The Evolution of the Wood Burning Fireplace

The Evolution of the Wood Burning Fireplace

By Dwayne R Bennett

Fireplaces Winnipeg - Showroom

Fireplaces in our Winnipeg Showroom

Wood burning technology has come a long way since the day the caveman first discovering fire. Throughout time wood burning has been used to provide warmth, comfort, safety, and cooking. Today’s consumer is no different however their wood burning appliance options are endless.
The first built-in fireplaces were built from either stone or masonry. They typically included a huge firebox that was capable of holding a large amount of wood and producing a large amount of heat. These fireplaces were used as a primary heat source for the home as well as the primary cooking area. The traditional masonry fireplace was very inefficient and used air from inside the home as it’s combustion air. This resulted in drafty fireplaces that expelled as much heat up the chimney as they provided to heat the home.
In the late 1700′s the fireplace industry was revolutionized by Count Rumford of Bavaria. Born Benjamin Thompson in 1754 in Massachusetts, he left the United States as a British loyalist and began his work as a physicist with the Bavarian government. Count Rumford redesigned the shape and function of the masonry fireplace to retain a greater amount of heat within the home. He redesigned the flue to create a better air draw making the lighting of the fireplace much easier. In addition to this, Count Rumford made the firebox itself smaller and angled the side and back walls in such a way that the heat produced by the fire was radiated back into the home. This allowed for fires to be built with a smaller amount of wood capable of providing more heat to the home. This work earned Benjamin Thompson the title of “Count of the Holy Roman Empire” and made him a legend in the Hearth Industry. The Rumford design is still used today by manufacturers providing a mid-efficient solution for consumers who are looking for a grand fire with moderate efficiency.
The next major breakthrough in wood burning technology came with the invention of the freestanding wood stove. Stoves provided a much simpler installation as well as greater versatility to meet the needs for cooking and warmth. Wood stoves can be put in almost any room of the home and were often used in conjunction with each other. The single wall chimney was piped throughout the home and provided a radiant heat to different rooms all at the same time. Early single wall chimney pipe presented a safety hazard as it often overheated and caused chimney fires. Today, wood stoves are built and installed in accordance to strict safety standards. They often use a double wall black stove pipe from the unit to the first penetration in the building envelope and an insulated chimney from the ceiling or wall penetration to the termination cap. These units are installed by WETT certified installers and are required to meet local and national building codes. WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer Inc.) is a non-profit certification firm that governs the rules and regulations for wood burning appliances.
Built-In zero clearance fireplaces are now a common alternative to the traditional masonry fireplace. They take on many of the efficiency and safety qualities of a wood stove while providing the traditional look and beauty of a fireplace. These fireplaces are called zero clearance because they can be installed in lumber constructed chimney chases with finishing materials right up to the edge of the fireplace. This gives the consumer an endless number of finishing alternatives and allows them to achieve whatever design ideas they may have for their home.

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