Fire-Plus Systems Inc., a new company based in Olney, has launched a national advertising campaign to market a supplemental home-heating appliance that the company claims can reduce heating costs by 70 percent for homes with fireplaces.

The device, which is called the "Fire-Plus Heat Extractor," uses a "closed water-recirculation system" that operates from a heavy, tubular-steel fireplace grate. Insulated copper pipes connect the grate to a heat-transfer unit that resembles a small car radiator.

The unit is located adjacent to the home's existing furnace, and uses the existing duct work. Water is heated to about 170 degrees in the fireplace grate, and then travels through the pipes to the heat extractor, where the heat is released. A thermostat automatically turns on the furnace fan, directing the heat throughout the house.

The cost of installing the system is about $1,500. Homeowners looking to reduce this figure should be cautioned that do-it-yourself installation can be dangerous because it would require working with water pressure, according to Fire-Plus Sales Director Bob Hicks.

"You could install the system yourself," said Hicks, "but you probably shouldn't, since it is a closed, water-tight system that works through closed pressure. It should be installed by a plumber or heating contractor."

Fire-Plus President John DiSalvatore and his partners hope to establish a national distribution network for their new product over the next few months. The appliance comes in a number of sizes.