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Choosing the Right Fireplace

Choosing a fireplace depends on several factors: position, style, finishing material and type of fuel used. It can be used to heat a room and, in some cases, to cook meals. Today, there are fireplaces for all indoor spaces adapted to different lifestyles and expectations. The key is to know how to choose the right fireplace for its designated space in order to enjoy warming up by a good fire.

Although certain fireplaces require knowledge of professional installation and maintenance, the advantages are sufficient. Today, fireplaces come in a variety of materials and designs.

Metalfire gas fireplace

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  • A fireplace? Where and what for?

    You might wish to install a fireplace for one of three reasons: heating for the pleasure of it, to animate an evening between friends, for example; for additional heating to accompany the main heating; or as the main heating unit.

    When it comes to which surfaces to heat, it is important to consider certain parameters, including insulation, altitude, region, glazing and flooring. Calculating the power for the surface to be heated is the same as for a wood stove: 1 kW of power for 10m² of surface.

    Bespoke Fireplace Designs gas fireplace

    If you choose to install a fireplace for the simple pleasure of it, choose a hearth that offers a nice view of the fire. A glass model, for example, will allow you and your guests to be in direct contact with the fire. In this case, the need for a strong fire that provides large spatial heat is less important.

    As for using the fireplace for additional heating, you’ll most likely want to use wood as fuel because it’s the least expensive fuel on the market. However, other options exist if the economic side of choosing a fireplace isn’t your first concern—as you will probably only use the fireplace throughout the winter season.

    When selecting a fireplace as the main heating unit for a room, consider value for money. As noted earlier, wood is the least expensive fuel on the market. In the case of a power failure, as a wood-based fireplace doesn’t require electricity, the fire will continue burning.

    Whatever your reason for selecting a fireplace, it will never act as a central heating unit and will not distribute heat to all the rooms in a building. A fire also demands attention. It takes time to handle the wood, store the logs and feed the fire regularly.

    Focus wood-burning fireplace

    On the other hand, the essence of wood smells better than fuel oil, and nobody will dispute that a dinner in tête-à-tête is more romantic around a chimney than in front of a boiler. We suggest you discuss your decision to use a fireplace as the main heating unit with your architect or contractor in parallel with a wood heating professional who is familiar with the current regulations and will achieve the proper thermal balance. Regulations change frequently enough, and differ depending on the country, and professionals will be up-to-date.

    In 2018, in Montreal, for example, new rules banned wood-burning fireplaces and stoves that emit more than 2.5 grams of fine particles per hour. In the U.K., the burning of fuels such as wood and coal in open fires and domestic stoves are said to contribute to particulate pollution—so we can imagine the regulations here. Across the ocean, some New Yorkers consider the fireplace to be inefficient and polluting; although the smoke from the fire smells nice, they say, it can cause inflammation and illness, crossing into the bloodstream and triggering heart attacks or other conditions. Most fireplaces, though, are used far too infrequently to cause any real damage to the environment or health.

  • What are the different types of fireplaces?

    Planika bioethanol fireplace

    If you do not have a chimney flue and a fresh air inlet or the possibility of having it installed in your house, which isn’t always possible, especially in apartments, you will not be able to install a chimney. You will need to consider bioethanol or electric fireplaces.

    Those who prefer hardwood can choose an open fireplace, but its efficiency will not exceed 10 to 15% contrary to a closed fireplace which ensures a performance of over 70% for a wood burning fireplace, 90% for a pellet fireplace, or more than 90% for a gas fireplace. In addition to wood, gas and bioethanol fuels, you might also consider electric.

    heatilator electric fireplace

    • Wood burning: More efficient if equipped with a dual combustion system: the gases released when the logs burn up are reignited for complete combustion, providing more heat with less wood (reaching a yield of more than 75%), while limiting emissions.Gas: The gas fireplace consists of a fireplace connected to a duct, and it works thanks to gas. It is not embedded in the wall as a real wood fireplace. Contrary to the gas stove which resembles a stove, many manufacturers distinguish the gas fireplace by giving it the form of a conventional fireplace.
    • Bioethanol: Considered the perfect solution to reduce electricity bills during cold weather, this type of fireplace is portable, fast-burning, cleaner with minimal maintenance, efficient and does not require a professional installation. There is also no heat loss, smoke or odor.
    • Electric: An electric fireplace is a device that warms the interior of a room while optimizing its decoration through flames, mimicking that of real fires. Its use is secure because it does not emit smoke or toxic gas. It does not require any special maintenance either.
  • What are the different types of hearths?

    Although today’s trend has the fireplace, with an open flame, in the middle of the house as a gathering piece symbolizing the hearth and home, people also want a sustainable, efficient, easy-to-use fireplace that’s safe. The reason why you choose a fireplace will guide you in selecting the right hearth.

    Rüegg Cheminée Schweiz closed hearth fireplace

    A closed fireplace focuses solely on heating. It heats almost ten times more than an open hearth, while consuming four times less wood. The fire lasts three times longer, and the fumes are enclosed instead of escaping into the room. This also prevents dust from spreading. In certain countries, you may also receive a tax credit. However, despite the good distribution of heat and benefits from double combustion and waterproof properties, the maintenance is extensive, it is rather expensive and replacing an existing chimney usually requires breaking it down.

    boley open hearth fireplace

    The so-called “open” fireplace is a niche built into the wall of the house. Mostly decorative, it does not provide a sufficient amount of heat, it is not eco-friendly and is certainly not economically sound. It does, however, show a beautiful fire and provide the smell of wood to ensure delightful evenings. Instead of warming up the habitat, an open chimney is a real source for drafts.

    An open fireplace is connected to the outside by a masonry duct through which the smoke is evacuated. The higher the duct, the greater the air demand: This is what determines the “draw”.

    It’s more of a decorative element than a heater. The output of an open fireplace is very low: It does not exceed 15%. Compared to modern appliances on the market today that are close to 80%, the open fire is a big waste of energy; for a disappointing result, since to feel the heat, it is almost necessary to climb into the fire.

    A chimney insert is inserted into an existing chimney. It can be found in a rectangular shape, often smaller than the closed hearth, and most importantly, it has no “drip” or smoke chamber (a prominent often dome-shaped part above the combustion chamber). The chimney insert can be used in a renovation project of an existing home or in a new project.

    Unlike the closed fireplace, the hot air of the insert exits through the front panel and is mostly propelled by a turbine placed in the lower part of the device. The air in the room is then taken from the lower part of the appliance where it circulates around the heating element in a second casing and is then channelled through the grill at the top of the appliance.

    Made of cast iron or steel, the insert is a rustic version of its cousin the “closed hearth” because its primary function is to heat, putting refinement and aesthetics in the background. Still, the insert can benefit from interesting functions, including a “Clean glass” system, “double combustion” technology (to burn off lost gases and optimize combustion with efficiency greater than 70%) and a side view of the fire by glazed sides.

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