Why Fireplaces Today Have So Much More Design Flexibility

Human beings are fascinated with fire. Ask any scientist or anthropologist, and they’ll tell you the discovery of fire was a major step in the human progression from hunter-gathering to a rich protein diet. Fire meant we could cook meat, preserve it for longer periods, and access a whole new variety of food options.

Once we learned to safely bring fire indoors, our lives took an even greater shift. Now we could keep warm on cold nights, reheat our food at will, and discover exciting new methods of food preparation, which offered of a whole new world of flavor.

The first fires that humans used were outdoor hearths propped between natural stones. Many indigenous societies still use the three-stone model for their cook-fires. As hearths came indoors, the same concept was used, with stone fireplaces and clay kilns.

However, as technology has advanced, the design of furnaces has expanded greatly. We’re no longer restricted to stone and baked clay. We now have an almost endless supply of fireplace options, from stainless steel to ceramic tile. These new construction materials have opened design doors to attractive variations in fireplaces.

It may seem odd to use tile or steel in a fireplace. Tile seems like it would crack at high temperatures, while steel is an excellent heat conductor, which means it would burn users and lose heat faster than is prudent. Fortunately, modern furnaces have internal insulation, and this allows for more options for the outer surface of the body.

Modern furnaces are commonly made using a heat bank in the fire chamber. This heat bank ensures that your fuel burns efficiently, and at higher temperatures. These two improvements ensure that the heat remains on the inside of the chamber and doesn’t seep out to the body, so there’s less chance of a user burning themselves on the furnace shell.

Heat banks are made using insulation materials like concrete, clay, and vermiculite. They ensure that the fire chamber heats up while the outer surface of the furnace stays cool, and this allows for more adventurous finishes and decorative topping, giving your furnace far more versatility and style.

You might wonder how these furnaces heat your home. They are connected to a functional system of flues and piping that spread the heat throughout your living space. Also, these furnaces spread heat by convection rather than conduction. Convection is faster, safer, and greener than heating your house with open flames.

Speaking of safety, it has also added an unexpected element of beauty to modern furnaces. Many modern fireplaces include glass panels that divide the live flames from the users. These panels are beautiful to look at and add plenty of style to your furnace. At the same time, they prevent fire hazards by locking in sparks and ashes that might catch the fabric.

In the past, fireplaces were powered by logs. They were plentiful at the time but were not always convenient. Their bulk meant fireplaces had to be big enough to fit the fuel, and every home needed a sizeable chimney to direct the smoke. Even with the chimney, your whole room often took on a heavy smoky scent.

21st-century furnaces still have the option to use logs, but we know more about careful firewood selection, so we can focus on wood types that produce less smoke. Fireplaces are designed to burn this wood more efficiently, with lower smoke production and less carbon emission. These elements of efficiency often include stylish appearances.

In addition, furnaces can be powered by alternate fuel sources like wood pellets, biofuel, electricity, and gas. These alternate fuels affect the appearance of fireplaces, making them more versatile, portable, and desirable. Many modern furnaces look more like electronics than caveman fire pits.

Of course, some consumers still prefer the retro look, and it’s possible to get a furnace that looks rustic but runs on modern fuel sources. These fuels mean furnaces are now small enough to sit on table tops or be ensconced into wall pillars.

When wood fireplaces were first developed, the focus was on functionality. They needed to keep the house warm and offer a cooking surface without burning the house down. Now that we have largely figured out the more practical aspects, we can focus on coordinating colors, designing stylish patterns, and finding new ways to jazz up the fire.

Furnace design today is driven by the same principles as interior furnishings. Function comes first, but fashion is a closely monitored second. Fortunately, technology has allowed furnace designers to heat things up, both literally and aesthetically.


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