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Buying a gas fire

20/06/2017 11:09

Picking out the best gas fire to suit your needs can seem like a daunting task; however, you can rest assured that there are models available for all tastes and budgets, even if you live in a modern home without a flue or chimney.

Whether you are looking for a highly-efficient gas fire or a contemporary wall-hung style, the following information should certainly aid you in your quest for an ideal fire that ticks all the boxes.

Inset fires

These ‘living flame’ fires simulate a proper coal fire, without the mess! A popular choice, these fires create a warm and cosy glow in any room. Although they are not the most efficient fires on the market, they are a great choice if you are looking for a model that combines aesthetics with warmth.

Glass-fronted fires

In recent years, the demand for fires of this type has gone through the roof. A glass-fronted fire is a highly-efficient option, requiring less gas & ultimately lower running costs than other varieties while producing a decent amount of heat. The science behind this is the fact that the glass frontage prevents fumes entering the room, meaning that the flue is more diminutive than on an open-fronted model. A glass-fronted fire offers an impressive net efficiency of up to 90 per cent.

Hole-in-the-wall fires

A hole-in-the-wall fire is a great way of fitting an attractive focal point fire in a room without the necessity of having a hearth to accommodate it. Great for smaller spaces, these fires are space-saving and are available in a plethora of different styles and sizes to suit all decors. Due to the required fitting depth and the emission level of these fires, they are most suited to properties with a real chimney already in situ.

Flueless gas fires

Flueless gas fires have been popular outside the UK for quite some time and their popularity here continues to grow exponentially. This design can be easily fitted in properties without a chimney, offering the potential to enjoy the delights of a true gas flame in any room of the home. They can even be fitted on an external wall if required. While you may wonder about the safety of this gas fire design, rest assured that fires of this type are fitted with a variety of state-of-the-art safety devices, thus ensuring that the fire will immediately cut out in the unlikely event that fumes enter the room for any reason

Posted By Paul Smith

On a chilly winter’s night, there is almost nothing as comforting as gathering round an open fire or stove with friends or family.

Our fondness for the focal point an open fire or stove offers is reflected in the fact that most new-builds come with one or more fireplaces.

Fireplaces have numerous benefits. They offer an obvious gathering point for the family to settle down for the evening, they provide both light and heat, and they look stunning.

Selecting the right design for your style and lifestyle will ensure that your fireplace makes a strong design statement. There is a bewildering array of different designs on the market; however, whatever your aesthetic tastes, you are sure to find a fireplace that will tick every box in your overall design scheme.

There are a number of factors to consider before you start to shop around for your dream fireplace. Will the fire be the room’s main heat source or more for decorative purposes? Do you want a low maintenance option or are you happy to deal with the cleaning and prepping that an open fire or stove requires? Answering these questions should help you to decide whether you want to opt for a gas/electric appliance or an open fire/stove.

Gas fires are a popular option, not least because they are affordable and are easier to install, as they do not require a chimney. They are also very low maintenance, offering a wonderfully radiant heat and a realistic flame without the upkeep that an open fire burning wood or coal inevitably requires; in addition, gas fires are available in a huge variety of styles and shapes.

If you opt for an electric fire, you can put it anywhere you choose within your home, with the caveat that it is near enough to a power source. Fires of this type tend to be on the small side, meaning that they are an ideal choice when space is at a premium

If you have your heart set on an open fire or stove, you will need to consider the construction of your existing fireplace. Brick fireplaces are ideal, as smoke does not discolour them. Stone is extremely hard wearing, as are slate and marble. Many original Victorian fireplaces are finished with colourful ceramic tiles, which provide a beautiful frame to a glowing, flickering fire.

Posted By Paul Smith

The air feels distinctly crisper and the nights are drawing in. While we may bemoan the passing of the long summer evenings, the good news is that it is almost time to up the cosiness factor in our homes by building a roaring fire. While it is understandable that fireplace maintenance may not have been top of your list of priorities over the summer, now is the optimal time to come clean and get set for the colder months. Keeping your fireplace clean and well maintained will keep your hearth a happy and safe place for your family and friends to gather round on a chilly night.

Maintenance

You should get your chimney swept once every two years, or every year if you light fires frequently. A registered sweep will be able to examine the flue for soundness, give the chimney itself a good clean and generally give your fireplace a thorough pre-winter health check.

Cleaner air

If you are looking to cut down on the level of air pollution, consider using composition logs. These produce around 50% less smoke than regular logs; however, if you are a fire purist who can’t countenance the idea of a fire without the delicious scent of burning wood, ensure you have set the fire up to burn as efficiently as possible. There is a universal truth: not all wood is created equal. It is definitely worth paying that little extra for seasoned wood.

