The generic term "Heatilator" is used to refer to metal fireplaces with built-in ventilation systems that heat and circulate room air. This type of fireplace, also referred to as a "metal zero-clearance fireplace," was first manufactured by the Heatilator fireplace company in the 1950s.
The Heatilator fireplace company currently produces a large line of wood, electric and gas fireplaces. This company was also the first to manufacture metal fireplaces with built-in air heating channels. These fireplaces are found in many older homes because of their popularity during the 1950s through the 1980s. They are relatively easy to install and allow for a more efficient recapture of heat from the fireplace system.
Like all fireplaces, Heatilator-style fireplaces consist of a firebox, which contains the fire, and a smoke chamber, which vents the gaseous products of the fire to the outside. Cool air from the room enters an opening below the hearth and passes through an air vent located under and around the firebox. The air rises through the air vent as it warms and is forced back into the room through another opening above the mantle. Because the circulating air does not enter the firebox and smoke chamber, it collects additional radiant heat from the fire without becoming contaminated with smoke.