Fireplace heat shields are basic components to fireplaces that help homeowners save money in heating costs.
Fireplace heat shields go by many names among which are heat reflective shields, firebacks, for instance, stainless steel firebacks, fireplace reflective firebacks, and radiant firebacks among several others.
This article seeks to discuss the basics of fireplace heat shield operation, the types and so much more. You’ll need to stick around to find out more about the uses, benefits maintenance, and more.
What’s A Fireplace Heat Shield?
The name for this fireplace component speaks volumes about its use. Fireplace heat shields become necessary in situations where heat is absorbed from a fireplace into the back wall.
This is a common occurrence for fireplaces without a heat shield.
What results is a situation where bricks and mortar are damaged from continued exposure to such heat. The mortar holding your wall bricks in place begins to crack among other forms of deterioration.
A fireplace heat shield will need to be installed to prevent this from happening.
How Fireplace Heat Shields Work
Fireplace heat shields come as inserts that can be easily installed.
Instead of heat being radiated outward to walls, it’s redirected or radiated inwards or into the house which prevents heat escape thus promoting its conservation.
As a result of increased efficiency, thermal energy presence increases, thus leading to faster healing of your room or home. Also, less fuel is used in the process.
With fireplace heat shields, there’s no need to move closer to a fireplace for warmth. Such warmth is evenly distributed across the room.
Fireplace heat shield designs are carefully done with quality insulation materials. A variety of such materials are used including insulation fabric (with a highly reflective surface).
The material used will be determined by the product manufacturer.
Scenarios Due to Absence of Fireplace Heat Shields
Quite a lot can go wrong when heat shields aren’t installed in a fireplace. The rise in temperature and subsequent loss due to wall absorption causes a wide range of issues.
These include expansion & contraction, failing fireplace mortar joints, water intrusion, and structural integrity compromised.
Expansion & Contraction
Whenever a fireplace without a heat shield is being used, air from the room is being used to sustain the fire (the presence of oxygen is needed to start a fire).
Now, as air flows into the fireplace, thermal radiation is pushed towards the back of your firebox to the firebricks.
Heat causes the expansion of such bricks and mortar within and around the affected area. When the fire is put out or burns out, cooling slowly beings. With cooling comes the contraction of the brick and mortar.
Continued expansion and contraction weaken the structure, thus making it more vulnerable to cracks, etc. This situation won’t occur with fireplace heat shields in place.
Failing Fireplace Mortar Joints
Failing fireplace mortar joints arise from direct exposure to heat.
Continuous heating and cooling action result in weak mortar joints that will have to be fixed to prevent further structural deterioration. When ignored, costly repairs may need to be done as the situation worsens.
One of the results of continuous exposure to thermal radiation is cracks appearing on your firewall. This is mostly due to water leaks seeping down from the fireplace chimney top.
When this situation is allowed to continue, the condition of your fireplace deteriorates fast!
Structural Integrity Compromise
Fireplaces that have been damaged will either need to be fixed or rebuilt from scratch.
Having the fireplace fixed or rebuilt will be quite costly.
However, such rebuilding efforts should include the installation of a fireplace heat shield. This helps prevent a reoccurrence of the problem.
Do Fireplace Heat Shields Work with Specific Fireplace Types?
It’s common knowledge that there are multiple types of fireplaces. An example is a wood stove heat shield.
These fireplaces are classified according to the fuel types being combusted. The most common include gas, electric, and wood fireplaces. So, the questions; do fireplace shields work with all of these gas fireplace types?
Absolutely! Fireplace heat shields can be installed on just about any fireplace as long as heat is being generated.
Remember, their use is to help deflect or radiate heat from walls to target areas. So, having a fireplace heat shield installed does a lot to keep surrounding walls insulated from heat.
Most fireplace heat shields require some degree of maintenance. Maintenance in this sense refers to cleaning.
Cleaning a fireplace heat shield can be classified into two types. There’s routine cleaning as well as a thorough cleaning.
Routine cleaning mostly involves brushing off the surface whenever ash is being removed from a fireplace (for wood fireplaces). This action will be less frequent for gas fireplaces.
Thorough cleaning for fireplace heat shields is best done once every 3 to 4 months.
This clears out any caked debris or dirt and ensures your heat shield continues to serve effectively for many more years. Thorough cleaning is best carried out using a brush and stainless steel cleaner.
Soapy water can serve as an alternative for stainless steel cleaner.
Fireplace Heat Shield Benefits
From our discussion to this point, quite a lot has been said about the need to have heat shields installed in your fireplace. We’ve also seen the damage caused by the absence of this fireplace component.
So, what are the benefits of having heat shields installed? There are several!
One of the most obvious has to do with lower heating costs. Lower heating costs arise from the efficiency tied to insulation. With insulation comes lesser fuel use and higher thermal radiation.
More heat (about 20 to 40%) is generated or radiated into your home by simply having a heat shield installed.
What more? The condition of your structure, especially the mortar and brick components around and within the fireplace is maintained.
If your rear firewalls are stained, having a fireplace heat shield installed will improve its overall appearance. Of major significance is the elimination of costs due to damaged fireplaces.
Now that you know about its importance, it’s necessary to have a fireplace heat shield installed in your fireplace.
There are different types of this equipment in the market. With the help and expertise of a chimney sweep, you’re able to eliminate any heat radiation worries you have.