I think that it is apparent that winter is upon those of us here in the Southern Hemisphere now – the cold mornings, the late rising sun and the woolly winter clothes and boots that get dragged out of the cupboard. But it’s not all grey skies as winter has its fun too, like onesies, hot chocolate and of course those nights by the fireplace.
While I do not claim to be an expert on keeping warm, when it comes to fireplaces there are a few practical things you might want to consider based on your lifestyle.
Open vs closed?
Gone are the days when an open fireplace smokes you out of your home on the coldest day of winter, but other things to consider would be safety and residual smell from the coals the day after. If you have pets or children, you may want to steer clear of an open fireplace – as much as you would like to convince yourself that it will be fine accidents happen. The second safety aspect of open fireplaces to consider is that they “spit” bits of hot coal out, so use a protective guard to prevent burning your flooring or even worse, yourself. Depending on the wood you use, even if the open fireplace does not smoke out your home, the remaining coals, if left for more than a few hours can leave a home with that distinctive smell. Open fireplaces are also said not to be all that energy efficient, sucking in the cold air through any open vent in your home as the hot air rises up the flue.
Closed fireplaces, while, safer than an open one can still burn you, so consider building a protective guard around it.
Closed fireplaces obviously do not smoke out the home if the vent is used correctly and you can leave the coals in them until it is used again. The closed fireplaces are also often built into the wall, making them appear more streamlined with a room.
In South Africa, one seems to have the choices of wood, gas or anthracite. Obviously the model of fireplace you choose will determine the type of fuel that is used. Consider that wood can have a smell and only certain woods can be used, especially in open fireplaces. Pine wood will create a build-up of gum on the inside of the flue and can catch alight if not cleaned annually. Gas has potential health risks and the initial cost can be quite high, but is a lot more tidy and a flue is not necessarily a must here.
Anthracite or alternative pellet fuel fireplaces are still a relatively “new” thing and initial installation can be expensive, but this is an extremely efficient heating method.
Size & location
Make sure that the size of fireplace you choose is appropriate to the size and layout of your room or home. Open plan homes will require large kW heat output fireplaces and consider venting and how well the house is sealed against the cold.
Generally, the location of the fireplace will depend on where you wish to maintain the highest level of heat – normally in a living area. No fireplace will really be able to heat an entire home unless you vent the heat through the home, which we tend not to do here in South Africa!
Now that you have more basic knowledge on fireplaces, you can decide for yourself how you are going to keep warm this winter…