You are probably saying to yourself: “Wait, aren’t you the Chimney Balloon guy? Why would you tell me reasons Chimney Balloons are a bad idea?”
The reason is, I am an honest guy. And there is no chimney plug or metal damper that is the absolute best for every kind of fireplace and every home out there. There is no one size fits all magic product, and there are no chimney plugs or dampers that will make everyone happy. They all have advantages and disadvantages. I am writing a series of blogs that cover each kind or metal damper and chimney plug, and what they are good at, and not so good at.
If you think, I will just call my chimney sweep guy and he will clean my chimney and make all the bad soot go away, and he will tell me how to fix my drafty, buggy, or stinky chimney. You will get your chimney cleaned and 99% of the time they will pitch you for a chimney top damper that will cost $400 to $900 (depending upon how dangerous it is to get to your chimney crown).
Then you will find that a top seal damper closes the chimney, but creates more stink. Often a top seal damper makes the draft worse and the stink worse because you are bottling a chimney at the top. We sell all kinds of chimney plugs to new top seal damper owners. Because to fix drafts and chimney stink, you have to seal a chimney low and tight.
Chimney Balloons are not the best solution for every fireplace and wood stove chimney. But they are the best solution for some fireplace applications, and I will tell you which are the good ones and the bad ones.
First lets cover what Chimney Balloons are good for:
1) Chimney Balloons work well if you need a safety breakaway. Look, every household has a klutz in it. If you think there cant be one in your house…hmm maybe you might be it? Or maybe you have a visiting klutz that comes over at Thanksgiving? Anyway, if you need a chimney plug that will break away and fall out if someone lights a fire under it by accident, then an inflatable Chimney Balloon would be a fit. Especially if the chimney you are plugging is a long or a short term rental. People do weird stuff in rentals, so make sure you leave a clear and unmistakable sign in the firebox that the chimney is plugged.
2) Chimney Balloons work well if you need an extra tight seal to keep out bats or insects. Little critters can get through extra small spaces, and creep around corners. Insect mandibles and bat teeth cannot puncture a Chimney Balloon. Since a Chimney Balloon inflates wall to wall and pressure fits. It is an impenetrable barrier for those little critters. It also works well to seal kitchen smells from wafting up the flue. Kitchen smells rise up and out with heat, and often attract in flies and bugs.
3) Chimney Balloons work very well with open flues with no hardware. You can often get the tightest seal with a Chimney Balloon. The wall to wall pressure fit is ideal for sealing a straight wall chimney. Thanks to a variety of HEK handle extenders you can even install a Chimney Balloon a bit higher in the chimney flue. This is a unique accessory.
When Chimney Balloons are a bad idea?:
1) Chimney Balloons are a bad idea, when you don’t have enough vertical space . Small Chimney Balloons are about 5″ tall when inflated, and Large Chimney Balloons are about 9″ tall. You also have to accommodate the 6″ black handle valve sticking down the bottom. Sometimes a Chimney Balloon simply cant fit the area you want to put it in. The Flueblocker chimney plug has a 1″ thick wool pad, and a removable handle, that is better for tight spots with little vertical space.
2) Chimney Balloons are a bad idea, when the walls are opening downward. The Chimney Balloon needs to grab the walls in the location it is trying to install. If the walls are metal, and have no texture. Or they are sloped opening downward too sharply, then the Chimney Balloon can’t grab the walls.
3) Chimney Balloons are a bad idea, when there is sharp hardware like screws of exceptionally abrasive walls. Chimney Balloons are inflatable. They have a tough but flexible multi layer membrane, but they are subject to getting punctured. They can also wear out over time. We have more durable chimney plugs like the Flueblocker that will hold up better to rough walls and sharp hardware.
4) Chimney Balloons are a bad idea, if you use your fireplace a lot. Speaking of bad ideas...using your fireplace a lot is a bad idea as well. But Chimney Balloons take some effort to install and take out. If you use your fireplace a lot, then it is likely a sooty and ash laden mess in your firebox and flue. There are easier ways to seal off the damper.