Wood Stove

A Magic Heat heat reclaimer installed on a wood stove pipe with a wood panel wall in the background

How Does a Heat Reclaimer Work?

If you own a wood stove or a wood burning furnace, you probably understand that wood burning is all about efficiency — the efficiency of your wood fuel, the efficiency of the appliance itself, the efficiency of your flue pipe, etc. You want as much of the heat produced by your furnace or stove as possible not to go to waste.

But even the best wood burning stoves have an efficiency rating of 81% at most. That means in the best-case scenario, nearly 20% of the heat from your wood stove is simply going to waste.

Heat reclaimers were created to rectify this issue, capturing heat that would otherwise be wasted and channeling it back into your home.

But how does a heat reclaimer work?

And what kind of appliances should they be attached to?

At HY-C, we manufacture Magic Heat, a heat reclaimer that’s been around since the 1970s. And we want to share with you just how heat reclaimers work their magic to pump extra heat back into your living space.

By the time you’re through, you’ll know how a heat reclaimer gives you back this extra heat. You’ll also know what kind of wood burning appliances are best for a heat reclaimer, exactly how much recaptured heat one of these appliances helps to save, and how to avoid any dangers that may come along with attaching a heat reclaimer to your flue pipe.

How Does a Stovepipe Heat Reclaimer Work?

A diagram showing how warm air is filtered through a heat reclaimer via the flue pipe

One of the most important aspects of a wood burning appliance (whether it’s a stove, a furnace, or a fireplace) is the flue pipe. As wood burns in the firebox, heat, smoke, and other gasses rise through the flue and out of your home.

To install a heat reclaimer, a section of this flue pipe is cut out, and the heat reclaimer is installed in its place.

On the inside of the reclaimer are ten horizontal transfer tubes made of metal. As heat rises through the flue pipe and into the heat reclaimer, those ten tubes are heated up, and a fan on the back of the reclaimer blows that heat out of the tubes and into your home.

Magic Heat heat reclaimers on a production line with their distribution fan exposed

The heat reclaimer’s fan is thermostatically controlled and designed to turn on and off based on the temperature of your flue pipe:

  • The fan turns on when the pipe is 150°F or hotter
  • The fan turns off when the pipe is 120°F or cooler

A heat reclaimer’s fan is positioned only to blow air through the ten heat transfer pipes, not through the flue pipe itself. This prevents smoke from blowing into your home while still allowing heat to filter in.

How Much Heat Does a Heat Reclaimer Recover?

So, how much heat does a heat reclaimer actually circulate back into your house? To answer that question, we’ll have to do some math.

Let’s say you have a wood stove that is 80% efficient.

Now let’s imagine that you burn a log inside of that stove that has 10,000 BTUs of energy in it (a BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is a measurement of a fuel’s heat energy).

Without a heat reclaimer, burning that log inside that wood stove would radiate 8,000 BTUs of heat into your house (80% of 10,000).

Our Magic Heat heat reclaimer, as an example, is capable of recovering up to 30% of the heat energy lost through the flue pipe — in other words, 30% of the 2,000 BTUs lost in the wood stove from our example.

That means in this particular case, a heat reclaimer would recover 600 BTUs of heat energy and send it back into your home.

That may not sound like much, but this example covers just one log. Throughout a cold season, you can expect to burn hundreds of logs in a wood burning appliance. If you burn four cords of wood during the fall and winter — about 3,000 logs — you can recover nearly 2,000,000 BTUs’ worth of energy using a good heat reclaimer.

Which Appliances Can Use a Heat Reclaimer?

A Magic Heat heat reclaimer installed on a wood stove flue pipe on a black-to-white gradient background

The kinds of appliances you can use a heat reclaimer on depend largely on one factor: whether or not they have a flue pipe. Most heat reclaimers are designed to work on appliances with a 6” or 8” flue diameter.

With that in mind, some of the most common heaters to use a heat reclaimer include:

  • Wood burning stoves
  • Pellet stoves
  • Corn stoves
  • Wood burning furnaces
  • Coal furnaces

Out of these appliances, wood burning stoves in particular utilize heat reclaimers more than any other.

Is a Wood Burning Furnace Right for You CTA

The Dangers of a Heat Reclaimer (and How to Avoid Them)

First and foremost, just like the flue pipe that comes out of your heater, heat reclaimers can get very hot. Touching the appliance — especially the heat transfer tubes — can result in burns and skin damage. So be sure not to touch your heat reclaimer when it’s in use and be sure that any curious kids or pets in your home can’t get near it.

Another concern about heat reclaimers revolves around creosote buildup. Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood with too much moisture in it. It’s highly flammable, so it’s best to avoid creosote buildup in your chimney flue by burning dry, seasoned firewood.

Creosote may also leak out of your heat reclaimer if it’s installed incorrectly, which is very dangerous, as creosote formation on the outside of a wood burning appliance can easily cause a house fire. To prevent this, the crimped end of the heat reclaimer needs to be installed facing downwards toward your heater.

A stripped-down Magic Heat heat reclaimer on its side with white text and red arrows indicating the crimped end and non-crimped end of the flue pipe connections

If the crimped end is installed facing upwards, there will be a gap in the flue pipe that creosote could leak from. Installing the crimped end down ensures that creosote stays confined to the inside of the chimney pipe where it can be safely cleaned long after the fire has extinguished.

Should You Get a Heat Reclaimer?

Before now, you may not have known much about heat reclaimers or how they work. At this point, though, you should understand how a heat reclaimer functions, how much heat it saves, and how to avoid any potential dangers they entail.

As to whether or not you should get one for yourself, that depends. If you have a wood stove, a furnace, or any other kind of heater with a flue and you’re interested in recapturing some burned heat to increase the efficiency of your appliance, you may be the perfect candidate for a heat reclaimer.