Wood storage

If you have to store your wood outside, it is really important to protect it from the elements. Try to ensure that it is on raised storage, ideally at least half a metre off the ground. The top should be covered to stop the wood being spoiled by dew and rain, although it is best to leave the sides open for ventilation.

Dryness test

The best way to check that any wood you are considering buying is nice and dry is to invest in a moisture meter. These cost less than a few pounds but can indicate the amount of moisture in your logs. An ideal range is below 20% moisture content, the lower the better. Many logs that are bought at Petrol Stations or DIY outlets contain way over 30% + moisture. This results in lower heat output & large build ups of tar deposits & sulphuric acid due to condensation, within the flue system. It is false economy to buy ‘cheap’ wood

Burn clean

To keep your fires clean, you need to burn clean. Avoid any plastics, treated or painted wood, wood with high moisture content or rubber - these can all cause nasty fumes that your lungs won’t

thank you for. Burning only good quality, seasoned, wood and coal - smoke-free if you live in a restricted area - is the best way to create a delightfully toasty and welcoming atmosphere without any harmful emissions or excess smoke.

Posted By Paul Smith

Whether you have recently invested in a new open fire or perhaps a log or multi-fuel stove, one of the first things you will be dying to do is get a successful fire going.

To the uninitiated, building that first fire can seem like quite a challenge; however, by following a few well-tested tips, you will soon be enjoying the comfort and cosy atmosphere that only a real fire creates.

The first thing to do is gather together all the supplies required to get your fire started. Grab an old newspaper, some firelighters (although true pros tend to look down their noses at these!), kindling and your choice of fuel - wood or coal, or you can use both - and a box of matches.

Like any task done with care, the key to building a successful fire is in the detail. Take five to ten sheets of the newspaper - if your fireplace or stove is on the large side, you may need more - and roll each sheet into a thin strip, which you should then tie in a nice tight knot. This is a very efficient way to create lots of lovely heat right in the centre of the fire. Cluster all your knotted newspaper together and add a few firelighters at intervals. Kindling goes on next, although less is more in this instance - you just need sufficient to help your main fuel to catch well.

If you want to set your fire up to burn well over several hours, adding a few lumps of coal at this stage is advisable; however, ensure that you leave enough space for the air to circulate, as this gets the oxygen where it needs to be to create a truly roaring fire.

Light the newspaper in multiple places, and also the firelighters if you are using them. This should be enough to get the fire going well, although many aficionados also opt to blow heartily on the emerging flames at this point. If you do this, be careful - don’t get close enough to singe your hair or eyebrows!

Having laid good foundations, your fire should catch easily but, of course, this is not the end of the story. You will need to build up the fire with a couple of strategically placed logs, once again paying close attention to the need for efficient air flow. You can also top up with coal if you so desire.

Once the fire is burning merrily, make sure that you keep an eye on it, adding further logs and/or coal as and when required.

Posted By Paul Smith

Range cooking

25/04/2017 10:55

A range cooker is one of the first things that springs to mind when many of us picture our ideal kitchen. If you are hoping to create a real ‘heart of the home’ kitchen in your property, read on for some key points to bear in mind when shopping for the range of your dreams.

Although we may equate a range cooker with a traditional country kitchen set-up, they now incorporate all manner of cutting edge technology, making them suitable for even the most fervent foodie.

Available space should be your first consideration. Range cookers are larger than a standard stove; however, this space can be well worth setting aside when you consider that you could get up to eight burners - a real plus point if hob cooking is your thing.

An expansive cooking space is a real treat - but only if you are going to get the most out of it. A range cooker is a real investment. Bearing this in mind, consider (realistically!) how much you will use your range. If you have a large family or entertain on a regular basis, a range will kill two birds with one stone by offering all the space you could ask for in terms of catering for the hordes and creating a wonderful centrepiece in your kitchen.

Style is a very important factor when shopping around for a range cooker and is a very large part of their appeal. Whether you are looking to create the cosy ambiance that a traditional Aga brings or are looking for something more contemporary and cutting edge, you will be spoilt for choice. Remember that you should be able to take your range with you if you decide to move, so bear this fact in mind when you are shopping around.

Many electric ranges incorporate a fan designed to distribute the heat equally. In a gas model, the top shelf will generally be the hottest and the temperate will decrease as you go down. This sort of ‘zoned’ heat is well suited to cooking whole meals, where each individual dish needs to be cooked at a different temperature.

If you choose a gas range, you will need to find a registered gas safe engineer to install it. Duel fuel ranges - a gas hob combined with an electric oven - are also very popular, or you could consider one of the newer models that come complete with an induction hob.

