Why Does My Fireplace Have Two Levers?


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When it comes to heating a room, there’s no cozier option than cracking up a fire in the fireplace. However, not many people know how to properly handle a fireplace, let alone with all the levers. Why does mine have TWO levers?

One lever opens and closes the damper, allowing the smoke to come up through the flue of the chimney, while a second lever opens and closes the air vents, allowing fresh combustion air to enter and fuel the fire. This prevents smoke from going back inside the room while avoiding CO poisoning.

The rest of this article will talk in-depth about the reason why there are two levers in your fireplace. Also, I’ll share each lever’s importance and function with you and properly start a fire to create a warm and cozy atmosphere in the wintertime.

Are the Two Levers Necessary for the Proper Functioning of the Fireplace?

The simple answer is that both levers are necessary for the proper functioning of the fireplace. However, there’s more information to add to it. Although not all fireplaces have two levers to work, they indeed have a vital function when two levers are present.

As I said before, one lever controls the damper through a valve inside the fireplace that opens and closes the airflow and smokes up to the flue. The other lever, mostly present on the far right side or downside of the fireplace, controls a series of small vents that suck some of the air in the room and move it inside the fire to fuel the fire and help air circulation.

Nonetheless, what are the dampers and the fresh air vent?

Why Are Damper Levers Useful for Fireplaces?

Dampers help the airflow go up through the flue and help keep animals and cold air from the outside to come inside the place and allow the warm air inside the space, keeping the temperature unchanged as long as possible. 

Check your fireplace and look for a metal handle, knob, chain, or lever inside the firebox and, with the help of a flashlight, check how the entrance to the flue of the chimney opens and closes as you move the lever.

Should the Damper Be Open or Closed When the Fireplace Is On?

Although dampers may vary in shape or form, most of them have only two ways of working: fully open or fully closed. It’s recommended to have the damper always available when the fireplace allows smoke to come up through the chimney and always closed when the fire is out to keep the warm temperature inside the room.

In addition, some fireplaces can lose more heat than what they’ll keep, regardless of using the damper the right way or know. As stated in a fairly informative article in the Chicago Tribune, the U.S. Department of Energy Studies claims that wood-burning fireplaces can lose up to 1K cubic feet of hot air per minute, making people look for more energy-efficient heating solutions.

How to Keep the Damper Working Correctly?

Now, it’s also crucial to keep it working in peak conditions when it comes to using your damper. First, let the fire die out completely and allow the damper lever to cool off before touching to avoid burns. Grab a brush, get rid of all the dust, and make sure there’s no debris on the hinge. 

If it continues to cause problems, please contact a technician for a full chimney clean-up and repair.

This Rutland 16410 Chimney Sweep Brush from Amazon.com will come in handy when cleaning your fireplace flue and damper area.

Why Are Fresh Air Levers Vital for Fireplaces?

When it comes to the air vent lever, you must know that it all relies on the combustion process. For the fire to burn and keep alive, it needs fresh air to dissipate the smoke produced and prevent the fire from dying.

If you have a second lever on your fireplace, it will surely be on the outer side of the hearth, allowing you to have easy access to it to open or close the vents that will feed the fire while the glass doors are closed.

If your fireplace doesn’t have glass doors or no doors at all, I recommend this ShelterLogic Fireplace Screen from Amazon.com that can help you optimize the use of your fireplace. 

Is Fresh Air Flow Necessary When Burning a Fire?

Fresh air, or combustion air, is necessary to keep the fire up and create an air draft that allows the smoke to go up instead of going back into the room. Also, said fresh air would prevent carbon dioxide from accumulating inside the place. 

When using the fresh air lever the right way, the fireplace’s glass doors should remain closed, avoiding all the smoke, hot debris, and crackling particles to go back to your house and burn fabrics or people sitting nearby.

How to Keep the Air Flow Lever Working Correctly?

To keep the fresh air vents and lever working nicely, simply sweep out any debris and ashes obstructing the air’s pass inside the fireplace.

Which Ones Are Better to Keep My House Warm During the Winter?

While all kinds of fireplaces will heat your place nicely, gas-fueled and electric ones are better than wood-fueled fireplaces when it comes to keeping the hot air trapped inside instead of letting it go out rapidly.

However, wood-burning fireplaces give your place a more cozy vibe and warm atmosphere, without the intense gas odor.

Here’s a video that will show you some ways to heat your place using a wood-burning fireplace or stove:

How to Properly Start and Put Out a Wood-Burning Fireplace?

While how to start a fire will depend on the type of fireplace you have, most electrical and gas-fueled ones can get on and off with the simple push of a button. However, wood-burning fireplaces give a more sense of being in nature, and knowing how to use logs to fuel fire can become more of an art than a science.

To start a fire:

  1. Gather kindling of all sizes and arrange them in a Tipi-style to allow combustion air to fuel the fire right from the get-go.
  2. Open the damper and air vents to allow a draft of air to flow freely from the inside out.
  3. Start the fire by igniting some shredded newspaper under the kindlings and enjoy the flames showing.

To put out a fire:

  1. Let the fire die out by itself, or place some old ashes on top of the dying logs to fully extinguish a fire.
  2. Let it cool completely to avoid any burns.
  3. Once cold, sweep the ashes and other debris and place them into an air-tight metal container for proper disposal.

Conclusion

The two levers provide extra control over the fireplace, allowing you:

  • To develop your fire-making skills, whether it is to heat the entire house, warm up the area nearby, or simply give a cozy and aesthetic vibe to the place during winter.
  • Prevent your place from accumulating carbon dioxide, avoiding CO poisoning from happening.
  • Keeping the fire alive for longer.

Remember to keep both levers open when using the fireplace to ensure the proper airflow and functioning of the fireplace. Also, closed both of them up once the fire had died out, the smoke had gone completely, and the metal handles had cooled off enough to touch them.

Steve Rajeckas

Steve Rajeckas is an HVAC hobbyist with an avid interest in learning innovative ways to keep rooms, buildings, and everything else at the optimal temperature. When he's not working on new posts for Temperature Master, he can be found reading books or exploring the outdoors.

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