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Sustainable Fireplace Technology

Sustainable Fireplace Technology

Burning a fire during the winter months is a time honored tradition yet antiquated structural designs resulted in too many pollutants and unsafe particulates being released in the air. In recent years, stricter government regulations set forth by the Canadian and US governments insist that fireplaces and wood stoves be redesigned so they’re safer for the environment. Improved designs have made it safe and effective for wood to continue being used as a renewable heat source. Wood pellet stoves are also efficient heating systems and demand for pellets is surging in Europe because burning wood for energy is renewable. Two other fireplace designs that could also have a neutral impact in the environment are electric fireplaces and bioethanol fueled fireplaces.

Electric Fireplaces

Photograph by Pixabay; distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

Electric fireplaces boast the benefit of plug-and-play technology.  They are stand-alone units. They include a mantle and generate a significant amount of heat, although not enough to heat an entire house or office building. They do, however, create the ambiance of burning wood in a fireplace, making them an easy way to heat a home or office building. However, because electric fireplaces rely on the electricity, by running one frequently, your electric usage would spike and you could expect to see a higher electric bill on your next billing cycle.

If your home or office building’s electricity is powered by a renewable resource, like solar panels, wind, biomass, hydro, or geothermal, then using electric fireplaces to heat your home or office building could be a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. The fuel required to heat that building is renewable because it would replenish and regenerate itself indefinitely. Otherwise, you’d be growing your dependence on nuclear powered power plants that depend on uranium, and uranium is not considered a renewable resource.

Bioethanol Fireplaces

Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from biomass. The main benefit of using any kind of gas powered fireplace is that they require no chimney and they’re easy to maintain. Combustion fumes are let out through a hole in the wall and those fumes have a minimal impact on air quality. There are no logs to split, ashes to bag, or chimneys to clean. Although gas fires produce more heat than bioethanol fueled fires, when bioethanol burns, the flames are more lively and have been said to “dance” more than gas powered fires. If your space to heat is small or you want the aesthetic experience of dancing flames in your fireplace, and you care about using a renewable energy to fuel your fireplace, bioethanol is worth considering.

Wood is a renewable resource and burning logs, either in a fireplace, a wood stove, or pellet form, is a time honored tradition. There are other types of renewable fuel sources used in fireplace technology to create the desired ambiance without increasing your carbon footprint, especially if your home or office building’s electricity is powered by solar panels, wind, biomass, hydro, or geothermal technology.

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6 Ways to Improve Your Fireplace

6 Ways to Improve Your Fireplace

Wood is a renewable resource and burning it to heat your home in the winter is a time honored tradition that has been practiced for centuries.  The relaxing ambience created by a fireplace during the colder months is something people seem to enjoy innately. However, antiquated heating systems used technology that, although provide the ambiance, release an unsafe amount of pollutants and air particulates into the air.  In recent decades, technological advances have allowed for safer, more efficient ways to heat buildings and while enjoying the warmth and glow of natural fire.

Traditional Fireplaces

Photograph by Flickr; distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

Open-faced, radiant, wood burning fireplaces with a chimney are unfortunately a very inefficient way to heat a home or building. Fire cannot burn without oxygen and in traditional fireplaces, the chimney absorbs air from inside the home, heats it, releases it up through the chimney, and replaces the warm air from inside the building with cooler air from outside.  Traditional, open face fireplaces like this are considered inefficient because they simply don’t do a very good job at heating a home, unless you’re standing right next to the fireplace.

However, there are ways to make traditional fireplaces more efficient and safe.

  1. Consider upgrading to a circulating fireplace. These units are installed with a blower system and are designed to circulate the warm air from fire back into a room.
  2. Add doors. The doors will hold the heat in the fireplace, allowing it to radiate inside the home. Doors will also redirect the pollutants in the smoke from the fire to the chimney so the air inside your home remains pollutant free.
  3. Check the damper. Leaving the damper open without a fire going will make your home cooler. If the damper is warped, then even when it’s closed it could continue to let warm air escape from the house.
  4. Use a cast iron grate. Cast iron grates will absorb the most heat so it can radiate it back into the room. Some newer models include blowers that will redirect the heat from the fireplace toward the room, which add a significant amount of heat to a room.
  5. Get a fireback. Using a metal plate to line the back of the fireplace will radiate heat toward the room when the fire starts to die.
  6. Consider an insert. Inserts are enclosed boxes that use electricity, gas, or wood pellets and are designed to fit inside of your existing fireplace. Although this option is the most expensive, modern inserts are very efficient and will add a substantial amount of heat to your home.

 

Safety

Additionally, open face fireplaces without doors make it easy for smoke and air pollutants to enter the main living area of a building. Inhaling these particulates over a long period of time could degrade the air quality inside of a home and cause health problems. A good rule of thumb is, that if you can smell the smoke, you’re inhaling it and other harmful particulates, and is a good indicator that your fireplace should be upgraded.

Resources

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