For homeowners, a fireplace brings more than just aesthetic and economic enhancement to a home. During winter, traditional fireplaces and gas fireplaces provide highly effective, inexpensive methods of heating a house.

This is particularly convenient now, with possibilities of load shedding being part of everyday life. Electric heaters are not only expensive to run, but cannot be used during power cuts. The same goes for all other types of electricity-powered heating systems, such as fan heaters and electric blankets. A fireplace offers constant, comforting heat throughout the darkest days and nights! It's a fact that the South African electricity crisis will take a number of years to resolve, so it’s likely that many a winter night will be spent powerless. Investing in a fireplace will ensure warmth and comfort through the chilly season – easily, reliably and without breaking your budget.


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There are a number of factors that determine what fireplace size is ideal for your room. Apart from aesthetics, heat output is an even more important consideration in choosing a fireplace. However, other factors may change the amount of space each fireplace model is capable of heating, including the insulation of your home, the number and size of windows and types of windows in your home, vaulted ceilings versus flat ceilings, narrow hallways between rooms and outside temperature. We all have images of family gatherings around a warm and cosy fire. There are some matters to attend to before one achieves this. In order to get the most from your fireplace, it will be essential to study the user-guide supplied with your unit. You will also need to understand how the fire in the hearth or combustion chamber behaves and reacts to inflow of cold air and how and over what time-span heat exchange will take place.

Fireplace capacity is expressed in kilowatt heat output (kW) or cubic meters (m³). In South African winter conditions, 1 kW can heat up approximately 20 cubic meters. This value will decrease in extreme cold conditions i.e. below freezing point.

To calculate the volume of the room in cubic meters, multiply the square meter area by the height of the ceiling. A standard room is approximately 20 cubic meters (m³) and is equal to 8 square meters (m²).(Square meters is calculated by dividing the cubic meter area by the height of the ceiling.) The calculation is as follows: 1 kW = 20 cubic meters divided by 2,5 meters = 8 sq meters for a standard room.

Using the following basic formula you can calculate what size fireplace will suit your living area or room, as a minimum:

 To work out the volume of the room you want to heat, multiply the length x breadth x height, e.g. 4m x 5m x 3 m = 60 m³ (cubic metres).

 In the case of a great room or open plan living area, consider the entire space as one room. Cubic Metres divided by 15 (average insulated Room) = Kw Output

 Also, to avoid disappointment rather add 30m³ to accommodate any open spaces adjacent (like open plan room with opening to passages, or opening to a reception hall, or stairs running up to the next floor)

Miscalculating the amount of cold air which requires heating will result in a fireplace that only radiates heat directly adjacent to the unit, and disappoint by not heating the space properly.

As a rule of thumb, biofuel and gas fireplaces have smaller heating capacities, while larger wood and solid fuel fireplaces can heat much larger volumes.

What important elements should you look for in a fireplace?

Integration into the design of a home and the lifestyle of its inhabitants is an important consideration when selecting the right fireplace for your home. All fireplaces share a common aim – namely, to generate heat – but not all units achieve this goal equally, or in the same manner. Some fireplaces are highly economical and energy efficient, whilst others are easier and cleaner to use.

Over and above simplicity and affordability, homeowners should also consider the practicality of each type of fireplace. Have you got a chimney in your home? If not, your fireplace options are fairly limited – unless you choose to have a chimney installed. Are your entertainment areas or bedrooms large or small? The size of the room requiring heating will impact upon the type of fireplace you choose. What type of fireplace will best complement your décor? What sort of unit will best enhance your comfort? These are all important matters to take into consideration when choosing a fireplace.

If you need a fireplace that burns throughout the day on most days a closed combustion or wood burning fireplace is the ideal. Closed combustion and wood burning fireplaces are more economical to burn over extended periods of time but the trade-off is a permanent fixture, maintenance and the time it takes for the fireplace to produce heat. Environmentally-friendly and cost-effective to use, these units feature unique, sophisticated combustion systems which ensure that fuel is used more effectively than it is in open fireplaces – five times more effectively, in fact! The secondary combustion creates an air-wash system that keeps the flame picture-perfect at all times, preventing any soot build-up on the windows. These units emit few combustion by-products, as they burn at extremely high temperatures. As such, closed system fireplaces are particularly favoured by environmentally-aware homeowners, who wish to minimise their carbon footprint. The environmental impact of a fireplace is an important consideration to these homeowners, and thus the closed system units are an obvious choice due to their reduced emissions. Best of all, the small amount of ash accumulating in the user friendly ash pan can be easily disposed of once the fire has burnt out.

For people with space limitations, professionals and city dwellers that require instant heat or for whom it is impractical to install a wood burning fireplace, bio-ethanol or gas option should be the obvious choice. A biofuel burner (fireplace) is a viable solution if you rent property, as in most cases the burner is either freestanding and mobile, or easily removed without compromising the property. You can invest in a quality fireplace without needing to part with your investment when relocating. A gas fireplace is a convenience that is well worth the investment, if chosen for the right reason. Ultra-convenient and safe, gas fireplaces provide instant heat at the touch of a button. There is no need to kindle the fire, and thus no cleaning is required.

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