Harrison, of Leawood, Kan., faced the typical dilemma of fireplace owners: What do you do when it's time for bed, the embers are still glowing and you can't close the flue against the cold? Typically, homeowners either avoid building a fire later in the day, stay up with the fire until the embers die down, or leave the flue open all night, thereby losing all the heat benefits of building a fire in the first place.
It's not just a question of convenience and comfort; safety is a key issue, as well. Half of all home heating fires are reported during the winter months of December, January and February, according to the National Fire Protection Association. More than 33 percent of Americans depend on fuel-fired sources like fireplaces for the primary heat source in their homes, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. The USFA also says homeowners should extinguish a fire before going to bed or leaving the house.
'I loved my wood-burning fireplace, but I hated the cold that got into the house whenever I had to leave the flue open at night,' says Harrison. 'I looked for years for a solution, but nothing seemed to work quite right.'
So Harrison, a corporate real estate developer for 35 years, did what any enterprising American might do in his situation: he invented a solution. His brain-child, the Fireplace Blocker, is a cover made from the patented Pavenex fabric, a complex fire-resistant material used by firefighters for its heat- and fire-resistant qualities. The blanket-style cover goes over the outside of the fireplace screen. Industrial grade magnets, hidden within pockets of the fabric, keep the cover in place.
Because Pavenex is rated to withstand up to 2,200 F., homeowners can put the Fireplace Blocker over the screen at night and go to bed secure in the knowledge that their home is protected. The cover ensures no stray sparks escape from dying embers and the flue can stay open without losing heat up the chimney. In warm weather, the cover can also be used to ensure cool air doesn't escape either. In addition to being a safety tool, the product can also help consumers save on their energy bills, Harrison says.
He launched the Fireplace Blocker in 2011 through Skymall, the catalog found on most commercial airline flights, and now focuses full time on further developing and marketing his invention. The company has become a family affair, with his son doing IT work, his daughter serving as chief financial officer, and his wife managing the company's books.
The next generation of Fireplace Blocker, currently in design phase, will be decorative as well as utilitarian. Currently, the product is available only in plain black. To learn more about the Fireplace Blocker, visit www.fireplaceblocker.com. The cover is also available through Plow & Hearth and online at www.fireplaceblocker.com.