Chimneys and flues

Chimneys and flues

Open fires, chimneys and flues

Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings
Open fires, chimneys and flues

This guidance note provides advice on how unused or intermittently used chimneys can be made more energy efficient by preventing draughts. Open chimneys and flues can be sources of useful ventilation but they can often let too much warm air out and cold air in.

Guidance is also included on the use of open fires and wood burning stoves. The burning of firewood grown in local well managed forests is an excellent sustainable source of heat with only incidental carbon dioxide emissions from planting, felling cutting, drying and transport.

Open fires and chimneys have provided the principal means of heating houses and cooking for centuries and they remain important elements of their history. Although they seldom provide the same function anymore, chimneys and flues can be a significant source of natural ventilation which is important for healthy living as well as the effective performance of the house. It is important though to get a balance between the benefits of ventilation and the wasted energy caused by unnecessary heat loss. 

In medieval times fires were lit in the main room and smoke found its way out of the roof through the tiles or thatch. In the 16th century brick fireplaces and chimneys were built on the central hearth to remove the smoke more efficiently, but the chimney became important structurally in supporting the first floor as well as housing ovens for cooking. As time went on the large open inglenook was replaced by more refined designs, with chimneys being sited in flank walls. Although smaller in scale, chimneys in18th and 19th century terraced houses often had to accommodate many flues from fireplaces in each room.

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