Hearth-gathering is something that our ancestors did, but it hasn't exactly caught on in modern times. Instead, we tend to gather around the Xbox or the TiVo. Hearth-like as those two things may be, they don't inspire the cheer and camaraderie of an old-fashioned, Hestia-sanctioned hearth-gathering. Many of us still own a fireplace even in modern times, and they are still a source of joy in our lives. But the fireplace, ironically enough, can also be a source of heat loss if not properly attended to.

When not filled with roaring fire, your fireplace might just be a big hole in your thermal envelope. Heat can escape right out your chimney like a treacherous chimney sweep. Also, fires can be a source of pollution. You have to be careful with what you burn. Here are some tips.

1.Replace your cast iron flue damper. A lot of these flue dampers are old and bulky and don't seal properly. There are new ones with rubber gaskets that truly seal and cover the flue, preventing 90% of heat loss.

2.Seal your fireplace properly. Like windows, electrical outlets and doors, a fireplace is a essentially a hole cut into the thermal envelope of your house. With those holes, it is smart to make sure they are snugly in place by caulking around their edges. You can do the same with your fireplace. Get some low/no VOC caulking and seal off the edges of your hearth.

3.Burn eco-smart fire logs Companies like Java Log and BioBrick create cleaner and greener-burning fireplace logs. Don't go burning any old thing. Cut back on air pollution by burning low-emissive logs.