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Firebacks - Never Waste That Heat!!

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No one needs to be reminded of just how much our average energy costs have increased in the past five years.  While gasoline prices are frightening enough, even scarier is the fact that the cost of heating the home has also seen a dramatic surge during this same time period.  It doesn’t matter whether you use natural gas, fuel oil, or even electricity to heat your home—the simple fact is that prices are going up dramatically faster than average annual wage growth.  But, a fireplace can help drastically reduce heating costs even for those of us who must go out and buy the wood—so long as it has a fireback.

Fireplace firebacks originated in Europe and were exported to the Americas during the Colonial period.  At first, it was common for recycled stove plates to be used as a fireback as they were both more plentiful and cheaper to use.  Eventually, formal plates were designed and made in blacksmith shops in New England.  

Once the recycled stove plate era had ended, formal plates tended to be rather formal in design.  It was not uncommon to see the front of the plate adorned with a coat of arms.  Other common themes related to agriculture and might feature farm animals like roosters on the front of the plate.  It was not uncommon to see plates that had arched, ornamental tops and thus they often enhanced both the form and the function of the hearth area.

Cast iron firebacks are the most common because the iron itself helps to retain heat.  Rather than simply allowing the majority of the BTU’s to simply escape from the chimney, the cast iron absorbs heat.  Then, for several hours after the fire has died out, the fireback will still be sending heat into the surrounding space.  While this may seem insignificant, the truth is that the hot cast iron prevents rapid heat loss commonly experienced once the fire has gone out.  Plus, firebacks can greatly enhance the decorative appeal of the hearth so there really is no downside to having one of these beneficial hearth accessories.

Many of us are already carpooling, installing installation, and making sure to keep our furnaces clean to boost efficiency and cut down on energy costs.  A fireplace that has one of these decorative yet functional accessories will retain heat for hours after the fire dies out and thus significantly reduce your heating costs.  While it may seem insignificant at first, the energy savings will literally pay for the cost of the fireback if you use the fireplace often enough.  Plus, being made from cast iron, you can be sure that the fireback will be retaining heat and adding character to your fireplace for many, many years to come!