A fireplace is a great addition to any home. Not only does it add value, but it also provides a fun way to heat your home. Everyone loves sitting around a crackling fire on a chilly winter’s night. But before you strike that match in anticipation of a roaring fire, you may want to ask yourself just how hot does a fireplace get?
Types of Heat
We can’t answer the question of how hot a fireplace gets until we take a look at how heat works. All heat sources generate three different types of heat: radiation, convection, and conduction.
Radiation, also known as radiant heat, happens as infrared rays travel through the air. These rays do not affect the air itself, but they will warm up any objects they come into contact with. The best example of radiant heat is sunlight. Most of the heat you’ll feel from sitting in front of a fire comes from radiant heat.
Convective heat is the transfer of heat via moving air. If your fireplace has a chimney, much of the heat generated through convection moves up the flue and outside. Without the use of a specialized fan, your fireplace won’t generate much heat from convection.
Conductive heat occurs when heat is transferred from one object to another by direct contact. You may have experienced this if you’ve ever touched a hot pan on the stove or made a snowball with your bare hands.
With conduction, heat travels from in the direction of the cooler source. In the case of a hot pan, the heat flows from the pan to your hand. In the case of the snowball, heat moves from your hand to the cold snow. Conduction will heat the walls and grates of your fireplace, but won’t do much to keep your house warm.
Fireplace Temperature Variables
Now that we have an understanding of how heat works, there are a few other factors to consider before we can determine how hot a fireplace can get.
The amount of heat generated by a wood-burning fireplace is dependent upon what type of wood is used. Most wood starts burning around 600 degrees Fahrenheit and can burn as hot as 1750 degrees when it gets going.
Woods of different ages generate different amounts of heat. Seasoned, dry wood will burn faster than freshly cut green wood. With green wood, the heat generated from the fire will vaporize the water held in the wood before it starts burning the wood itself. So, the drier your wood source, the hotter your fire.
The type of wood fueling the fire also plays into the level of heat production. In general hardwoods (like maple, oak, or birch) burn more slowly and generate more heat than softwoods (such as pine or cedar).
Gas fireplaces can be much more efficient than wood fireplaces and tend to burn with a more consistent temperature.
The Burning Question: How Hot Does a Fireplace Get?
Taking all these variables into consideration, we can now determine how hot a fireplace will get.
A wood-burning fireplace can generate temperatures up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. But because wood burning is inefficient, the hard surfaces around the fire tend to get no hotter than 1000 degrees. A gas-burning fireplace tends to burn at a lower temperature, around 1000 degrees. Gas-burning is more efficient, so the grates and walls of the firebox can reach 1000 degrees as well.
Questions About Fireplace Heat
How do I measure heat from my fireplace?
One of the best ways to measure the heat generated by your fireplace is to use an IR (infrared) thermometer. This device measures the radiant energy of a spot it's pointed at. There are many available models but look for one that can measure over 1000 degrees.
How much heat from a fireplace actually heats the home?
With a wood-burning fireplace, only between 15% to 30% of the energy generated by the burning wood is turned into heat. Gas fireplaces are much more efficient and can return 75% or even more of their generated energy into heat.
How can I make my fireplace more efficient?
In addition to using well-seasoned (dry) wood, installing a fireplace insert can dramatically increase the efficiency of your fireplace. This is a box made from cast iron or steel that sits inside the firebox and acts as a combustion chamber, retaining heat that will radiate into your home.
When considering using a fireplace, a big question that comes to mind is how hot does a fireplace get? Several components affect the heat generated by a fireplace, and it’s a good idea to have a general understanding of these to get the best results from your fireplace.
Do you have any more questions about how hot a fireplace can get? If so, ask them in the comments. If you found this article useful, please share it in your social media channels.