Fireplaces – The Magic and the Mystery

September 7, 2008 by  
Filed under 07: User Information

Fireplaces are no longer used as the primary source for heating homes, but the magic of a fire stills makes a fireplace a valued part of any home. There are few things nicer than a cheery fire, especially on a cold winter night. By the same token, there are few things more distressing than a fireplace which doesn’t draw – belching smoke into the home, chasing people out, setting off smoke detectors, and dirtying everything in sight. Why do some draw perfectly, and others so poorly?

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Wood-burning fireplace selection tips

September 7, 2008 by  
Filed under 02: Wood Burning

For some of us, nothing can replace the popping sounds and smoky aroma of a real wood fire. While wood fireplaces or stoves require no electricity or natural gas, they can be labour-intensive since wood needs to be supplied. They can be put almost anywhere in a room, provided there’s a chimney available.

Here are some considerations when shopping for a wood fireplace:

Look for Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification. Since these units must meet strict environmental guidelines, they usually have advanced combustion technology that helps reduce pollution, providing more heat and less smoke. Clean-burning fireplaces can sometimes lower smoke emissions by as much as 90% compared with conventional models.
Consider a high-efficiency model. These are environmentally friendly, since they re-burn the gases and smoke a second time for more heat, and lessen how much wood you need.

Consider an insert if you already have a traditional masonry fireplace. Older fireplaces may increase heating costs, since they take in air from the already heated house. Wood inserts have efficiencies of anywhere from 50% to 70%. But an insert is a permanent installation – once it’s in, you can’t return to your masonry fireplace.
If you don’t have the luxury of a built-in fireplace, but still like the option of a wood-burning appliance, consider a wood-burning stove. Here are two choices:

Radiant stoves: these units, such as cast iron stoves or models with heavy steel plate surfaces, push the heat out in all directions. Therefore, it’s more difficult to distribute the heat throughout the house. But everything, such as walls and ceilings, as well as everyone facing the stove, will feel its comforting heat directly.

Convection stoves: these heat up the air moving through the stove’s body – air enters at the bottom of the appliance and flows through the room via a grill on the top of the stove. The air can be more easily distributed, and it’s a good choice if you need to put the stove in a room that’s not necessarily a main part of the house.