A fireplace once consisted of a pit in the ground and it was not until Medieval European times that simple masonry fireplaces emerged. Masonry fireplaces and chimneys have long been included in the home-building process. Today, there are also factory-built fireplaces made from metal that feature air-cooled pipes and blowers that circulate heat.
A factory-built fireplace and its chimney are engineered to work together. Heat is generated in one of two ways. A radiant heating method radiates heat from the fire into the room. A circulating air approach consists of louvers and a blower that forces air along hot walls of the fireplace, gathering heat and forcing this into the room. Integrated insulation or cooling spaces enable the back wall of the fireplace to be positioned closer to combustible materials.
This type of fireplace is designed as a decorative heater. When installed and used properly, it will provide years of comfortable heat. Only reputable chimney professionals should recommend and install factory-built fireplaces. Annual service and regular maintenance are necessary to prevent potential issues. If the unit cannot be repaired, it should be replaced because safe use will not be possible.
Recommended service includes annual inspection and if applicable, cleaning. If a wood-burning or pellet fireplace is used regularly, more frequent cleaning may be necessary to prevent unsafe creosote buildup. A gas log set may be installed in a factory-built fireplace, provided that the fireplace contains a knock-out and is listed for use with solid fuel that does not exclude gas log sets.
A factory-built fireplace is a lightweight, modern alternative to a traditional masonry fireplace. It should always be operated with the damper fully open and should never be overloaded with wood. Annual inspection and sweeping, if applicable, are recommended by industry experts. This will reduce safety hazards and keep the fireplace in peak operating condition.