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A well drafting chimney. Not a drafty chimney.

Having an upward draft in your chimney helps to carry away smoke & combustion fumes from your fireplace (or water heater, furnace, etc.).  If the draft up has turned into a draft in, the cold air is the least of your worries.  The downward draft (infiltration) can redirect all or some of the exhaust into your home.  If the CO (carbon monoxide) is high, your CO detector should alert you.  But if the exhaust fumes are low in CO, the detector will be silent and you may simply think your allergies are kicking in.  In most cases, people notice the uncomfortable drafts and increased utility bills.
 
In most chimneys, an updraft is present because warm air rises naturally.  Keep in mind, that for every bit air that drafts up the chimney, an equal amount of air is sucked into the home - usually in the form of cold air drafts.  This is how the system works and was rarely a problem in drafty, older homes.  If you find drafts coming down your fireplace, you've probably got a tighter home and the fireplace is loosing the tug-of-war for air.  Making sense of this pressure / air flow dynamic in the home is the first step in finding a solution.
 
"But I don't have a fireplace."
 
Most water heaters (with a metal exhaust flue) can suffer the same fate - exhaust spilling into the home because of negative pressure created by exhaust appliances (bath fans, dryers, range hoods, etc.).  At least with a fireplace you can smell the smoky residue, alerting you to the issue.  A water heater spilling exhaust may present little odor, low CO, but a full compliment of allergy triggering exhaust gases.  Look for signs of melting or rust just below the water heater draft hood & metal flue.
 
So for all fireplaces or gas appliances with a brick chimney or metal flue, all air flow should be up & out.  Any sign of a reversed exhaust is a potential heath concern and should be looked into, so it can be corrected permanently.  Have a BPI certified Building Analyst (building inspector, HVAC technician, etc.) perform a Combustion Safety Test to determine & address underlying causes of chimneys drafting in.  No other industry certification has a combustion safety testing standard as thorough as BPI's.

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