Fireplaces – a brief history
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Dating back from the prehistoric, fireplaces evolved from being simple pits in the ground to architectural pieces of art that would enrich the aspect of a room. Created for cooking food and heating, fireplaces were also gathering places.
Primitive fireplaces were built in the ground, in caves, huts or dwellings. The snag for these ancient fireplaces was that there was no ventilation method so the toxic smoke would remain inside the shelter. With the passing of the years, the holes in the ground turned into raised hearths inside the household and ventilation was made by opening a door or making a hole into the roof.
During the Middle Ages, louvers were developed to protect the room from cold, rain and snow. Also in that period, smoke canopies were created to prevent smoke from entering the room and it helped venting it through the roof or the window.
Invented around the 12th century, chimneys greatly improved the venting system as fumes were streamed outside the building and thus fireplaces could be placed in any room without hindering the air. In the 17th century fire grates were redressed and improved the airflow as firewood was raised making the air better circulate underneath and fuel the fire.
In the 18th century the fireplace has been redesigned and the Franklin Stove was created. Made out of cast iron, Benjamin Franklin’s fireplace was free standing and was designed to provide more heat than the ordinary fireplace while using less wood logs as the stove continued to radiate warmth after the fire was out. Also in the 18th century physicist and inventor Count Rumford designed a fireplace with a tall and shallow firebox which improved the ventilation by raising the smoke up and out of the building thus his invention is the foundation for modern fireplaces.
Modern days turned the fireplace into an object of décor rather than a cooking and heating device and our days, people are more conscious about the environment. Many homeowners are taking into consideration pollution when purchasing a fireplace and acquire wood or pallet burning stoves which save heating cost on the long term while minimizing toxic emission into the air.