Just be sure to adhere to the proper instructions when installing your heat reclaimer for maximum safety and efficiency, and follow good burn practices when using your wood burning appliance to keep your heat reclaimer in working order for years to come.

If you’re considering buying a heat reclaimer, Magic Heat — a HY-C product — is a solid model that’s been around since the 1970s. The in-depth review below takes a look at the pros and cons of the Magic Heat to help you decide if getting one is right for you and your heating appliance.

Magic Heat Reclaimer review CTA
HY-C Stove Board

How Much Does a Stove Board Cost?

Why are the two largest stove board manufacturers located just a few miles apart near St. Louis, Missouri? The story starts many years ago when there was only a single manufacturer of lightweight stove boards. After many ups and downs, that company went bankrupt.

Their top salesperson went to work for Imperial Manufacturing Group, and he built a huge stove board business through his established connections to retailers. But the original company’s equipment (heavy presses and molds & tooling) went up for auction, and HY-C bought that equipment. We subsequently launched what became the second-largest stove board operation in America.

Stove boards have always had a humble but critical role: they keep your house or cabin from burning down when loose embers fall out of your wood stove or fireplace. But despite how important they are, the casual observer may be a bit surprised by how much a stove board costs.

So we’re going to explain how steel and backing material determine the price of a stove board to give you a better sense of precisely what you’re getting for your hard-earned money. We’ll also outline the prices of one of our lines of stove boards to give you a sense of how much you can expect to spend.

How Steel Affects the Price of a Stove Board

It’s easy to question why a product made of such thin steel is so expensive. The answer goes all the way back to the steel mills which produce the basic, raw steel. Steel mills manufacture a range of steel sizes and shapes from thick, heavy sheets to very thin gauges of steel coils. Regardless of the result, steel mills charge for their steel by the pound.

A truckload of quarter-inch-thick steel has relatively few sheets, and those sheets are relatively easy to make. A truckload of high-grade, comparatively thin steel coils, on the other hand, is made with ten times as many square feet of steel as the quarter-inch-thick sheets. Here’s the factor that affects price: both truckloads weigh the same (i.e. their volume differs, but their mass does not). Manufacturers pay steel mills by weight rather than by square footage, so mills prefer to produce thicker grades of steel and avoid producing thinner grades.

Even still, our buyers have great relationships with the mills, and the mills are willing to create thinner grades of high-quality material at a much higher price per pound. The bottom line is that the steel that goes into a stove board “feels” more expensive than it should proportionally to other, heavier steel products that weigh more but cost less.

How Backing Material Affects the Price of a Stove Board

First and foremost, a stove board is a safety device for your home or cabin. And in order to earn the top industry-standard stove board safety rating, the key lies in the quality of the backing material of the stove board.

Both Imperial Manufacturing Group and HY-C use the same backing product: a mineral board produced by USG (formerly United States Gypsum Company) that will not burn under any conditions. The effectiveness of our stove boards is measured in terms of R-value.

R-value is the measurement of how well a material resists the flow of heat — the higher the rating, the more insulation the material provides. For reference, a four-inch-thick layer of brick has an R-value of 0.8. Our stove boards’ mineral backing material features an R-value of 1.56, reflecting its ability to protect surfaces from heat.

If you’ve ever tended to a fire in a fireplace, you know that as the wood burns, the fire can shift, and hot coals or embers may roll out onto a combustible floor or carpet. Our stove boards, made from a combination of steel and the mineral board backing material, shield carpet, flooring, and even walls both from loose embers and the sustained, intense heat coming off the bottom or back of a wood stove.

How Much Do HY-C’s Stove Boards Cost?

Liberty Foundry Co. Stove Boards in Black, Woodgrain, and Slate Gray

Two HY-C brands account for the bulk of our stove boards: Liberty Foundry Co. and Shelter. Before we dive into pricing, it’s important to note that stove boards fall into two categories: type 1 and type 2. Simply put, both types provide protection from embers, but type 2 stove boards provide additional heat protection (meaning that the floors or walls they cover won’t get nearly as hot as they would if they were covered with a type 1 stove board).

The Liberty Foundry Co. collection of EmberGuard stove boards all fall into the type 1 category, while Shelter stove boards may come in either type 1 or type 2. Our stove boards are all made from steel and the mineral backing material; the primary factor that determines price differences is the dimensions of the boards themselves. This table of type 2 Shelter stove boards should give you a general idea of how much you can expect to pay for a stove board based on its size (keep in mind that each board is 1 inch thick):

Stove Board DimensionsApproximate Retail Price
18 inches x 48 inches$95 to $105
28 inches x 32 inches$115 to $125
36 inches x 36 inches$140 to $160
32 inches x 42 inches$165 to $185
36 inches x 48 inches$190 to $210
36 inches x 52 inches$215 to $235
40 inches x 48 inches$230 to $260
48 inches x 48 inches$250 to $270

Stove board pricing varies from retailer to retailer (and from manufacturer to manufacturer), but this table should give you a general idea of what to expect. Each Shelter stove board comes in three distinct colors: black, wood grain, and gray slate. These colors are for aesthetic purposes only; they have no effect on the heat-resistant or fire-resistant performance of the board.

Which Stove Board Is Best for You?

If you have a wood furnace or stove, the risk of not having a stove board far outweighs the price of getting one. Even a small, loose ember that pops free can completely burn a house to the ground if it lands on a combustible surface.

Whether you utilize a lightweight stove board made by one of the big two stove board manufacturers or, alternatively, a heavy-duty tile/aggregate/cement stove board (which are highly expensive but also very attractive), by now you have all the information you need to choose the right one for you. All that’s left to do is find the perfect fireplace grate and your wood burning appliance will be set up for comfort, convenience, and safety.