Parameter estimation problems and heat source/flux reconstruction problems are some of the most frequently encountered inverse heat transfer problems. These problems find their application in many areas of science and engineering. The primary focus of this paper is on the heat transfer parameter estimation for a two-dimensional unsteady heat conduction problem with (a) convection boundary condition and (b) convection and radiation boundary condition. The paper demonstrates the effect of a priori model on the performance of the algorithm at different noise levels in the measured data. The inverse problem is solved using three different a priori models namely normal, log normal and uniform. The posterior PDF is sampled using the Metropolis-Hastings sampling algorithm. Both single-parameter estimation and multi-parameter estimation problems are addressed and the effects of corresponding a priori models are studied. It was found that the mean and maximum a posteriori estimates for thermal conductivity and the convection heat transfer coefficient were insensitive to the a priori model at all the considered noise levels for the single-parameter estimation problem. At high noise levels in the two-parameter estimation problem, the estimates for thermal conductivity and convection coefficient were sensitive to the a priori model. It was also found that the standard deviation of the samples was correlated to the error in estimation in the single-parameter estimation case. In three parameter estimation case, alternate solutions to the same problem were retrieved due to a strong correlation between the convection coefficient and the emissivity. However, a more informative a priori model could address this issue. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.