Answering the question of when is a fireplace a stove? Can be a bit of a brain tease. They both have separate, and similar purposes. But can one, the fireplace, really be the other, the stove?
To best understand that conundrum we first need to define what we understand a fireplace and stove to be. What are their defining characteristics? What makes them similar? And what sets them apart?
What Is A Fireplace?
‘A fireplace or hearth’, according to Wikipedia, ‘is a structure made of brick, stone or metal designed to contain a fire’. ‘Fireplaces are used for the relaxing ambiance they create and for heating a room. ‘Modern fireplaces vary in heat efficiency, depending on the design’.
What Is A Stove?
According to the same source ‘a stove is a device in which fuel is burned to heat either the space in which the stove is situated, or items placed on the heated stove or inside it in an oven’. It is noted that ‘there are many types of stoves, such as the kitchen stove, which is used to cook food, and the wood-burning stove or a coal stove, which is typically used for heating a dwelling’.
In simple terms a fireplace is used for heating and a stove for heating and/or cooking food.
Stoves4life, a leading online retailer of a wide range of stoves says many people still associate stoves with time gone by whilst Fireplaces represent modern heating. Having said that, John Kaye, the marketing director says for most cases, fires and stoves are the same product.
A Stove Can Be A Fireplace
Already we can see that a stove can be used as a fireplace. As a method of heating as opposed to cooking. In fact, most wood-burning stoves are typically placed into the fireplace area and they are normally just used for heating. The existing build work, the open fireplace and chimney, provide a relatively easy space to install the burner and flue. Provided there is ample space for a suitably sized wood burner, and an equally suitable chimney, then installation would be fairly straightforward.
If a fireplace can ‘contain a fire’ and is used to ‘heat a room’ then a stove in that position, fulfilling that role, can be said to be a fireplace.
Can A Fireplace Be A Stove?
There is one key element that is stopping us from saying a fireplace can be a stove. The cooking of food.
It’s a strange one really as traditionally, and for thousands of years, the fireplace would have been the only source of heat for cooking food. It effectively functioned in the role of the stove. It was a source of heat and warmth. And it was used to cook food.
But times have changed. Cooking food over a fire has been reserved to camping trips or for wilderness aficionados. If you started cooking anything in the fire of a fireplace in a modern home you would be getting strange looks to say the least. What was normal and common since man probably existed has become a social no-no and would probably be considered unusual behaviour.
Other little factors preventing a fireplace from being considered a stove are things like the stove typically being an enclosed device which is opposed to the fireplaces ‘open’ nature and the fact that open fires are much less energy efficient. A lot of heat energy gets wasted easily and the fire or fuel doesn’t burn at its optimal rate.
Fireplace Or Stove?
When deciding between having a fireplace or stove some considerations must be taken. Is the purpose for getting one because of your heating or cooking requirements? Do you just want something to heat the room or would you like that heat spread around the house? Are you planning on using it for cooking or not?
Regardless of your questions, or your needs and requirements, you are going to find that there are some differences between a fireplace or stove, and a huge variety of them out there to choose from.
Both fireplaces, and stoves, come in many shapes and forms. Fireplaces can be made from wood, marble, metal and may use wood, gas, electric or coal as fuel. Stoves are usually made from steel or cast iron and may be fueled with wood, coal, oil, electric and gas.
They both have their pros and cons. Fireplaces are typically less heat efficient and are usually only great at heating one room.
Stoves have high efficiency ratings, can produce much more heat, and much fewer emissions than compared to traditional open fireplaces. They can also be placed in buildings which don’t have an existing fireplace.
Generally, they have a much higher initial cost in terms of purchase and installation but this is really off-set by its longevity, long-term savings, and heat efficiency.
Do You Want Your Stove To Be A Fireplace? Or Your Fireplace Turned Into A Stove?
Sometimes a choice between a fireplace and a stove could come down to simply whether you are a romantic or a pragmatist.
Does the allure of lying on a rug in front of an open fire, maybe drinking a glass of wine whilst reading a book or listening to music, appeal to you, or does it fill you with dread as you think about the heat lost, the energy wasted, and that little fine dusting of ash which quickly covers any exposed surface in the room?
Do you have a fireplace to begin with? If so, do you prefer it open or would you like an enclosed stove in its place? The list of considerations goes on.
“There is so much to think about when deciding to retain an open fireplace or put a wood burning stove in there,” said one stove retailer. “Our advice is to talk to someone with knowledge. “Someone who deals with these things on a daily basis. “They are usually the best source of advice.”
Whilst stoves are continually evolving with our technology and expertise and becoming more efficient and energy (and money) saving it seems that they will mostly replace the use of open fires. It must be said however that many beautiful fireplace designs exist and some people will always be enamoured by the enticing allure of an open fire.