If you do not know the difference between a flue and a damper, you are not alone. Each word is often used when the speaker is referring to the other, and the idea that the words are synonyms is not uncommon. Each of the two devices, however, plays a very specific role in the proper function of a furnace or a stove.
A flue is simply any pipe or tube that draws smoke and gases out of the home through a safe channel, like a chimney or vent. For example, if you use a fireplace, the smoke from the fire is drawn through the chimney flue and out of your home. Without this safe channel, the smoke and gases would accumulate inside your home, creating an extremely dangerous environment.
The damper, or flue damper, is a small device inside of the flue. It serves a few purposes, including regulation of air flow and protection against rain and pests. A properly functioning damper is essential to any flue.
Barometric Flue Dampers
While a simple damper merely covers the flue and allows air to pass, a barometric flue damper specifically regulates the amount of heat loss through a furnace or a fireplace and can help to maintain ideal temperatures by preventing heat loss. This can increase the energy efficiency of a home and reduce annual fuel costs by about 5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
If you notice smoke or excessive heat in your home while your furnace is running or you have a fire in your stove or fireplace, you may have a poorly functioning damper. If the damper is stuck or broken, it will not maintain the proper air flow and may cause a blockage within the flue. This poses the danger of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide exposure. Have your flue inspected every year to prevent such problems.
Chris Anzalone has been writing professionally since 2001. He is a former staff writer and associate editor for Opposing Views, a popular news media website that tackles issues of the day from multiple perspectives. Anzalone holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California at Riverside.