Improve Fireplace Heat Efficiency With a Fireback


A Fireback improve fireplace efficiency. Fireplaces are not very heat efficient compared to other sources of home heating. Who can resist though a nice fire in the fireplace! Unfortunately lots of heat is wasted as it goes right up the chimney.

One way to improve the heat emanating from a fireplace is is to add a Fireback.

They are used to reflect heat back into the home that would otherwise be lost up the chimney, while also keeping the rear wall of the fireplace significantly cooler.

A Fireback is a metal plate that stands at the rear of the fireplace. Typically they are made of either solid cast-iron or stainless steel. They are designed to radiate more of the fire’s heat back into the room, making the fireplace much more efficient at heating.

They are designed to rest on the floor of the hearth. Supports are either built in or are sold separately and optionally.

Not only can they be decorative but they will increase the life of the firebox. A Fireback will help prevent further damage to an aging fireplace.

So, as we transition into the winter months, you might consider adding one if you have have a traditional fireplace.

This (Made in USA) reflective Fireback is an extremely durable heat reflector made from industrial grade shatterproof steel plate. Highly rated and reviewed.
Model RF-6 Reflective, 26″ Wide, 15 1/2″ Tall

Another model:
Minuteman Cast Iron, 20″ Wide, 16″ Tall

I used to live in a home with a fireplace. During that time I did buy a Fireback. It definitely made a difference!

An even better way to greatly improve your fireplace heat efficiency is to buy a wood burning stove insert that fits into your existing fireplace. I would seriously consider doing this if I still lived in a home with a fireplace.

Do any of you have a Fireback? What’s your experience?

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  1. We built a fireplace when we built our house. A few years later we added the wood burning stove insert. I just wish we had built right to begin with. The stove is super efficient, we heat the whole first floor using the stove. Right now it is 80+ in here and it is 17 outside.

  2. We have a stovetop oven for our rocket stove. A couple of fire bricks (actual bricks) helps maintain a steadier oven temperature.

  3. I want one. The insurance company won’t let us replace our fireplace with a wood stove. We have a fan that works great but without electric we lose a lot of heat.

    1. I agree with NRP. An insurance company cannot dictate what you can and can not do with your house. Replace whatever you need to replace then start shopping for an insurance company.

      1. I bought a manufactured home last year and there are only a few companies that insure them none of which would insure with a wood stove.

        1. aka
          Did they ask you if it was your PRIMARY heat source or a back up heat source. It does make a very big difference, even in a stick built home the underwriting for coverage will depend on your answer.

          It is always your BACK UP heat source(right?!), if the power goes out so one does no freeze while waiting for the electrical company to have the power back on for their customers.

          Yes, underwriting rules do change with companies over time so check with an independent agent to see what they have available for your home. Believe you are in a park like setting, the rates should come down. If your home is all electric tell them you would freeze to death without that back up heat source. Some companies will make an exception IF the stove is inspected by the fire marshal in your area…ask.

          1. Hmmm – don’t remember other than it was just one of the questions. It didn’t apply to this house so didn’t question any further. Wouldn’t mind having an alternate heat other than the Big Buddy. There are only 2 or 3 companies that do manufactured homes in this state. I will check into it before I need to renew though. I know that a couple of homes here have them but they are older and may just not have insurance.

          2. aka
            You said it did NOT apply to this house.

            I must be misunderstanding you… usually when you purchased a different home it has to be inspected by an insurance agent or representative of the company providing insurance coverage.

            If you have an alternative heat source besides electric-natural gas-propane it is documented on the application for coverage. If the alternative heat source is wood they usually request an inspection by a fire marshal or certified wood stove installer to check the condition of the stove, hearth, stove pipe fittings to make sure all are up to code. So that none pose a hazard to the home when it is in use.

            Next, find an INDEPENDANT agent in your area, see what they have to offer in the way of companies, remember an independent has more than ONE company they shop for coverage on your home.
            Does this make sense to you?

          3. Antique Collector
            It didn’t apply to this house as it is all electric- no wood burning anything. I had looked at a couple others that did have wood stoves and realized the potential problem.

        2. I put in a wood stove in my double wide, but insurance requires an outside air vent to the stove because the new ones are airtight, and need a fireproof panel behind it with an airspace between it and the wall, and must follow distance stove manufacturers require unless it is a zero wall stove like mine that has a built in buffer in the back.

    2. old lady
      See my response to ‘aka’ on underwriting for your home. Check with an independent agent in your area. What about a wood stove insert into the fire place if it were inspected?
      Ask, an if you have any other questions that I may be able to assist you with let me know. I will share my knowledge……….”Who is John Galt?”

    3. Old lady,
      When I added on to my living room (with wood stove in mind) I had professional mason do from the hearth right up to the top of the chimney. I took pictures as things when along. Then I had the building inspector, the fire marshal, and electrical inspector all sign off on meeting state and local codes.
      Lo and behold my fire insurance only went up $10 dollars a year!!! Go figure .

