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Community and Q&A

Fireplace in a Near Passive House

nynick | Posted in Green Building Techniques on

We will be totally renovating our 150 year old house with passive house standards in mind, so air leaks are the #1 priority. As if this isn’t difficult enough, we have a fireplace in the living room with a nice looking brick chimney on the outside. The chimney has two flues to also accommodate the furnace in the basement. We will be removing the furnace during the renovation.
So what do I do with this fireplace? I know they make operable caps for the flue that you can open for fires, but I’m guessing they don’t seal very well. I suppose I could install a gas unit but they have exhaust vents as well.

What do you guys suggest?

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  1. user-2310254 | | #1


    This doesn't answer your questions but... Shooting for passive house efficiency is admirable, but it is probably more realistic to target a pretty good level of performance. If you search for "pretty good house," you'll find lots of useful information that should be relevant to your renovation.

  2. nynick | | #2

    Yes, I'll be trying for "pretty good". House is old so that's about all I can hope for.

  3. pico_project | | #3

    We have rural farm house with the same fireplace and flue setup. Since getting a wood stove we don't use it, and really never used it prior. Totally worthless for heat, sucks air out of the house and makes a full wall unusable in the living room.

    Our new house in town is a mid century design and also had a fireplace. We were doing a full renovation and at the opportunity I didn't think twice about getting rid of it.

    Wood stoves are great, fireplaces are 100% for looks. If that's not your thing then get rid of it.

    1. anonymoususer | | #4

      What about a fully sealed fireplace insert that comes with outdoor air kit so u r not depending on indoor air? You can probably get a damper that closes when not in use. If you want the ambiance of a fire, choose an insert with a viewing panel. We are in the process of switching to air source heat pumps from oil furnace. We plan to keep our fireplace insert because our community suffers outages each winter that last several days. We have a gas-fed generac generator but find it easier to heat with the log-fed fireplace insert during outages instead of using generator to run furnace (or in future, air source heat pumps)

  4. nynick | | #5

    Thanks to everyone so far. I've burned wood in my other home for 40 years so....

    I looked at inserts. They are so ugly they would detract from the room. My fireplace is really not that large but is a visual centerpiece. Getting rid of it isn't an option.
    The operable top flue caps are an option, but so far I've only found two and neither has the greatest reviews. Plus, I don't trust their sealing capabilities for an 'airtight' house. Unfortunately, I think that's the way I might have to go unless others chime in with better solutions.

  5. GBA Editor
    Kiley Jacques | | #6

    I have just the video for you: Dealing With Fireplaces and Energy Efficiency. “The team was able to save a beautiful stone chimney by isolating it from the inside of the house with insulation and adding a special Passive House–certified sealed fireplace insert.”

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