A cosy fire on a cold winter's night evokes an image of warmth and security. According to Don Vandervort of Home Tips, most fireplaces are only between 5 and 10 per cent efficient, warming only a small area of the room while most of the heat created by the fire goes up the chimney. There are some steps that can be taken to increase the amount of heat that is returned to the room, ranging from simple fixes to more complex approaches. All prices for materials are accurate as of 2010.
Install glass doors on the front of the firebox. Doors usually come with a metal mesh that protects from sparks while the doors are open. Before leaving the room the doors should be closed. This prevents the warmth in the room from being sucked up the chimney overnight, since the damper can't be closed while embers are still burning. Prices range from £65 to £455, but price should be secondary to getting a proper fit.
Install a fireplace blower fan. This system plugs into an electrical socket and blows all the heat from the fireplace back into the room, until the room reaches the desired temperature. Then, it shuts itself off until the temperature dips. This system does use a modest amount of electricity, but the energy saved from heating the home well outweighs the cost of this electricity. These fans range from £455 and up.
Install a fireplace insert. This type of system is a self-contained unit that sits in the existing firebox. It increases a fireplace's efficiency by up to 70 per cent and has its own firebox, which is surrounded by a cast iron shell with a glass window through which you can view the fire. This shell contains the heat and circulates it back into the room. The metal facing that comes with the unit seals the fireplace opening completely. Fireplace inserts are priced between £650 and £1,625, plus installation.
Retrofit the existing fireplace. New designs decrease the depth of the firebox and slope the sides, providing more efficient heating, and more radiant heat. They also draw air from the exterior of the home, rather than use the warm air already inside. This option is the most expensive. Depending on the existing structure, a retrofit can cost upwards of £3,250.
An annual cleaning by a licensed chimney sweep will help your fireplace run efficiently. Always check local building codes before installing any inserts or retrofitting.