In South Africa, there is a big selection of fireplaces available on the market.
Fireplaces come in different shapes and sizes. They range from built-in to freestanding, wood burning, anthracite, pellet burners, gas, bio-ethanol and electric fireplaces.
Currently, the trend is towards aesthetic fireplace design. Equally important should be efficiency ratings, optimum use of fuel while maintaining showpiece and beautiful fireplaces.
Types of Fireplaces
Gas fireplaces produce instant flames. A touch of a switch on a remote control gets the fire started. There are two options available; flueless (vent free) and flued gas fireplaces.
Flueless systems or drop-in gas fireplaces are supplied with ceramic logs and coal or pebbles. Mostly remote controlled with a cross ventilation requirement. Flueless gas fireplaces are not allowed to be installed in a bedroom or bathroom unless it is installed within a chimney stack to naturally extract burnt gas. Available from small 40mm units upwards to 2000mm units.
Flued systems have a balanced flue system, a balanced flue system consists of a co-axial pipe, where one pipe serves to extract the noxious gas formed by burning the gas and one pipe serves to feed the fire with fresh air. Flued systems burn behind glass in a closed chamber giving it a sleek and modern look and feel.
Gas systems need to be installed according to the manufacturer guidelines and SANS regulation by a registered SAQCC gas installation service provider. The cost of installalling a gas unit can be high, especially if you need to bring in a gas line.
Most gas units come with an oxygen depletion sensor that will switch of the appliance once a drop in oxygen levels are sensed. The fire might look real but you don’t get the crackling sound of a wood-log burner.
Various options are available when looking at wood burning systems.
Traditional open fireplaces are not as efficient as closed combustion systems. Closed combustion systems are available as built-in units or freestanding stove units. They vary in design, size and kW output.
These systems require flue pipes to extract smoke from the fireplace. Burn 75 – 85% efficient and produce less ash.
Furthermore, wood is burnt in a sealed chamber behind glass, there is no smoke and sparks entering the room. Wood burning units offer an excellent, cost-effective heating source while maintaining the unbeatable natural ambiance of the fire.
Wood log burners can provide extra light when the power goes out and also provide a heat source for cooking when there is no electricity.
Storage and seasoning of firewood are important to have a readily available fuel source.
Lastly, you decide the type of firewood you want to burn, how long the fire should burn and how hot the fire needs to burn.
Anthracite / Hard Coal Fireplaces
Older technology stoves make use of fossil fuel. Anthracite is a fossil fuel and has the highest energy content of all coals and is used for heating and generating electricity.
Hard coal stoves are mostly sold as dual fuel systems which can burn wood and anthracite.
Using anthracite to heat your home can be a cost-effective solution. However, unlike gas or electric heating, it needs to be cleaned out on a regular basis and requires access to readily available high-quality anthracite.
Pellet stoves are highly efficient and environmentally friendly.
They have slightly more flexible installation requirements than that of their wood-log counterparts. They are easy to maintain and produce very little ash.
Wood pellets are a renewable green energy source for those committed using an environmentally friendly fuel.
Pellet stoves have programmable cycles and temperature outputs.
If you decide to purchase a pellet stove make sure you consult a specialist dealer.
Bio-ethanol burners don’t require a flue system to extract smoke. It is a completely clean fuel with no dangerous fumes created when burnt.
Zero ash is formed in the burn process, and it is easy to use with almost no maintenance required. You simply take the ethanol, pour the ethanol into the burner and ignite it with a lighter.
However, they do consume oxygen just like any other fireplace and require a fresh air source. Bio-ethanol does not burn as efficient than that of their wood-log, wood pellet counterparts.
Given these points, it is not a primary heat source as the kW output created is very small.
In short, very easy to install as they don’t require a flue or a chimney.
Although these type of units are more affordable to set up compared to wood burning or gas units they are costlier to use. In South Africa, it is not a cost-effective heating source due to our high electricity cost. They simulate a fake fire which may or may not be to your liking.
Not to mention, these type of electric units aren’t readily available in the South African market.
In case of an electrical blackout or electrical load-shedding, you won’t be able to use the appliance. Wood or gas units provide that extra warmth and light when this does happen.
Taking into account all of the above when one makes a final decision you need to consider your impact on the environment coupled with your budget and the final fireplace design for your home heating requirements an informed decision should now be possible.
In conclusion, based on our unbiased and independent assessment green energy & pellet burner technology is the preferred choice. It has a renewable energy source and is environmentally friendly.