With gas and electricity prices skyrocketing, more and more people are searching for alternative, more affordable, ways of heating their home. Increasingly, they’re finding that traditional open fireplaces are the best option. Keep reading, and we’ll tell you how and why an open fireplace can save you money on your heating bills…
How much money can you save with an open fireplace?
According to the Energy Saving Trust, as of October 2022 the maximum price for a single unit of electricity is 34.0p/kWh. The maximum price for a single unit of gas is 10.3p/kWh.
Provided you’re on a standard variable tariff and paying via direct debit, these prices are currently frozen, following the announcement of the UK Government’s Energy Price Guarantee.
This guarantee is set to remain in place until April 2023. After that date, energy prices are expected to continue to rise – especially if the conflict in Ukraine is still in progress.
So, what does this all mean for open fireplaces?
They offer a potentially much cheaper way of staying warm this winter. Whilst they don’t tend to be as efficient as electric or gas fire inserts, they can make up for this by the fuel they can use.
For example, if you’re able to source a free supply of firewood locally – make friends with your local tree surgeon! – then you can drastically cut back on the number of hours each day that you need to turn your central heating on.
Should you find that you have to buy firewood for your fireplace, then you’re still likely to be better off financially. This is because firewood remains remarkably affordable, especially in comparison to electricity and gas.
At the time of writing (October 2022), a metric builder’s bag of hardwood logs (one metre by one metre) costs around £145. A metric builder’s bag of mixed hardwood and softwood logs costs approximately £100.
Because every open fireplace is different, it’s almost impossible to provide an average running cost. Having said that though, at current energy prices, an open fireplace is likely to be much easier on the wallet than having your central heating on for an equivalent time period.
How much does it cost to open up an old fireplace?
If your old fireplace is currently closed up, then it might be worth opening it up again so that you can bring it back into regular use.
As we’ve written previously, opening up an old fireplace is usually a fairly straightforward job.
Things you’ll need to consider before you do so, include:
- Checking what type of chimney you have – whether it requires any remediation work.
- Checking if any changes will be subject to planning permission/the Building Regulations.
- Whether you just have a fireplace opening (i.e. a chimney breast with no fire surround and hearth), or whether there’s an existing fireplace which has been boxed in.
If you don’t fancy doing these checks yourself, then there are plenty of builders who will be happy to take on this kind of job.
According to Checkatrade, the current cost (October 2022) of opening up an old fireplace is approximately £300.
In addition to the cost of opening up an old fireplace, it’s likely you’ll need to factor in the cost of:
- A new hearth – from around £190.
- A new surround – from approximately £255.
- A new insert or fire basket – £424 / £111 respectively.
Note – the prices above are estimates. The exact cost of opening up a fireplace and the required parts will vary depending on your individual circumstances.
How to make your open fireplace hotter and more efficient
You can reduce your heating bills further by making your open fireplace both hotter and more efficient.
There are several ways you can do this, which we’ve detailed below.
Use seasoned wood
Using improperly seasoned (or ‘green’) wood is one of the most common mistakes that results in an open fireplace performing poorly.
Using improperly seasoned wood will result in your fire burning poorly, producing too much smoke and resulting in lots of soot and creosote accumulating in your chimney.
Properly seasoned wood on the other hand will burn well, producing lots of heat and very little smoke. Wood that has been either air dried or kiln dried will burn in a very efficient way, meaning your firewood will go much further.
As well as using sufficiently seasoned wood, you should also consider burning hardwood. Hardwood does tend to be slightly more expensive than softwood – however, it burns for far longer and tends to produce more heat.
This is because hardwood is much denser and thus takes much longer to burn down to ashes.
Great hardwoods to use on an open fireplace include oak, ash, maple, birch, and sycamore.
Use a fire basket
If you don’t have an insert in your fireplace, then we’d highly recommend using what’s known as a ‘fire basket’.
A fire basket provides a platform on which you can build your fire. Not only does this have the benefit of keeping your firewood in place, but it’ll make your fire safer, preventing burning logs from rolling out onto your floor.
Even more pertinently for this article, fire baskets also make open fires burn more efficiently. This is because a fire basket elevates the fire off the floor slightly, allowing more air to reach the fire – making it burn better.
Use an insert
Is a fire basket not quite to your liking? Then don’t worry. A nice alternative is an insert.
Generally made from cast iron, open fire inserts work in a similar way to a fire basket, providing an elevated, well-ventilated place to light your fire.
Because of this, inserts will make your fires more efficient, making the best use of your fuel. Likewise, inserts can also make your fires hotter, with the insert helping to radiate more heat into your living space.
Use a fireback
Want to truly maximise the heat that your open fireplace gives off? Then install a fireback.
A fireback is a sheet of metal (typically cast iron), which sits behind the fire on the rear wall of the fireplace. Not only will a fireback protect your fireplace’s brickwork, but it will absorb heat from the fire as it burns, and then radiate it back out into your living space.
If you choose a fireback made from a heat retaining metal like cast iron, you’ll find that it continues to radiate heat even long after the fire has been extinguished.
Create an ash bed
If, for whatever reason, you’re not using a fire basket or an insert, then we’d suggest creating an ash bed instead.
