Ask the Expert: Hearth and Home

There’s nothing quite like the warmth and glow of a fireplace. But how to choose the right one for your home? With the colder weather soon to be a daily reality in the Hamptons and all over Long Island, we put some burning fireplace questions to our friends at Ashwood Hearth and Home Energy Center.

The Question: Will the blower increase the heat output of our fireplaces?

The Answer from Ashwood Hearth and Home Energy Center: Yes, aside from the fact that fireplaces radiate heat from their fronts, there is still heat withdrawn from the parts of the fireplace body that are closed in behind the wall. While there is an air channel that allows air flow around the firebox, allowing it to absorb the heat via conduction, this channel is somewhat restrictive by its size. Using a blower increases the airflow through this channel, thereby maximizing the heat being conducted from the back and the sides of the fireplace. [expand]

The Question: What does zero clearance mean?

Zero clearance is a term used to describe a certain fireplace’s ability to be enclosed completely by combustible building material that can be positioned right up against the body of the fireplace. That is the back, top, bottom and sides. The front area is designed to radiate heat and therefore must be given adequate clearance to combustibles. In this case, objects such as furniture should be kept a minimum of 48″ away.

The Question: What is a direct vent fireplace?

Direct vent is a term used to describe a specifically designed fireplace that performs differently from the traditionally vented fireplace that uses a chimney. This type of fireplace has a completely sealed combustion chamber that allows it to vent directly out a side wall of the home. One of the benefits of this type of design is that it must draw air necessary for combustion from the outside since the sealed combustion chamber does not allow air to be drawn in from around the fireplace. The co-axial vent system has the exhaust pipe within the air intake pipe that protects any surrounding combustible material from the high temperature of the flue gases as well as preheating the outside air prior to it being introduced to the combustion process.

The Question: What is a B vent or Natural draft gas fireplace?
These types of fireplaces do not have a sealed combustion chamber and rely on the buoyancy of hot gases to vent effectively. They must be installed either with an existing chimney that meets the local building code standards or they can be installed using a B vent, which is a vent pipe that must be installed to the same parameters of a masonry chimney but can be enclosed in combustible material. They draw air (oxygen) necessary for combustion from the area surrounding the fireplace. The combustion by-products or flue gases are hot and naturally rise up through the chimney that provides a route for the hot gases to escape from the house. As the fireplace continues to vent these flue gases up the chimney, the walls of the chimney heat up, which allows the flue gases to retain more of their temperature and buoyancy thereby increasing the speed with which they exit the chimney

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.

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