you have, your damper mechanism used to operate your damper can take varying forms:
- Chain: You will be able to notice if you damper uses a chain, as small chain-links will be hanging down from your chimney. A lot of times there are two chains, one for open and one for close, that are designated for their specific purpose. Pull on the chain with the assignment of which you wish to do in order for your action to be carried out.
- Lever: The is the easiest damper mechanism and can be activated with a simple push and pull toward the back or front of the fireplace to open or close.
- Poker: If your damper has a poker mechanism, then you will need to be sure to center the poker through the slot that is hooked to the breast of the damper and then push it straight up.
- Rotary: This is one of the more complicated of the damper mechanisms. To work a rotary damper, use one hand to place on the dial outside of the fireplace above the center of the opening and another to go inside on the saddle that fits over the worm screw near the throat of the damper frame.
- Double Ratchet Pivot: Another complicated mechanism, the double ratchet pivot, requires that you push the poker up to release the ratchet and then push the eyelet toward the back wall of the fireplace. Close the damper by reversing this process.
If at any point in time you realize your damper is broke or not working properly, contact a chimney sweep professional, as you will need to have a fully functioning damper if you plan to use your fireplace and chimney.
Resources: Doctor Flue, Enlighten Me, eHow