A traditional fireplace looks great, but it's a poor heat generator. Most of the flame's warmth, plus warmed air from the rest of your house, goes right up the chimney.
To transform your hearth into an efficient heater, you can fit the firebox with a pellet-stove insert, such as the Harman P35i model shown at left. A dealer can help you find a unit and a metal surround to best fit your hearth's dimensions. But because a metal liner must be fitted inside the chimney for ventilation, installation is best left to a chimney specialist. This work may also need to be approved by a municipal inspector before the stove can be operated.