Almost a million years old and still burning bright! That’s your fireplace. Ancient fire pits were generally holes in the ground in the centre of the dwelling while smoke escaped through openings in the roof. The 1700’s saw two important developments in the history of fireplaces. Ben Franklin developed a convection chamber for the fireplace. He also improved the airflow by pulling air from a basement and venting out a longer area at the top. In the later 1700’s, Count Rumford designed a fireplace with a tall, shallow firebox that was much better at drawing the smoke up and out of the building. Rumford’s design is the foundation for modern fireplaces.
Today coal, wood or peat-burning fires are being replaced by cleaner and often safer natural gas and electric systems. More cost-efficient, they look good and offer all year enjoyment. These fireplaces are manufactured with real, solid wood mantels and come in design options of maple, oak, cherry and mahogany. They can be plugged into any standard outlet, can easily be moved from room to room and come with a one-year warranty.
Fireplace mantels traditionally offer a unique opportunity for the architect or designer to create a personal signature statement unique to the room. Historically the mantel defines the architectural style of the interior decor, whether it is traditional, contemporary or transitional.
The best deal, if budget and safety are a priority, lies with electric fireplaces. The benefits are numerous, as electric fireplaces offer good heat, great looks, and unparalleled convenience. Most electric fireplace styles have no hot surfaces so they’re a safer choice to use around pets, children and seniors. On the economic front, no special preparation is needed to install an electric fireplace. A regular household electrical outlet will suffice. They are cheap to operate, as well – barely a few cents an hour on the “flame only” setting or when you run the heater. Electric fires heat well (4500-5000 btu average) and can easily serve as the sole source of heat for a 400 square foot room. Modern electric fireplaces aren’t just for the heat, however. The look good as well! Technology has paved the way to showcase mesmerizing flames that look so real, only you know they are not. In fact, the dancing flames produced by an electric fireplace, electric insert or freestanding electric hearth stove provides a warm, soothing glow in any room. You can actually enjoy a “fire” no matter what the season.
Complete fireplace inserts can be retrofitted into existing wood-burning fireplaces. Usually they require no additions such as glass doors, screens or other decorative accessories. They consist of a closed combustion chamber with ceramic logs and a glass front. A 3 or 4 inch liner is attached to the insert and runs up the existing chimney and vented to the outside for efficient and safe operation. Inserts offer the same convenience and safety features as complete gas fireplaces, with gas logs, warm air circulation, remote controls and other features. As with nearly all gas-fired appliances, most gas fireplaces and inserts undergo rigorous safety testing by American National Standards Institute before they are certified.
There are a range of accessories used with fireplaces. For the interior firepit, the most common are grates, logboxes, andirons and firedogs, all of which are used to cradle the fuel and accelerate burning. For the exterior adornment and fireplace tending function, there are fireplace tools including poker, bellows, tongs, shovel, brush and toolstand. Maybe the most important part of the fireplace is the fireback. A good fireback not only protects the wall at the back of the fire but also increases the efficiency of the fire with up to 50%. This is because the cast iron plate will radiate the heat into the room; especially the old, thick firebacks have this function. Electric fireplace owners sometimes use natural gas logs to add a classic look to the fireplace. Natural gas logs look like real wood logs, but are made of ceramic material and are mounted on a metal rack similar to those in wood-burning fireplaces. When burning, the logs resemble a stack of flaming wood, except they do not change position or disintegrate. Gas logs are chosen most of ten when the homeowner is most concerned about aesthetics.
With so many advantages and options, it is easy to see why electric fireplaces are so hot!