Feel the burn
Gathering around a warm fire has been a part of human civilization from the very beginning. Thus, it's little wonder that fireplaces have persisted as a popular home feature despite the development of more efficient and effective ways to heat a house.
Fireplaces are usually classified according to the fuel they use to generate fire and heat. However, regardless of the combustion method used, all fireplaces share several common elements.
Parts of a Fireplace
All fireplaces and wood stoves contain what is called a fire pit or firebox. This is the place where the fire actually burns. They also have flues that direct smoke and particles up and out of the room. Chimneys are the most common type of flue.
One popular fireplace accessory is a grate, which is used to prevent potentially flammable debris from spewing out of the fire pit and leaving a burn mark on your carpet or floor. Fireplace grates can be purely functional or ornamental. Many people also use fire-tending accessories like pokers, tongs and bellows for wood burning fireplaces, which require attention and care.
Today, three major types of fireplaces are seen in homes. Gas fireplaces use controlled amounts of flammable gas and an igniter to create fire. By introducing greater or lesser amounts of gas to the system, you can generate larger or smaller fires, as you prefer.
Electric fireplaces use a similar principle, but rely on electricity instead of flammable gas to generate flames. Generally speaking, both gas and electric fireplaces are primarily decorative rather than practical; they look very elegant in the right setting, but the flames are usually contained behind a glass facade to provide optimal control and therefore do not offer much heat.
While they cannot match the heat-generating power of furnaces, wood burning fireplaces do generate significant amounts of heat. They are popular in colder climates, as the crackling and burning logs create a cozy, warm feeling in the room. Wood burning fireplaces generate the greatest amount of heat of any fireplace style, but they also require the most work and are the least controllable. To operate one properly, it is vital that you develop the ability to both start and tend to a fire.
It's a good idea to have both soft and hard woods on hand. Soft woods are better for kindling and starting fires, and hard woods are better for maintaining them. Take some combustible material, like newspaper, and place it in the center of the fire pit. Arrange logs of soft wood in a pyramid shape around the combustible material, light the combustible material and fan the flames. Soon, the wood will catch fire and start to burn. Slowly, you can introduce hard wood to the fire and arrange the logs for optimal burning. When you want the fire to stop burning, simply stop adding wood and the fire will eventually snuff itself out.
You should also be careful to practice responsible fire safety. This includes keeping flammable materials well away from the fireplace and making sure the fireplace grate is securely fastened as the fire starts to burn.