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School me on Fireplaces


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During the ATX freeze two years ago the thing barely threw off heat and was a bitch to start and keep much going (despite different wood selections). Same for the subsequent winter days when a fire would have been bad ass. I’d say the firebox is the size of a big microwave oven. I am now doing a remodel and can see the thing has thin walls which don’t seem to retain heat.
 
I grew up in cold parts of east coast where big stone hearths were the shit. Does a bigger fire place with thick walls equal better / easier fires and more heat? I get starting a fire is half the battle and getting steady upward heat is key.
 
TLDR - in Texas are there benefits to investing in a larger fireplace with seemingly thicker walls ?

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following to learn more

I know you need adequate inbound air for a wood-burning fireplace, which is why when you have a roaring fire, there's often a draft coming in around doors.  
Make sure your house has a source of outside air (doesn't take much) to feed into the fire. 
Too much wood can result in an incomplete or smoky burn.  Sometimes, you have to slightly tinker with the damper opening to get it just right-too open: heat lost, too closed:  smoke enters the room.  Obviously, it can be a little hot adjusting a damper with an active fire....

need to use fully seasoned/dry hardwood too.  When all else fails, look into a fireback insert to help reflect more heat back.

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A properly installed fireplace should have a little door thingy inside the actual fire pit that you can open to allow air to feed the fire and minimize drafts around the doors and windows.

But a fireplace is just about the worst way to heat a house. Nice and toasty right near the roaring fire, cold every where else, you have to keep poking the fire every so often.

Big stone/brick hearths around the fire pit is good.

Be sure you heat the flue well before lighting the fire.

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My grandparents’ fireplace had a feature I’ve never seen since. Above the mantle were two small fans recessed in the brick facade. When you turned them on, they blew very hot air if a fire was burning. I think it pulled the hot air from between the brick facade and the chimney pipe which was heated up from the fire. Maybe it’s common in colder climates but they had this feature in south Texas.

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On 11/8/2022 at 8:03 PM, Axle Hongsnort said:

During the ATX freeze two years ago the thing barely threw off heat and was a bitch to start and keep much going (despite different wood selections). Same for the subsequent winter days when a fire would have been bad ass. I’d say the firebox is the size of a big microwave oven. I am now doing a remodel and can see the thing has thin walls which don’t seem to retain heat.
 
I grew up in cold parts of east coast where big stone hearths were the shit. Does a bigger fire place with thick walls equal better / easier fires and more heat? I get starting a fire is half the battle and getting steady upward heat is key.
 
TLDR - in Texas are there benefits to investing in a larger fireplace with seemingly thicker walls ?

Look into a wood burning fireplace insert with a heatilator.

Basically is a wood stove that fits in the space of the chimney.  The heatilator is the above described fan/blower that circulates cold air intake from near the bottom of the insert and pushes out hot air at the top.

 

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Traditional fireplaces are about the most inefficient method of heating.  I wouldn't spend much money trying to upgrade a fireplace for emergency heat.
Gotta get a wood stove if you want real heat from a fire. Total overkill somewhere like TX, though.
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1 hour ago, Jerry Callo said:

Traditional fireplaces are about the most inefficient method of heating.  I wouldn't spend much money trying to upgrade a fireplace for emergency heat.

Most of that is how they are built.  A traditional wood burner in a modern house AND with spray foam insulation will be a disaster without make up air.

There is a place in Boone, NC called The Hound Ears Club.  The HEC has a fireplace by the bar / mingling area in the club that is the most magnificent, old school fireplace that will throw heat out of it like nobody's business.  Whoever built that thing knew what he was doing.

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Gotta get a wood stove if you want real heat from a fire. Total overkill somewhere like TX, though.
I have one and it can heat my entire house if I set my HVAC to fan only which cost almost nothing to operate. Love it, no regrets, especially when we lose power in winter.

Plenty of upgrade options on traditional fire places including exhaust fans (until it heats up) and blowers that circulate air so it heats a large area.
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6 hours ago, Chewbacca said:
7 hours ago, Jerry Callo said:
Traditional fireplaces are about the most inefficient method of heating.  I wouldn't spend much money trying to upgrade a fireplace for emergency heat.

Gotta get a wood stove if you want real heat from a fire. Total overkill somewhere like TX, though.

When I was a kid I had some friends who lived out in the country and their dad installed a big ol’ wood burning stove in their family room. It was free standing and set out a little bit from the wall. Man, that thing radiated heat.

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6 minutes ago, WhatTheBuck said:

When I was a kid I had some friends who lived out in the country and their dad installed a big ol’ wood burning stove in their family room. It was free standing and set out a little bit from the wall. Man, that thing radiated heat.

We have one in our mountain house and I love the shit out of it.  Such gentle, radiating heat.  Definitely keeping it when we remodel, although our architect looked at me a little funny when I told him that.

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Traditional fireplaces are about the most inefficient method of heating.  I wouldn't spend much money trying to upgrade a fireplace for emergency heat.

Yeah, I brought up the ATX freeze, but I’m not looking for emergency or primary heat source. Just something legit functional that compliments bourbon on a cold night like tonight, Christmas morning, playoff football while cooking, etc. I love the firewood smell in the house.
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The shape matters but I’m not sure it can be retrofitted. A Rumford fireplace is great if you are building new.

A Texas Fireframe is awesome if you are trying to make a current fireplace better.

[url=https://www.texasfireframe.com/]https://www.texasfireframe.com/

My family has used them since the late 70’s early 80’s and they crank out the heat even with a marginal fireplace.

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On 11/11/2022 at 6:48 PM, Axle Hongsnort said:


Yeah, I brought up the ATX freeze, but I’m not looking for emergency or primary heat source. Just something legit functional that compliments bourbon on a cold night like tonight, Christmas morning, playoff football while cooking, etc. I love the firewood smell in the house.

This is why you have one. Research rumford fireplaces, we have one of that type in our soon to be completed house I’m looking forward to using it. Prior to that I had a 5x3 traditional fire place but it was huge. It was amazing for ambiance and the living room was noticeably more warm, like a warm bath get in your bones warm. It’s inefficient for sure the amount of wood you have to burn for that heat to work well is too much, but sure does look and feel good for the soul to have a fire burning on a cold Saturday night.

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