Choosing a Fireplace
Most consumers know that they want a fire but have little concept of what they really want the fire to do for them. This is a brief explanation of the advantages & disadvantages of certain fire types.
As an increasing number of people acknowledge the urgent need to protect the environment, Bioethanol Fires are growing rapidly in their popularity and use.
Clean and easy to install, Bioethanol Fires are ecologically friendly, burning fuel extracted from plants during a full combustion process. In addition to offering a responsible climate friendly choice, Bioethanol Fires provide the opportunity to install a living flame fire without the need for a chimney or expensive installation costs. A Bioethanol Fire can be installed in just about any location.
A Bioethanol Fire provides a beautiful living flame fire with the following advantages:
- No chimney is needed
- Highly economical
- 100% energy efficient
- Odour-free when in use
Whether a built-in fireplace, suspended fireplace, wall-mounted fireplace, freestanding fireplace, mobile fireplace or burner: bioethanol fireplaces cater for all solutions.
OPEN WOOD VS CLOSED COMBUSTION
Traditional wood/anthracite fires of the open brick variety look good but give very low efficiencies (about 5% of the energy in the wood is converted to heat inside your home) and low heat outputs. They usually have a brick chimney, making them very safe if you use a fire guard, but with the drawback that they generally heat one room only and at considerable fuel consumption. They also die out 2 to 3 hours after replenishing the fuel, meaning that they do not keep the house warm overnight.
Manufactured steel boxes that either fit into the chimney or are designed as a free standing unit are more efficient than the brick fire, generally running at 10 to 20% efficient. This means more heat, less fuel but still needing a screen and frequent loading. Typically this type of fire heats one to two rooms of your home.
Closed combustion stoves are sealed steel units. Most of the ones available are designed for wood burning only though some will handle anthracite. The fire takes place behind a pane of glass with the combustion air being drawn in through vents that the user controls. The most efficient ones have some of the combustion air pre-heated which along with the design of the stove raises combustion temperatures from the 500 to 600° C of the open fire to nearly 900°. At these temperatures, the fuel burns very cleanly giving very little in the way of emissions and vast amounts of heat. With the control of the combustion air this means a lot less wood consumption, a lot more heat and the ability to burn the stove for up to about 9 hours on one load of wood. In effect these type of units can heat a normal size house for the winter season on about R1,500 of wood per winter. With the pane of glass in front there are no sparks flying into the room. Efficiencies on the best of these units touch 80%.
In Europe and America, environmental concerns, as well as sustainability of fuel resources have prompted Governments to promote a move to closed combustion stoves.
If you plant a tree to replace the one you have cut down for fuel, you create a forestry industry, and have fuel forever. You do not deplete the Earth’s limited supply of fossil fuels. In addition, the tree you plant will take 2 – 3 times as much Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere as the one you burn, will produce. In effect, you create an environmentally friendly process.
Certain European Governments give consumers a tax rebate for installing a closed combustion stove that meets these requirements.
DECORATIVE GAS FIRES
Decorative gas fires are those fires burning gas that look like a real fire when burning. Generally they have a reddish yellow flame and have either artificial coals, logs or pebbles on them. They are easy to light, provide almost instantaneous heat and require no stoking or cleaning.
Vented gas fires are the most common, where a chimney removes the carbon monoxide and dioxide formed in the combustion process of the fire. These fires are typically 25 to 40% efficient with the balance of the heat being lost up the chimney along with the exhaust fumes. They are odourless, in that all the gases produced in the fire are vented. They typically heat a room of 20 to 40 sq metres. Running costs if run for 4 hours per night over a 4 month winter would be about R5,000 per winter on bottled gas.
CHOICE OF FIRE
The good fireplace shop will be able to advise the consumer on the choice of the right product for their application.
if the customer wants to heat a lounge used to entertain guests once a week, they will want a gas fire, no mess , no cleaning and instant operation.
If they want to heat a bedroom, usually gas again for the no mess, no cleaning. They will need a flued gas fire with either a conventional flue or a balanced flue.
If they want to heat a house of say 150 to 200 sq metres with one heat source and a low fuel bill they should go for a closed combustion stove.
FLUELESS GAS FIRES
Flueless Gas fires are available that do not require a chimney.
These fires burn the gas with a higher oxygen content, giving a bluer, and hotter flame. This creates substantially less carbon monoxide and dioxide in its combustion process.
These smaller amounts of fumes are safe to vent into an open-plan area.
As there are no heat losses up a chimney these fires are 100% efficient. That means much more heat for your money, and usually a far higher heating capacity.
With the recent increases in the cost of Gas (along with petrol), this type of fire has become very popular in South Africa.
It is illegal to install an unvented Gas Fire in a bedroom or bathroom.
FUEL AVAILABILITY AND THE ENVIROMENT
In today’s uncertain electrical supply situation in South Africa the choice of fuel is very topical.
A lot of fires will operate without any electrical requirement. This means the customer can be warm in a power cut, will get some light from the fire and may even be able to boil a kettle or heat a pot or two in the event of a power cut.
In Europe where continued fuel is very much an issue, some governments have gone so far as to offer substantial tax rebates to customers who install closed combustion stoves. If you plant a tree for every tree you cut down you have fuel for ever.
Wood burned at high temperature in a stove gives off less carbon dioxide than if it had rotted naturally in the forest. Growing trees consume carbon dioxide and produce life giving oxygen.
Coal or gas-fired power stations are typically 20 to 25% efficient in terms of electrical power produced from the fuel souce. In other words, most of the energy in the fuel source is wasted at the power station. This power has to be transmitted to your home which wastes more energy. Power stations are a major source of air pollution.
It makes you think we should be re looking our energy policy in South Africa, but in the interim, your choice of heat source can do your bit for the planet.