This is simply a small layer of ash that you spread around the inside base of your fireplace. Doing this creates a thin layer of insulation that’ll protect your fire against the cold brickwork/floor underneath.
An ash bed will usually make it easier to light a fire. This is because of the aforementioned insulation provided by the ash.
Proactively tend to your fire
If you want your open fireplace to burn in the hottest, most efficient way, it’s not enough to simply light it and sit back.
Instead, you need to proactively tend to your fire for the duration of its burn.
Here at Direct Fireplaces, we’d recommend investing in a fireplace tool set, including some log rollers/tongs. These will allow you to safely move and adjust logs within your fire as it burns.
By positioning your logs effectively, you can make sure that they all burn as much as possible – thus getting the most heat as possible out of your firewood!
Essential open fireplace parts
Whether you’re opening up an old fireplace, or simply replacing an existing one, there are a number of essential parts that you’re going to need.
We’ve set these out below, as well as the various options that are available to you.
One of the most important parts of an open fireplace is the hearth. It’s the job of the hearth to protect any combustibles near the hearth from ignition.
It is a requirement under the Building Regulations to install a hearth as part of an open fireplace. As per the regulations, ‘hearths should be constructed of suitably robust materials and to appropriate dimensions such that, in normal use, they prevent combustion appliances setting fire to the building fabric and furnishings, and they limit the risk of people being accidentally burnt’.
So, what hearths meet these requirements? We’ve set out some below.
Granite is widely regarded as being the best material for hearths, being hard and durable enough to resist abrasion and scratches. Granite is also able to support significant weight without cracking.
What’s more, it’s also a beautiful looking stone and will set off your open fireplace nicely.
It’s important to note, however, that if you’re buying a granite hearth, you need to ensure that it has been ‘slabbed’. This means that the hearth has been cut in such a way, with expansion plates underneath, that allow it to expand and contract without cracking. This is critical as your hearth will undoubtedly be exposed to repeated heat cycles.
Slate is a hard, abrasion resistant and attractive stone which is commonly used to create high-quality hearths.
Slate is smooth to the touch and easy to clean and maintain. If you want to make your slate hearth stand out, then it’s possible to give it a jet black finish by adding a few drops of slate oil and rubbing it in.
Another essential component for your open fireplace is what’s called a ‘back panel’.
A fireplace back panel is a panel which fills the space between the fireplace opening and the fire surround. It not only serves an aesthetic function, but also provides a surface against which you can secure the surround.
Without a back panel, you’d see the bare wall between the fireplace opening and the surround. Plus, in the majority of cases, you’d have to affix the surround directly to your wall.
Here at Direct Fireplaces, we stock a range of granite back panels that are suitable for use with open, solid-fuel burning fireplaces.
The surround is, for many people, the most important part of an open fireplace. It’s what gives the fireplace its own distinct identity and visual appeal.
As such, there are a vast number of different fire surrounds available, encompassing a broad range of styles including the Renaissance, Victorian, and Edwardian periods.
Aside from the styling of your surround, you’re also going to want to give some thought to the material of the fire surround.
Here at Direct Fireplaces you’ll find wooden fire surrounds, Aegean limestone fire surrounds, marble fire surrounds, black granite fire surrounds, and cast iron fire surrounds.
In other words, if you’re looking for the perfect surround for your open fireplace, you’re going to find it at Direct Fireplaces.
Cast iron insert
For some people, an open fireplace isn’t complete without an insert. Fireplace inserts date back to the 1890s and were adopted as a means of improving the efficiency and heat output of a fireplace.
Arguably the most popular type of inserts for open fireplaces are cast iron inserts. This is because they not only look fantastic, but cast iron has very good thermal properties. As mentioned above, the addition of a cast iron insert to your open fireplace is almost certainly going to make it more efficient and improve heat output.
Here at Direct Fireplaces, we stock both cast iron fireplace inserts and tiled cast iron fireplace inserts.
If you’d prefer not to use an insert with your open fireplace, the alternative is a fire basket.
As we mentioned earlier, fire baskets are a great way of making your fire safer, hotter and more efficient. They create a dedicated spot within your open fireplace where you can build and light a fire.
When selecting a fire basket for your open fireplace, it’s important that you select one that has been specifically designed for use with solid fuels, such as seasoned wood or anthracite.
Fire baskets are available in a variety of sizes and sometimes include additional features such as ash draws, which make the removal of ashes and other detritus much easier.
Find everything you need for your open fireplace at Direct Fireplaces
Whether you’re renovating an existing fireplace, or you’re building an entirely new fireplace from scratch, you’ll find everything you need here at Direct Fireplaces.
Not only do we have one of the largest ranges of open fireplace parts on the web, we make buying what you require super simple. We offer FREE mainland UK delivery, 14-day no hassle returns, and a range of finance options to help you spread the cost of your purchases.
Shop open fireplace parts and accessories at Direct Fireplaces now
For more fire buying guides, advice and information, explore the Direct Fireplaces blog…
14 Tips to Get Your Fireplace Ready for Autumn and Winter | Everything You Need to Know About Opening up an Old Fireplace | A Guide to Cast Iron Fireplace Inserts