Open Fires – 5 Pros and 5 Cons

Get your open fire swept regularly
A traditional open fire

Coal fires have warmed homes for generations

Last time, I looked at the pros and cons of woodburners and multi-fuel stoves. So now it’s time to look at the case for and against open fires.

Before central heating, open fires were the only way to heat a home. So chances are that if you grew up anytime before the mid-1980s, you would have had one in your home.

These days, they have been overtaken by stoves in terms of popularity, but some people swear by an open fire.

Benefits of an open fire

No sweltering! Heat from open fires can warm a room to ambient temperature, so you’re never likely to get too hot. Whereas with a stove, it can get too hot and stuffy very quickly.

Draughts are good: They help keep condensation at bay! Open fires use large amounts of oxygen, and as such increases air flow around the house.And newly-installed open fires must have an airbrick installed in the same room to conform to Building Regulations.

Greater range of styles. Because open fires have been around for years, styles have evolved. You can pick up reclaimed Victorian, Georgian, Edwardian or Art Deco styles. Genuine period features for your home!

Choice of fuel. Unlike woodburners, you have a choice of using either wood or coal on an open fire. Just check whether you are in a Smoke Control Area, as that can limit your choices.

The X-Factor. Finally, there’s just something about open fires which make them feel very cosy. Whether it’s because the fire isn’t behind glass – and therefore you are closer to it – they evoke scenes of domestic bliss and relaxation.

The downsides of open fires

They can be messy. Ash and unburned fuel falling out of the grate and onto the hearth are a common sight. Make sure you also have a spark guard, as open fires have a tendency to ‘spit’ hot debris right onto your lovely carpet.

Open fires are inefficient. Around 70% of the heat generated by an open fire goes straight up the chimney. Whereas with a stove, it only loses around 20-30%, with the rest of the heat going into the room.

Heat loss. Unless you have a damper on the fire, you can lose heat from the room up the chimney even if you aren’t using the fire.

More planning is needed with an open fire. Ideally, you shouldn’t leave it unattended for extended periods of time. This means that ensuring that it’s suffiently ‘low’ enough when you go to bed. An average household fire burning a full grate of coal can last anywhere up to four hours, and once it’s in you can’t put it out. So plan ahead!

Tricky installations. Newly-installed open fires ideally need a liner which is 8 inches in diameter. This can be very tricky to install in homes built after 1900, which is when flues started to get narrower. Some stoves, on the other hand, only need a 5 inch liner, which is much easier. And without a brick built chimney at all, you can’t have an open fire.

Hope you find this informative. Remember, if you have a question, please do contact me – I’m always happy to help!

Mr Soot Chimney Sweep offers a professional and friendly chimney sweep service in Wigan, Stockport, Southport, Ormskirk, Chorley, Warrington, South Preston and surrounding areas. Book Mr Soot online or call 0800 0541154.

2 thoughts on “Open Fires – 5 Pros and 5 Cons

  1. I am buying a house in which the seller has lived for 40 years, doing open fires. I’ve asked for a sweeping certificate of two chimneys before completion, but the seller refuses to do this work and say it will be my responsibility as a buyer. I am concerned that the chimney has not been swept in years, so I will hire a professional for the task sines they will also be able to detect if the chimney is in proper conditions.

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