Heatilator fireplaces, also known as Old-style zero clearance fireplaces, are a combination of heater and ventilator and are by their nature, fireplaces that circulate air. Heatilator fireplaces use a special venting system that draws in cool room air and releases it as warmer air.  The air that is in the venting system never goes through the firebox so it doesn’t get fouled with ash, smoke, or other unpleasant odors.  Instead of pushing air through the firebox, Heatilator fireplaces route air around the firebox and allow it to heat, without any of the drawbacks associated with traditional fireplaces.  This turns your fireplace into an 85% efficient heating source.

Old-style Heatilator Fireplaces are constructed with a double walled fireplace that keeps the heat where it belongs.  Since the fire is kept in the fireplace chamber itself, Heatilators are able to avoid the transfer of excess heat into the walls of the home.  This is an important safety feature because over time, excess heat transfer can accelerate the degradation of building materials.

Heatilator Fireplace

In extreme cases, heat transfer can contribute to the danger of combustion within the walls of the home. The double walled fireplace will minimize these hazards.

If you are buying a new home, it is possible to purchase a new Heatilator Fireplace. However, if you already own a home and have an existing traditional masonry fireplace, it may be best to continue to use the masonry in conjunction with an updated fireplace unit by updating it with a Heatilator Fireplace insert.  A Heatilator Fireplace insert is designed to be placed directly into the masonry which will not only transform the existing fireplace into an efficient heat source but add an updated look to the masonry fireplace.

Heatilators offer many heating options including the most traditional form of fireplace fuel — wood. You can however purchase Heatilator Fireplaces that run on natural gas, liquid propane, pellets and biomass, or electric log sets. Gas operated Heatilators are considered to be more efficient than wood burning Heatilator fireplaces due to the natural waste of energy associated with burning wood.

Efficiency alone is not all that matters when choosing the right Heatilator fireplace. Some homeowners enjoy the convenience and instant heat offered by a gas operated Heatilator fireplaces but those who enjoy the sounds, smells, and beauty of a true wood burning fire may be more drawn to a wood burning Heatilator so ambiance and the mood you wish you create should also be a factor in which you base your decision.

Since their rise in popularity in the 1950’s throughout the 1980’s, Old-style Heatilator fireplaces have been advancing in features, technology and performance. Some newer models now have IntelliFire ignition systems. These models operate without having the pilot light burning all of the time to prevent the waste of precious natural resources. Instead, when a flame is needed, the system provides a spark using electricity.

Anatomy of a Heatilator Fireplace

Smoke Chamber – The area above the fireplace and below the flue, used to allow smoke to mix and rise into the flue.  Because smoke tends to linger here, large deposits of creosote often accumulate here.

Top Air Vent – The top air vent on an Old Style Heatilator Fireplace returns heated air into the room.  The cool air enters a vent at the bottom of the Heatilator.  The air is then routed around the firebox and heated without any of the drawbacks associated with traditional fireplaces, and then returned into the room through the top air vent.

Blower – Old-style Heatilator Fireplaces utilize a blower to circulate warm air throughout the room.  A blower increases fireplace efficiency by evenly distributing warm air throughout the home which maximizes the performance of your fireplace thereby ensuring that it increases the amount of heat it gives off.

Mantle – A fireplace mantle is a decorative framework around the fireplace.  It can include elaborate designs extending to the ceiling.

Firebox – The firebox or fire pit is the part of the fireplace where fuel is combusted, in distinction to the hearth, chimney, mantel, over mantel and flue elements of the total fireplace system.  The firebox normally sits on a masonry base at the floor level of the room.

Hearth – The fireproof area directly in front of a fireplace.  The inner or outer floor of a fireplace usually made of brick, tile, or stone.

Bottom Air Vent – The bottom air vent on Old-style Heatilator Fireplaces are where cool room air is drawn into the fireplace.  The air is then routed around the firebox and exits through the top air vent where it returns to the room as heated air.

How much does a Heatilator Fireplace cost?

The cost of adding an insert, including installation, can be as low as $2,900 for gas and wood-burning units, and $3,200 for pellet-burning inserts (actual costs vary by area of the country and model chosen).

One final thought

Upgrading your masonry built wood-burning fireplace with an insert is a smart decision that you’ll never regret.  Doing so will not only make your home more efficient, it can help to save money by transforming the fireplace into an efficient heating unit.

Heatilator anatomy
Heatilator venting