Posted By Paul Smith

Current fireplace trends

18/04/2017 12:53

Many people opt to heat their main living space with an open fire. While radiators may be functional and underfloor heating convenient, they can’t really be described as ‘welcoming’.

There is something so attractive about the idea of huddling around an open fire or stove that beats even the highest tech heating solutions hands down. As winter approaches, now might be a good time to open up an existing fireplace in your home or even think about installing one from scratch.

While many owners of period properties have already reinstated their fireplaces, there is a real trend among those in smarter postcodes to remove the chimney breasts from either end of a knocked-through reception space and put in one large fireplace in the middle, thereby creating a real wow factor.

That being said, shape or size is largely irrelevant when it comes to fireplaces - what is priceless is the atmosphere that a crackling open fire or stove creates. The fashion for minimalist ‘hole in the wall’ fires with artificial logs or pebbles has died a death; today, most homeowners are looking for authenticity, which means a fire that makes an architectural statement. The best way to judge whether your fireplace or stove has hit the right note is by asking yourself whether it is an attractive feature in a room even when it is not lit.
 
Current trends lean towards clean lines with strong accents. To achieve this, you will need to think outside the box. If you live in a Victorian terrace, there is no longer an unwritten rule that says your fire surround must match this historical period; instead, why not mix things up a little by putting in a Georgian or Regency piece that will really make a statement?

As far as in-vogue materials are concerned, many home stylists are advocating limestone or marble, both of which are a lot more affordable than they were even five years ago. Wood, particularly pine finishes, look dated compared with the super-sleek effect of ; in addition, wood does not wear as well.

Some us may have the urge to source an antique fireplace surround by trailing through reclamation yards. While it is true that you may find a bargain in this way, in most cases you won’t be privy to the full provenance and this may not be the best way to proceed in terms of safety. Buying new from a reputable dealer is the best option in most cases.

Posted By Paul Smith

Electric Fantastic

07/04/2017 11:55

While it is true that electric fires were once inefficient to run, expensive and frankly rather unattractive, things have now changed - and quite dramatically at that.

Evolution

Electric fires have evolved so much over the last few years as to be practically unrecognisable, and this is true in terms of design, in terms of cost and in terms of efficiency. If you are thinking of going electric, there are a number of factors you will need to consider before making your purchase:

Ease of use

Many homeowners agree that a working fireplace adds an air of welcoming warmth to a room that simply cannot be replicated. Today, this fire does not have to be of the open, stove or gas variety to create the desired ambience; instead, a well-chosen electric fire ticks all the same aesthetic boxes. As a bonus, it is likely to come in well under budget.

Design variety

There is a plethora of electric fires available. Whether you want a freestanding style or a package that includes a mantel, you will have plenty of models from which to choose. Many design aficionados opt for a wall-mounted design, which is a flexible style that can be moved from location to location with ease and won’t impinge on your floor space. They attach to the wall with a bracket similar to that used to mount a television - a job most people with a modicum of DIY ability should be able to carry out with ease.

Focal point

Most people opt to place their fire in a location in the room in which it will create a focal point. This is particularly true if the fire is intended for the main living space in a home. You will also need to think about how powerful you need your new fire to be. This will depend on whether it will be the sole heat source and whether you intend to use it all the time, on an occasional basis, or for a more decorative purpose.

Installation

When it comes to installation, you should find that your new fire is supplied with a comprehensive set of installation instructions and all the fittings and fixtures you will need. Fitting an electric fire is generally very straightforward and is often simply a case of plugging the unit into a power supply and switching it on, although you may decide to extend and/or cover the power lead, depending on where it is sited.

Posted By Paul Smith

As the range of gas heating appliances continues to expand and evolve, it seems reasonable to conclude that there is a perfect gas heating solution out there for every home.

Whether you are shopping around for a traditionally-styled inset fire with a log or coal effect or a far more contemporary ‘hole in the wall’ style, you will find yourself spoiled for a choice in today’s marketplace.

Highly-decorative inset frames and fronts are offered in a plethora of styles, while the sleek ‘cassette’ fires look equally stylish when left unframed. Those hoping to replicate the flickering effect of a real open fire will be delighted to discover just how realistic a gas fire can be, with a choice of natural log, driftwood, stones and coals available as a base. Those looking to make a real design statement can now also opt to use stunning high-colour beads for a truly striking effect.

Before you begin to select styles and accessories, it is vital to verify that a gas appliance is the best choice for your home. If this is to be your first gas appliance, it would be in your best interests to ask your retailer to recommend a registered installer who can conduct a survey of your property pre-purchase to ensure that it meets the criteria for your chosen stove or fire.

