Warm up your home for winter
This week the temperature took a dive and, as the days grow shorter and colder, it's time to start thinking of ways to heat your home. With the cost of electricity constantly increasing, most homeowners are looking for alternative heating methods that are not only more environmentally friendly, but also more cost-effective.
Fireplaces offer a good substitute – they are not only an attractive feature in any home, but also add a lasting source of warmth to your interior spaces. Installing a fireplace will also add to the overall value of your home, largely due to the fact that the glowing embers and roaring flames create an invitingly cosy ambience and a lasting impression that is not easily forgotten.
The traditional open fireplace
Very little can compare to the romantic ambience created by mesmerising flames and the warm golden glow of an open fireplace. These fireplaces have a chimney and are very safe to use, but the drawback is that generally, they use a comparatively substantial amount of wood to heat any given area. In fact, it is estimated that only 5% of the energy in the wood is converted into heat inside your home. This is largely due to the fact that most of the heat is lost up the chimney. Another drawback of open fireplaces is that wood fires don’t last for very long, and you need to continually load them with wood to keep them going.
Most wood-burning fireplaces can, with the correct grate, also burn anthracite. Anthracite is a hard shiny coal that has a high carbon content. It burns for longer than wood and at a higher temperature, and is therefore a far more economical and energy-efficient material to burn. It also burns with a clean flame and has no smoke or odour, and it is safe and clean for home use.
Closed combustion stoves
In the past, closed combustion stoves burned anthracite, but today these sealed units are made out of steel and are mostly designed for wood burning only. The glass window not only allows you to see the fire, but prevents the sparks from sputtering onto and damaging your floors and carpets, as well as negating any smoke or fireside smells from entering the room. Instead, combustion air is provided via built-in controllable vents.
These stoves are very durable, and if maintained correctly, can last for up to 25 years or more. They are a better source of heat compared to open fireplaces, as far less heat is lost up the chimney. Also, if correctly set, slow burning combustion stoves are exceptionally energy efficient and believed to be the most cost effective way of keeping your home warm, burning a mere two logs every hour.
To keep your home warm throughout the night, it is safe to load the stove with logs before going to bed, which will keep the fire burning for eight hours. When you wake up in the morning, all you will need to do is to drop in another two logs to maintain a comfortable warm ambience in your home.
Gas fireplaces have artificial coals or logs with a reddish yellow flame that closely resemble the real thing. They are easy to light with one click of a switch, provide heat almost instantly and require no stoking or cleaning. A vented gas fireplace requires a chimney to get rid of the gasses produced during combustion.
Vent-free gas fireplaces don’t require a chimney – they burn gas with a higher oxygen content, giving a bluer and hotter flame. This creates less carbon monoxide during combustion, which is safe to vent into an open-plan area. These fires have a slight odour and when the gas bottle is close to being finished, the gas smell is often even stronger.
Gas fireplaces provide immediate heat, with none of the hassle and all of the benefits of an open fireplace, and they can be positioned virtually anywhere in the home, with no structural limitations required for their placement. However, having said that, they generally don’t give off as good a heat as the open fireplace or closed combustion stove.