      1. epo3
        That is the way to do it ….pictures & the inspectors, reason it is only $10.00 per year.

    4. old lady;
      My Insurance carrier is State Farm. When we reviewed my Home and Insurance I mentioned I have 2 wood stoves, their comment “Cool, wish I had one”…. no charge for a fireplace of woodstove.

      1. I have looked for other insurance but all say no wood stove. They don’t care it is your secondary heat source or not. But i will try again that has been years ago. I will also try the independent insurance agent. I used to have a good one but she retired and the new one doesn’t even know i am a client . Yes it is time to change. Thanks for all your suggestions.

        1. old lady
          Do not hold me to this but if I recall the “Farm Bureau” does insurance. You may wish to give them a call to check out their premiums on your home.

      2. I had State Farm at my old house. I dumped them when my house/auto premium went up $800 from the previous year. (!!) They don’t do manufactured homes either. But good for you : )

        1. aka
          See posting for ‘old lady’, now I am not sure if they do MHO insurance coverage, but it does not hurt to ask.

  4. It doesnt get down to freezing here, that said, the humidity is generally quite high and at our house it will creep down into the low 40s and occasionally into the high 30s we have an older Regency freestanding fireplace/wood stove, it gets too hot! Warms the house right up though, same in My moms house, she has one of the big stoves like ours, keeps her big house pretty warm. Much cheaper than heaters.

    1. Pressed wrong button, was going to add, a friend of mine in Co made a liner for his firebox out of 3/4” steel plate, shaped it to the fire box and has a couple baffles of sorts across the front that reduce the size of the opening, also out of steel, makes a huge difference, retains heat, plus it gets a better flow of air going and has covered all the fire brick in the firebox, same prinvipal, radiates rather than acting like dissipating the heat from the fire

  5. Another good idea Ken;
    Unfortunately I’m stuck with two high efficiency wood stoves in my abode, darn :-)
    I might add to your article that placing a small fan near or behind the Wood Stoves to increases the air-flow around the stove does add a LOT of heat to the room, or so it seems.
    Back to your suggestion though, the reflective “plate” is actually a good idea, remembering that with a fireplace most of the heat is radiant heat, so reflecting the “Light” back into the room is smart.

    1. Care to elaborate on high efficiency and why they get a “darn”? I’m thinking of f replacing our older. circa 1980 stove with something newer and will have to buy something Kalifornia compliant when we do.

      Okay everybody, scroll half way down on the right and you will see where Ken has put his TIP JAR. I moved it up to the top of my to do list and have now checked it off as done.

      1. me;
        The high efficiency are the newer internal baffled units with full outside combustion air, the fire is full regulated via dampeners, plus circulation air around a add-on baffle made to fit around the back and 1/2 the sides for room airflow via a fan.

        The “darn” was sarcasm :-) :-) I burn 99% wood for my heat and set the furnaces to 50 JIC I don’t make it home some nights. Last night we had a heat wave move through the area, it was up to 20 degrees was 9 the night before. Today the prediction is 38 during the day.

        BTW I HATE buying Propane

        1. me;
          I currently have a nice Hearthstone “Phoenix” with Soapstone inlays in the Great Room, and a slightly older Brass-Flame in the M-Bedroom that has been modified some with the air deflector.

      2. The .gov “gives a darn” because of money. Many new stoves don’t work (or don’t work as well) with traditional fuels so you’ll end up paying more to run the thing. They get taxes when you buy the stove and every time you buy anything for your stove they get a kickback from the companies who paid to have their products “certified.” It’s good for the economy! See how this works? Ththththt.

        On the “they said so” front, these stoves are supposed to put out less emissions, and increase heat with less fuel.

        1. Lauren;
          You’re exactly correct, the newer mods all have to have the UL labels for the .gov “ok” which is a bunch of BS. Buy a Wood Stove in CA or NY without that label and you’ll get a healthy fine and the home “Red Tagged” till it’s removed.
          BTW, the UL stoves take MORE fuel and put out less heat….. BUT what do I know, only been burning wood for ohhhhhh 60 plus years since I was 4 years old and me Father had me hulling in the firewood LOLOL.

          1. When we sold our California home we had to remove the wood stove. The realtor told us to put it in the shed so that the new owners could reinstall it if they wanted. This was in 2005.

    2. Another option for those “intent” on building a fireplace from the start would be to research the Rumford fireplace which was common in the late 17oo’s. He was way ahead of his time with understanding radiant and reflective heat and designed a streamlined fireplace throat which eliminated turbulence, carried away the smoke while minimizing heat loss. The clay components of the throat including smoke chamber and throat tile are reproduced and available today to aid in properly constructing a Rumford fireplace. It may not be as efficient as todays woodstoves but a large open fireplace with a cooking crane and fireplace accessories does create an environment tough to imitate.

  6. AKA,
    Not sure if you have access to LP gas, but if so, there’s the Olympian heater. Personally I have not used one. But perhaps someone else here has and can give you an idea of operating costs.

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