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14 November, 2010


Do you know what a heatilator is?

I found out when we got this house, and I saw the brickwork cattycorner in the den. Openings beside and above the fireplace form a passive convection heater. Warm, yet cool in a late 70s kind of groove. I dig it.

Of course, our fireplace is the laughing stock of the great Northwest. When we moved in there proved to be a rodent passage into the house through the hulk of hollow tile and mortar holding up the chimney. The damper long gone to install an insert that had been outserted at some point. Inside the masonry of the chimney is a big metal firebox, so the heatilator doesn't become the smokilator. And only a crappy trifold screen.

As is often true, the screen stands now over by the tv. It's a pain in the ass to keep moving it all the time. So when I have an eye on the situation, ready to pounce on the embers that pop out now and then, I don't bother. And don't worry, I put the screen up when I leave the room.

And meanwhile, the heatilator pumps out warm air enough to keep the house warm. The brickface and hearth exudes for hours. The den-fire draws us in to play games and draw, talk, nuzzle up to the internet, tend fire, dry herbs, dance, watch a show, knit, carve,...and become proficient at picking up embers bare-handed.

So, let's review. Doorless, bare-bones fireplace in a damperless chimney pumping CO2 and heat into the atmosphere. On the other hand, it's really easy to keep a fire going that keeps the house warm down into the 30s, and the heatilator is a pretty green thing with no requirement for a gas or electric grid.

The damperless chimney would be a problem, but there's a rain guard over the top opf the chimney that keeps the fire from being doused, and when we don't have a fire there's a piece of foamcore insulation with Hawaiian cloth over it to close out the cold air.

The cloth matches our tropical blue bricks, which were a sick gray-brown. I wanted to work the heatilator vents into a Mayan pyramid scene, but was vetoed.

Besides having arts and crafts style metal and glass screen doors custom made for the opening, I'd like to do an improvement that I could afford. That is, make a mantle. I'd use some of the top vents as mortises for some hefty tenoned brackets that would hold up a massive slab of wood. Blocking those vents would also increase velocity in the hot air being forced out of the remaining vents. Plus, a mantle would give me a place to hang chilis or whatever for drying, stockings for stuffing, and of course a shelf for miscellaneous stuff that will subvert whatever architectural charm may be achieved by the mantle. [If it is a horizontal surface, stuff piles up on it. Without that, archaeology would be less abundant. Also it's equally important corrolary: if it's not a horizontal surface, stuff may roll off of it and into some corner where only an archaeologist will find it.]

The heatilator has a horizontal surface in each vent-niche. I have no idea what has passed through them to the hidden corner of our house, that dead space surrounding the fireplace, but would bet on that to be a hotspot for archaeologists digging up this place. And that, my friends, is enough to come down on the pro-heatilator side, as if I hadn't already made that clear.


  1. Additionally, heatilator is just about as fun a word to say as there can be. HEEEEEEEEEEEE-t'later!

  2. Heat ya later. Seriously, it takes a while to start crankin'.