Winter has (finally) hit Brisbane this week, and for many people, the change in weather has brought with it fantasies of curling up in front of a fire with a nice warm beverage, some friends, and a view of snow falling outside.
While we don’t often get snow in South East Queensland (we wish… think of the snowboarding opportunities!), that doesn’t mean that we can’t still enjoy the comfort, warmth and social connectivity that comes from gathering around a fire.
Historically, the ‘hearth’ was renowned as an integral part of a home — the central and most prominent feature, and a warm hub to congregate around. Over time, and with technological advancements in heating, we have seen a general shift to the main living spaces, now focusing more towards the TV, as well as an increase in ducted heating. Despite this, we believe a fireplace can have many positive social and aesthetic benefits for a home, and is a truly ambient solution for indoor and/or outdoor heating and lighting.
What to Look For In a Fireplace
Just as we believe that a home should reflect its occupants’ individual functional requirements, so too do we believe that a fireplace should be fit for its desired purpose. Modern fireplaces are now much more sophisticated than their traditional counterparts, both in terms of practical considerations like energy efficiency and available fuels sources, as well as in terms of design and aesthetics — some even come fitted with remote controls! So there are many things to consider when incorporating a fireplace within your house, but the four main considerations to account for when making a selection on a particular system are;
1. Energy efficiency and consumption
2. Associated running costs
3. Frequency of use
4. Design and aesthetics
Selecting an Effective Fireplace
Energy efficiency and running costs of modern fireplaces are influenced by two main areas: Fuel source selection, and open versus sealed units.
An open wood-fire is the most well-known and traditionally installed fireplace, however advances in technology now enable gas and electrically fuelled indoor fireplaces to work in much the same way as traditional solid fuel fireplaces, but using a much ‘cleaner’ fuel source. It is important to recognise that wood fired heaters produce smoke, and this can have negative health impacts and may annoy neighbours if not installed with this in mind. Alternatively, gas or electrical fireplaces can be ‘plumbed’ into the house and therefore you’ll never need to go and purchase (or chop) timber for fuel.
Selecting an open or sealed fireplace is another decision that influences efficiency.
An open front unit typically provides the user with less control over temperature an energy consumption as the fire interacts directly with the oxygen in the air and has no barrier to the outside. This usually results in a reduced efficiency compared to a sealed-unit.
A sealed unit ultimately achieves the same heat output as above but without using as much fuel as an open system would.
Following the practical and servicing considerations of selecting a fireplace unit there are many design and aesthetic options to consider. The fire can be a freestanding unit as a prominent feature in a room, or alternatively it can be incorporated into a wall or inbuilt joinery for a more subtle and minimal aesthetic solution.
Another great way to maximise on value and efficiency is to install a double-sided fireplace which is able to heat two adjacent spaces or two completely separate rooms!
Power flues are an accessory which enable greater design flexibility in fireplace placement. Traditional flues travel vertically and out via the roof. With modern gas fireplaces, an option of using a Power flue accessory enables the flue to travel horizontally, giving more design flexibility in a multi-level house or unit.
Design for Your Way of Life
When you are discussing fireplaces, it is also important to distinguish between the fire box itself (where the fire actually burns), and the surrounding elements. A client that wants to install a fire for heating purposes will need a particular type of fire-box (most likely a glass-fronted heater, either gas or wood-burning), whereas a client that desires a fire as a decorative feature and is not too concerned about the heating capacity, has many other options.
For a few ideas for your own place, check out how fireplaces have been integrated into some Base projects below. There are so many ways that fireplaces can be included in a project!
*This one isn’t in one of our projects yet. But we love them! You can find them at http://www.focus-fireplaces.com/gyrofocus-0