Ask the Expert: The Heat Is On

October has arrived in the Hamptons, and the cooler weather along with it. That means it’s time to fire up the fireplace—but it also means you have questions about getting your fireplace serviced, fireplace safety and more. We turned our friends at Ashwood Hearth & Home Energy Center for some answers. 

The Question: How often should a fireplace be serviced? Who should do it?

The Experts from Ashwood Hearth & Home Energy Say:

Your fireplace should be serviced at least once each year and by an Authorized dealer.

The Question: Do I need a chimney to vent a fireplace?

Woodstoves and wood fireplaces require a chimney, either a masonry or class A stainless. The diameter of the chimney must match the size of the fireplace flue collar to effectively vent the products of combustion. Consequently, an existing chimney may need to be lined with a stainless steel liner to meet venting requirements of a specific fireplaceGas fireplaces that fall under the category of B vent or natural draft fireplaces, also require either a chimney that is lined with a flexible aluminum or stainless steel liner, or they ca be vented using B vent if no chimney exists. Direct vent or vent free fireplaces do not require traditional a chimney.

The Question: Are gas fireplaces safe?

A gas fireplace must have the ability to shut off the flow of gas if there is no flame to burn it off. This is where the self-generating milli-volt system comes in. The milli-volts energize a magnetic coil within the gas valve that holds the valve open. Should the pilot flame extinguish, the milli-volts will stop generating, releasing the coil and closing the gas valve. Make sure your fireplace is tested prior to shipping to ensure a 100% effective system.

The Question: What are BTU’s?

BTU’s (British Thermal Units) are a standard of measurement that represents the heat value of any type of energy used to create heat. The amount of fuel that a fireplace will consume per hour is calculated with the value of the fuel it uses to determine the input of that fireplace BTU values of any type of energy are determined by the actual amount of heat required to increase the temperature of one pound of water, by one degree Fahrenheit.

The Question: What is “maximum steady state efficiency?”

This figure represents, in percentage, the absolute best amount of useable heat the fireplace can produce. Maximum steady state efficiency is determined by specific test conditions that include burning the fireplace until the fireplace and flue gas (exhaust) temperatures reach equilibrium, which means that there is no further change in temperatures. Temperatures, taken from a specific location, reflect the amount of heat being exhausted, which is the subtracted from the predetermined input of the burner. The remaining amount of heat represents the highest amount of heat that the fireplace can transfer into the surrounding area. Example, A natural gas stove with an input of 44,000 BTU’s and a maximum efficiency of 84%, (44,000 X 84%= 36,960), produces 36,960 BTU’s of heat.

Have your own questions about a fireplace or home-heating? You can contact Ashwood Hearth & Home Energy Center at (631) 569-4515 or [email protected] You may even see your question answered right here at Ask the Expert.

More from Our Sister Sites