[Explained] How a Heatilator Wood Burning Fireplace Works

A Heatilator wood burning fireplace is a popular choice for adding warmth and ambiance to a home. But how exactly does this type of fireplace work? Here is an in-depth look at the inner workings and functionality of Heatilator wood burning fireplaces.

What is a Heatilator Fireplace?

A Heatilator fireplace is a proprietary brand of wood burning fireplaces manufactured by Hearth and Home Technologies. Heatilator fireplaces have specialized design features that make them stand out from other brands.

The key characteristics of Heatilator wood burning fireplaces include:

  • Air circulation system – Heatilator fireplaces use an air circulation system that takes cool room air from below the firebox, heats it up, and releases it back into the room for better heat distribution.
  • High efficiency – The patented firebox design and air circulation system allows Heatilator models to extract more heat from the fire. This results in higher efficiency compared to a traditional open masonry fireplace.
  • Self-contained design – Heatilator fireplaces have a streamlined self-contained metal firebox that houses all the inner workings. This allows for easier installation compared to a site-built masonry fireplace.
  • Variety of styles – Heatilator offers wood burning fireplaces in a range of styles from traditional to contemporary to fit any decor. Models include see-through, peninsula, corner, and rear-vent designs.
  • UL safety listed – Heatilator fireplaces are tested and listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) for compliance with safety standards for materials, construction and testing.

Key Components of a Heatilator Fireplace

Heatilator wood burning fireplaces have several main components that work together to create an efficient and safe fireplace system:


The firebox is the inner metal chamber where the fire is contained. Heatilator fireboxes are made from high grade steel and lined with firebrick. The patented design allows for temperatures up to 1200°F inside the firebox for efficient wood burning. There are baffle plates inside the top of the firebox to distribute heat.

Air Control System

An air control system regulates the amount of air entering the firebox to control the intensity of the fire. There is a primary air control that adjusts the air entering below the fire, and a secondary air control that allows air into the upper part of the firebox. More air results in a bigger fire and more heat output.

Convection Chamber

Surrounding the firebox is an outer convection chamber. Room air enters below the firebox, circulates through the convection chamber where it absorbs heat from the firebox walls, and then exits back into the room. This air circulation system allows Heatilator fireplaces to produce up to 15,000 to 40,000 BTU of heat output per hour into the room.

Chimney System

Heatilator fireplaces require a UL 103 HT chimney system specially designed for the high heat output. The chimney draws combustion gases out of the firebox and expels them outside. This creates the necessary draft for the fire. The chimney system consists of an inner flue liner surrounded by insulation and an outer casing.

Outside Air Kit

Many Heatilator models allow the option of connecting an outside air kit. This pipes outside air directly into the fireplace for combustion instead of using indoor air. It is an ideal option if the home is tightly sealed and lacks adequate air exchange.

Glass Doors

A set of tempered glass doors can be installed on the front of the firebox. The doors contain the sparks and embers when closed, while allowing the fire to be visible. When open, they allow heat into the room.

How a Heatilator Wood Burning Fireplace Works

Now that we’ve looked at what makes up a Heatilator fireplace, let’s review how the system operates from start to finish:

1. Load wood – You start by loading chopped firewood into the firebox. Hardwoods like oak or hickory are recommended for their dense, slow-burning qualities.

2. Light the fire – Next you light kindling or paper to ignite the logs. An air intake lever allows you to fully open the air controls when starting a fire.

3. Adjust air controls – Once the fire is established you can adjust the air controls to fine-tune the burn rate. More air makes the fire burn hotter and faster.

4. Room air enters – As the fire burns, cool air from the room is drawn into air inlets at the bottom of the convection chamber.

5. Air heat absorbs heat – The air circulates around the firebox, absorbing heat from the firebox walls before entering channels along the outer sides and top.

6. Heated air recirculates – The now heated air exits back into the room through convection outlets along the top of the fireplace front.

7. Chimney expels smoke – Combustion gases and smoke exit through the chimney flue, keeping the fireplace drawing properly.

8. Add more wood – As needed, add more logs to maintain the fire. Larger logs burn slower and longer.

9. Clean ashes – Remove excess ashes periodically to allow for proper air flow.

This continuous cycle allows the Heatilator fireplace to produce steady, long-lasting heat. The fireplace glass doors can be kept open or closed to regulate heat flow into the room.

Heatilator Fireplace Efficiency and BTU Output

Two key performance factors of any wood burning fireplace are efficiency and heat output. Let’s look at how Heatilator models rate in these areas:


Efficiency refers to what percentage of heat from the fuel is transferred into the living space versus being lost out the chimney.

  • Heatilator wood burning fireplaces can reach up to 80% efficiency.
  • This is significantly higher than the 10-15% range of a conventional open masonry fireplace.
  • Higher efficiency means getting more usable heat from each fire, and less wood burned overall.

The patented Heatilator design maximizes efficiency through:

  • A tall and shallow firebox that maintains the optimal air-to-fuel ratio.
  • Baffles to maximize heat transfer from the flue gasses.
  • Convection chambers to distribute heated air back into the room.

BTU Output

BTU or British Thermal Unit is a measure of heat. The higher the BTU output, the more heating capacity a fireplace has.

