Tuesday, 12 January 2010


Today is Tuesday, and normally this afternoon I would visit my friend Alain the guitarist to make some music, but his milking machine has frozen up, he has spent all morning thawing it, and so he is behind with his work. This gives me an opportunity to work on a little DIY project that has been gently nagging me for far too long.

I have to heat the gîte during the Winter to keep the condensation away. It doesn't have to be very warm, say 10-12 degrees or so, but even so it does consume fuel and it's sensible to economise where possible. The dining room has a fireplace that makes for a lovely cheery fire when it's lit, but, in the traditional way of these things, it is under a chimney that leads straight up into the open air. If I look up it, I can see the cobwebs swaying gently in the warm breeze of wasted heat. So I need something to block it up when it's not in use.

There are some old bits of iron hanging at the back of the fireplace that used to hold pots and things for cooking. I will leave them in place because I like them, so I'll need to take this into account. I have bought the necessary components recently: a big bit of plywood about the same size as the hole, and some draft excluder like a long thin brush to go around the edge. Some nice metal handles I had already, left over from a previous project.

So, first attach the handles to the plywood, and then the draft excluder around the edge on the other side, and it's ready for use. There is also a bit of draft excluder around the cut-out for the hooks.

Finally, put it in place. You can't see it from inside the room, but it's there, keeping the place less drafty than before. Job done! The cost? About 1.5% of my annual fuel bill. So even if it only gives a saving of 1.5% of the heat lost by the building, the payback period is a year. I reckon personally, that what is effectively an open window, about 3/4 of a square metre in area, will probably account for much more than 1.5% of a building's lost heat. I don't know how much exactly, but I have this feeling that perhaps I should have done this project sooner....


ReedBunting said...

Lovely fireplace - but how does it stay up? Is it just wedged in there?

Cogitator said...

Hi, RB. Yes, it's just wedged up. The draft excluder goes around three of the edges - the straight back edge without the draft excluder wedges the whole thing against the back wall of the chimney, that is also straight, so there is very little gap.

Molly Potter said...

Actually, I am surprised that aside from those balloons you that something has not been invented to clog chimneys easily (that can also be unclogged quickly).

I throw down the gauntlet...invent it, patent it and I'll have, say, just 10%

Rosie said...

looks very effective. you can come and block my chimneys any time you like...except they always seem to be in use at the moment!

Lia said...

Aren't you the clever clogs.
Well done, you did well to think up that idea. I can't even build or light a fire and have been trying to do it for years now. The kids can all do it and laugh at my own stupidity, it I ever do get to leave this country and live in Spain, I am going to be very cold come winter lol.
Beautiful fire place.
Much love

@eloh said...

I'd bet on a whole lot more than 1.5%!!!!
Chimneys by nature pull air.

I did NOT know that there were fireplaces built without dampers. Obvious...just never thought about it before.

I guess that if it were part of a kitchen or the only fireplace in the home... there would be no need for a damper because it would be in use 365 days a year for cooking.

I'm always learning useful stuff here.

Great job and thanks for the pictures.

Mark said...

A neat solution. I use chimney ballons in our cottage but then the fireplace is somewhat smaller!

Jonathan said...

Sure, you could have done it any time. But you wouldn't have had anything like the satisfaction of doing it during a cold snap.

It looks very much in keeping btw

Mimi Lenox said...

What a lovely room. The fireplace is warm and cozy. That is all.

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