European fireplaces efficient
Dear Jim: I saw a home show about massive European-style fireplaces that can heat an entire home with only a 30-minute fire during the morning. Do these really work and are they energy efficient? Judie M.
Dear Judie: These European masonry fireplaces are extremely efficient, clean-burning and decorative. Many also have built-in bake ovens and boot warming areas. With their massive size and unique appearance, they will become a focal point and comfortable gathering place in your home.
Using a large European masonry fireplace is much more convenient than a standard built-in wood-burning fireplace. Keep in mind though, most homes in Europe are smaller than the typical American home, so a single 30-minute fire during the morning will likely not keep an entire house warm all day.
These masonry fireplaces are designed to burn wood and heat differently from a typical American wood-burning fireplace. Our small fireplaces are designed with restricted combustion air for a long, almost continuous burn and a blower to circulate the room air around the hot firebox.
European masonry fireplaces are designed for an extremely hot and fast burn. There is ample combustion air, so at the high temperature, the firewood burns cleanly with little smoke or creosote buildup. A 30-minute burn, or even shorter, is common with these fireplaces.
Instead of having the super-hot gases go directly up the flue or chimney, they wind back and forth through passages inside of the large masonry structure. This heats up the entire masonry structure. For many hours, it slowly radiates this heat out into your home long after the fire is out.
This warmed air naturally circulates throughout your house or you can run your furnace blower on low speed for more even heating. Having a furnace with an ECM variable-speed blower motor is an energy-saving advantage when it runs almost continuously.
When you are near the masonry fireplace, the direct radiant heat to your skin feels similar to standing in the sunís direct rays.
With the huge thermal mass of the masonry materials, the exterior of the fireplace does not get extremely hot as does a standard fireplace.
There are various internal designs of masonry fireplaces with different hot gas flow patterns through them. A counterflow model, often called a Finnish design, is very efficient. German and Russian designs have a more horizontal flow pattern and are ideal for lower fireplaces.
Most masonry fireplaces are built by a mason at your home. Some use simple modular or tongue-and-groove designs for the heart of the fireplace for easier assembly. The exterior can be finished in many decorative ways with the convenience features you desire.
The following companies offer large masonry fireplaces: Biofire, (801) 486-0266, www .biofireinc.com; Gimme Shelter, (715) 824-7200, www.gimme
shelteronline.com; New England Hearth & Soapstone, (877) 491-3091, www.rodzander.com; Temp-Cast Enviroheat, (800) 561-8594, www.tempcast.com; and Tulikivi, (800) 843-3473, www
Dear Jim: I close off some registers to the second-floor bedrooms after we are up in the mornings. I feel a cold draft coming down the stairs though. How can I stop this? Carrie L.
Dear Carrie: Your idea of reducing the heated air flow to the bedrooms during the daytime will save energy. Floor registers generally do not seal well, so there still will be some heated air getting there.
There really is no way to stop the chilly draft. Cool air is denser than warmer air, so it naturally flows down an open stairway. Run a ceiling fan in reverse in the first-floor room by the stairs to keep the warm and cool air mixed.
Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Decatur Daily, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.
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