  • Typical BTU output for a Heatilator wood burning fireplace is 15,000 to 40,000 BTU per hour on average.
  • Heat output varies based on model size, burn rate, and wood used.
  • For comparison, a mid-sized gas insert fireplace provides 10,000-30,000 BTU on average.

So in summary, Heatilator wood burning fireplaces can heat efficiently with high heat output potential. With the right model for your space, a Heatilator can provide most or all the heating needs for an average sized room.

Heatilator Fireplace Sizing Guidelines

When choosing a Heatilator wood burning fireplace, it’s important to size it properly for your room. Follow these general guidelines:

  • For a small room under 400 sq ft, choose a fireplace with at least 15,000 BTU output.
  • For a medium room of 400-650 sq ft, look for a 20,000-30,000 BTU rated model.
  • For a large room over 650 sq ft, select a fireplace with 30,000-40,000 BTU capacity.
  • Consider ceiling height too. Rooms with cathedral ceilings above 12 ft require a fireplace with 10-20% higher BTU rating.

Always consult with your installer about selecting the ideal fireplace model. They can help determine the heating needs based on climate, room layout, insulation, and other factors in your home.

Heatilator Fireplace Safety Tips

While Heatilator fireplaces are designed for maximum safety, proper operation is still required. Follow these tips for a safe experience:

  • Have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned if needed. Creosote buildup can cause chimney fires.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned hardwood. Softwoods like pine burn too hot.
  • Avoid overloading the firebox with too many logs.
  • Don’t leave the fire unattended. Keep a fireplace screen in place when the fireplace is in use.
  • Keep combustible materials a safe distance away.
  • Have your fireplace serviced by a professional at least every 3 years.
  • Always close the glass doors when the fireplace is not in use to prevent cold air drafting into the home.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation. Keep air inlets free of obstructions and keep flue damper open until ashes are cool.

Following the manufacturer’s operation guidelines is also critical for safe operation.

Troubleshooting Common Heatilator Fireplace Problems

Here are some frequent problems that can arise with Heatilator wood burning fireplaces and their potential solutions:

Smoking – This is typically caused by inadequate draft in the chimney. Try opening a window below the chimney to increase draft. Make sure the flue damper is fully open. Have the chimney inspected for obstructions.

Weak flame – First ensure the flue is fully open and chimney clean. The air controls may need adjustment to allow in more oxygen. Or the wood may be too wet, so try drier seasoned wood.

Smoldering fire – The air controls likely need to be opened up to allow in more air for complete combustion.

Cold air drafts – When a thick bed of ashes builds up it can block the proper air flow under the firebox. Remove excess ashes. Also make sure glass doors seal properly.

Fast creosote buildup – This indicates the fire may be burning too cool. Use seasoned hardwood and make sure there is adequate air for complete combustion.

Over-heating – Excess heat can warp panels. Make sure not to overfill the firebox and don’t leave it unattended. Keep glass doors closed when not in use.

Crumbling firebrick – Heatilator firebrick is designed to withstand high heat. Crumbling bricks likely indicate a problem with excessive heat due to improper operation or loss of baffles inside the firebox. A professional repair is needed.

Address any issues promptly to restore proper and safe functioning of your Heatilator fireplace.

Maintaining Your Heatilator Fireplace

Like any complex appliance, Heatilator fireplaces require periodic maintenance to keep them operating at peak performance. Here are key maintenance tasks:

  • Inspect the chimney – Check for creosote buildup annually before each heating season and clean as needed.
  • Replace firebrick – Over time, firebrick can crack and deteriorate. Replace damaged firebrick.
  • Replace baffle panels – Burned out or broken baffle panels in the firebox ceiling can impact efficiency and heat flow.
  • Inspect gaskets/seals – Faulty seals around glass doors and air inlet openings can allow heat loss and smoke escape. Replace worn gaskets.
  • Paint or seal exterior – For fireplaces with exposed external chimneys, seal or repaint the metal surfaces periodically to prevent rust and water damage.
  • Lubricate controls – Use high-temperature lubricant to keep air control levers and damper parts moving freely.
  • Clean ashes – Remove ashes before they accumulate over 1 inch deep.

Following the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper care and maintenance is key to ensuring safe, reliable heating season after heating season. Most maintenance procedures will need professional expertise. Investing in regular upkeep goes a long way toward heading off more costly repairs down the road.

Heatilator Wood Burning Fireplaces: The Warm, Natural Choice

Heatilator wood burning fireplaces have stood the test of time, providing cozy radiant heat and timeless style for over four decades. The innovative Heatilator design delivers unmatched efficiency and heat output from an easy to operate self-contained fireplace.

With a vast array of styles to match any decor, Heatilator truly makes it possible to enjoy the ambiance and authentic warmth of real wood fire in your home. Follow proper installation, operation, and maintenance guidelines and your Heatilator fireplace will provide enduring value as a cherished spot to gather for years to come.

Laura Kassovic

Laura Kassovic, a former engineer at Intel SOC, now dedicates her efforts to mentoring startups in the realms of Wearables and AI. As a co-founder of New Tech Brake, she spearheads a wireless sensing solution enterprise catering to diverse applications including product development, research, location tracking, and people monitoring, as well as asset and cargo supervision. The platform empowers developers to craft an array of innovations such as fitness trackers, temperature-monitored cargo systems, medical trial tools, smart running garments, or even straightforward transmission of unprocessed accelerometer data to cloud-based repositories.

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