Fireback / Heat Grate / Other options

mark_k7707October 11, 2007

We have a masonary fireplace that we use in the fall & early winter. We would like to make it a little more efficient since it throws off very little heat. I see offers for Firebacks and also the heater grates that have the fan in them. I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with these? I looked at a fireplace insert but it really would remove the aesthetic purpose of having a wood fireplace for us.

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My dad's fireplace had a cast-iron fireback and it's a nice way to throw some radiant heat back into the room but not much convection. They do look nice and provide some protection to the back of the firebox too. I think it was fairly cheap, less than $200 or so.

Hearth heaters will throw some convection air out and you can get the passive ones which look like a bunch of automotive exhaust tubes or ones with grates like Eco-Fire and others. When I lived in Colorado we used one of the passive ones like I described above and it worked fairly well but the tubes got burnt out a bit as we ran hotter fires from the pinion pine we were burning. Below is a link to a product which is sort of a combination of a fireback and hearth heater.

There is another product called the Grate Wall of Fire which is a passive grate which gets a lot of radiant heat from the ember bed. They're fairly cheap too.

Obviously most inserts don't have the ambiance of an open flame but the Osburn 2200 has a huge bay window glass door for great fire viewing. This is the most efficient option but most expensive and would probably require a chimney reline too.

Another option might be to 'Rumfordize' your fireplace which would require a mason who could do it but look up 'Rosin heater', 'Frisch-Rosin' and you'll see some other options for getting more heat out. Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cast Iron Hearth Heater

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 5:35AM
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There have been several posts on this subject over the past few years. You can do various searches on this forum and see if you can find these posts. Search on "hearth heaters", "grate wall of fire", etc.

An open fireplace is a negative heat source meaning that it drafts more warm house air through the chimney than the fireplace produces. These grate heaters don't really do squat if they are installed in an open fireplace . If they did what they said they do, the fireplace stores would be selling them faster than hotcakes. There is a reason that these things are available only on the net.

The only way to make one of these grate heaters work is to combine them with a set of glass doors. The glass doors would minimize the excess combustion air sucked up by the chimney. At $500 for a good seat of glass doors plus another $500 for the grate heater, you are 1/3 of the way to a good wood-burning insert. An insert is the only way to get efficiency out of your manonry fireplace. I speak from experience.

Best of luck to you.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 9:58AM
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I had been doing some research over the last few months on an alternative to our fireplace. Current fireplace is a zero clearance prefab unit with a blower. I would have liked to install a freestanding wood stove or pellet stove, but walls would have to come down for that. Maybe next year. Fireplace works okay with current setup but could have been better.

Ended up purchasing one of those grate wall of fire grates with the fireback. Works very well and keeps the fire hot but small. End of the night there was only small pile of ash, no unburned wood. And probably used about half the wood I would have normally used. Only use the fireplace for supplemental heating for living area. Kept the main living area around 75F for the evening, outside temps in the low 30s.

I will try this setup for this year and consider altenatives for next.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 12:21PM
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Thanks for the Info Beakon20, I had no idea a sheet of cast iron on the back wall could improve your burn like that!

I will definately add one.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 6:17AM
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