A key factor to bear in mind is how much it will cost you to use gas and whether it is a practical choice in your individual circumstances. Lots of properties are already connected to natural gas; however, even if your home is not, you may still be able to install an appliance that runs on bottled gas.

Once your property has been surveyed, it is time to start shopping around for an appliance that will both meet your heating needs and suit your design scheme. While those living in period properties may lean towards a fire in the same style, such as Victorian or Edwardian, others may choose to make a feature from a bold contemporary installation. Those in more recently built properties may opt for a sleek contemporary style; alternatively, more traditional styles can look great in a modern setting.

Today’s gas fires and gas stoves come with a wealth of features that make them very user-friendly. Many have remote controls, meaning you can turn the fire on and off and control the heat and flame size from the comfort of your sofa!

Posted By Paul Smith

Gas Safe and you

16/03/2017 15:16

New research published by the Gas Safe Register shines a spotlight on the worrying fact that an increasing number of UK householders are failing to adequately check that the tradesmen that they employ, are qualified to do the required job safely and within the law.
 
Many respondents admitted that they were highly influenced by polite, well-dressed and confident tradesmen with good eye contact. One-quarter also acknowledged that they decided whether the person was trustworthy in less than five minutes. This fact is made even starker when you consider that one-fifth of those surveyed admitted that they had been let down by a tradesperson.

The concerning statistics are of great concern to officials in the gas safety industry, as they indicate that millions of householders are employing unqualified and often dishonest tradespeople in their homes - an action that could, in the worst-case scenario, put their lives and the lives of their wider families at risk.

While seven out of ten people stated that they would request ID before allowing a tradesman to begin work, it seems that only around one-third of those having gas work completed check the qualifications of their engineer.

When you are looking for someone to do work of this nature in your home, it is strongly recommended that that you ask for and thoroughly check both the ID and qualifications of the tradesperson you are considering hiring. It is essential to put aside any embarrassment you may feel in doing so; after all, the wellbeing of your family is well worth any potentially awkward moments.

Amongst those surveyed, gas engineers came top of the list of most trusted tradesmen, with electricity/gas meter readers, electrician and carpet fitters following hot on their heels. Those perceived to be least trustworthy include plumbers and builders.

Over the last three years, over 20 people have lost their lives and almost 1,000 have been injured in gas-related incidents, including gas leaks, CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning, and fires; in addition, an evaluation by the Gas Safe Register concluded that around 250,000 jobs are carried out by unqualified, untrustworthy fitters every year.

In light of these worrying statistics, the Gas Safe Register has recently rolled out a new campaign entitled Trust the Triangle, which aims to raise awareness amongst the public that all qualified and trustworthy engineers carry the triangle-logoed Gas Safe identification card.

Anyone unable to produce this card should not be employed to carry out gas work under any circumstances.

Posted By Paul Smith

Everyone loves a woodburning stove. They are homely, welcoming, and certainly pack a punch when it comes to warming your home. Whether you have been using stoves for years and are looking for a replacement or have never used one and are simply thinking of purchasing one in the future, we aim to help you understand how to care for and get the best out of a standard woodburner.

Use the right wood

Any wood you use in your stove should be properly dried. Green wood can consist of as much as 50 per cent water, so don't make the mistake of thinking any wood will do. You can dry out green wood yourself if you have the space and time, which is generally the most economical option. If you don't fancy the DIY method, your best bet is to find a supplier you trust and buy your dried logs from them. Accreditation schemes such as Woodsure can help you to find a good, reliable local supplier; alternatively, ask around to get recommendations from your neighbours.

Understand the importance of the air supply

Woodburning stoves require both primary air and secondary air. Primary air is needed to feed the fire bed, while secondary air is required to feed the fire's flames. Most of the energy supplied by the wood in your stove comes from the gases released from the wood being burnt. Simply put, the secondary air can be considered far more important in the operation of your stove than the primary air. You should never completely shut your stove's secondary vent, as doing so can quickly lead to a build-up of tar, soot and other dirt and debris on your stove front. Study your stove's user guide in detail before you light it for the first time and familiarise yourself with the doors and vents. Keep the door of the stove closed unless otherwise instructed in your manual.

Size matters

Size matters, but perhaps not in the way you think. Don't be tempted to go for the largest stove you can fit in your fireplace simply because you think it will provide more heat. A small, fast-burning fire can be far more effective and efficient than a larger fire with a slower burn. You will be amazed how much heat you will get from even the most compact woodburning stove, so you might well need a smaller model than you initially expect. If you know someone with a woodburner, pop round while it is in use and see how hot it gets.

Posted By Paul Smith
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