Fireplaces have been a traditional architectural feature of a house. Fireplaces originally provided heat for cooking as well as keeping the house warm. Fireplaces kept the same basic design for thousands of years. In the 16th century, the idea of raising the wood on a grate improved the heating effectiveness of the fireplace. Ben Franklin implemented the next improvement in fireplace design. The Franklin stove, built out of cast iron, captured more heat from burning wood. Count Rumford modified the fireplace by creating a tall, shallow box, resulting in greater radiant efficiency. Now, fireplaces are available with advanced options and features to meet any design or lifestyle need. The following five fireplaces are the most popular:
Wood Burning Fireplaces
Wood burning fireplaces are either masonry or factory built inserts. Masonry fireplaces are labor intensive, and are built on site out of fire bricks, cinder block, clay chimney liners and brick or stone, depending on the surround. Masonry fireplaces usually include a hearth, mantel, grate, firebox, and damper.
Fireplace inserts are manufactured off-site and are easier to install. Fireplace inserts use a double walled steel chimney that is light and easy to install.
Gas Burning Fireplaces
Gas burning fireplaces come in a huge variety of styles to meet any decorating requirement. There are three major types of gas burning fireplaces: Direct vent, vent free, and inserts. Gas burning fireplaces may be double sided, or any unique shape to make a design statement for a room. Direct vent gas fireplaces use outside air for combustion. Since gas fireplaces have electronic ignition, some have remote controls or thermostats to create a comfortable room temperature.
Vent free fireplaces provide greater options for placing fireplaces in rooms that may not have access to an outside wall or for a chimney. Vent free fireplaces are extremely efficient, as no heat is lost through flu gas. However, the room supplies the oxygen needed for combustion. Some building codes require fresh air sources for vent free fireplaces.
Direct vent fireplaces use outside air for combustion. This type of fireplace has the option of venting through a wall to the outside instead of a chimney, reducing labor for installation. Advanced Do-it-yourselfers may be able to successfully install a direct vent fireplace, with the help of a plumber for the gas connection.
Pellet fireplace inserts have become more popular as a source of heat for a room and because of the improved efficiency of a pellet fire over a traditional log fire. Pellet fireplace inserts are available for new installations and retrofits into older masonry fireplaces. Pellet fireplaces offer the advantage of a controlled burn through pellets supplied through a hopper to the firebox. Some models are thermostatically controlled with electronic ignition.
For convenience and ease of installation, electric fireplaces offer new alternatives. The new electric fireplaces have a more realistic appearing fire than in earlier models. Most electric fireplaces have built in electric heaters to help provide warmth to a room.
A vent free gel fireplace provides the option of a real fire with the portability of an electric fireplace. Gel fireplaces are starting to increase in popularity with buyers who want a real fire, but want the ease and mobility of an electric fireplace.