The living room has to be warm and cosy: Despite of central heating facilities, the longing for fireplaces remains. Photo © Tim Lüking
Pellet stoves for passive houses: the model “Lou“ with a sheet of screen printed glass. Photo © Edilkamin
Solitary with a wide view: With the heating insert ”Cubeo” by Rüegg, the fire can be watched from all sides.
Photo © Rüegg
Firewall: the heating insert „Logaflame HLS116“, designed by Stefan Diez.
Photo © 2013 by Stefan Diez Office and e15 / Ingmar Kurth
Compact fire cube: the pellet stove ”HSP 2.17 Premium” by Hass und Sohn with automatic room temperature control. Photo © Hass und Sohn
Wide-angle: the concection furnace ”Faro” offers you a generous view of the fire – thanks to his front of glass, which is curved to 180 degree. Photo © Cera Design
Joyful stoves and hybrid house mates
by Thomas Edelmann
Jan 29, 2015

Anyone planning for their new build or wanting to convert a home – by switching the heating over in part or as a whole to hard fossil fuels such as logs or wooden pellets soon finds themselves facing a huge range of different possible options. The ISH trade fair in Frankfurt from March 10-14, 2015, will provide all the details on the construction, technology and design of the latest stoves and fireplaces and how best to use them. As the world’s leading fair for bathroom design, building, energy and HVAC technology and renewable energy, it brings together the key providers in the field.

Anyone deciding to heat using wood should assess what will be useful and meaningful in their situation. What functions should the stove have in the home? Is the idea merely to warm the body and soul now and again and introduce atmosphere in the form of flames? Is the idea to use it as the constant main source of heat or only as a standby?

Cellar boilers

If one goes for central heating and firing it with renewable fuels, then the appliance tends to get located in a heating/technical room. Its external shape may not be completely irrelevant, but subordinate to standalone stoves that take a place in a living room. By contrast, the appliance in the cellar must have reliable, user-friendly controls and maintenance must be easy, and if possible the unit should not take up space.
While oil or gas heating systems the planning focuses on the heating needs for heating and warm water, the placement of the heating boiler, positioning of the pipes and the heat distribution, when planning and operating wood-fired heating systems sustainability is an additional practical aspect. Thus, it is only worthwhile considering a fireplace in a flat on an upper floor of a high-rise if transporting the fuel is going to be manageable. Not to forget that split logs should ideally be stored outdoors for a few years before they can burn merrily in a hearth and provide warmth. Should I simply cancel my fitness club contract and do my workout splitting wood with an ax? Or, as with an oil-fired heating system, should I rather have the storage tank filled with wood pellets regularly? Once such questions have been answered, then the overwhelming array of possible solutions seems less daunting.

Between nostalgia and smart technology

Things are again different when it comes to storage heaters and basic stoves, such as the famous old tiled stoves. Once condemned as a technological relic of a past age and often ripped out as a consequence, such stoves are re-entering interiors either as reconstructions of the original or as the original reassembled in a new place, providing heat for the home. Many specialist service providers rely on current formal idioms when designing and building such stoves. This goes as far as the outer cladding – where materials such as leather, concrete or stamped clay are even used. Traditionally, the flames in tiled stoves dance away behind closed doors. The stoves are so liked because of the pleasant radiant heat they provide and continue to radiate even hours after the fire has gone out, with fireclay bricks retaining the heat – which adds real weight and mass to the stoves. Another special type are stoves and fireplaces that rely on water technology, such as those made by Spartherm and Oranier, which provide a certain proportion of the warm water needed for the radiators in the other rooms. This segment is also rapidly being conquered by smart technologies. Some appliances, such as those by Rika, have digital controls, meaning you can decide how much heat gets injected into the heating cycle or the storage mass of the stove. Despite the easier digital controls, much of the effort that is required to lay the fire is initially unusual for us spoiled users of central heating systems.

The fire as an experience for the senses

Many makers are adapting basic stoves to modern interiors by creating hybrid models that as compact storage heaters combine the advantages of the latter with the typical properties of an open fireplace. These hybrids are lighter and once the fire has gone out radiate little heat. But the fire is always visible behind the glass.
All of you for whom fire qua visual experience is especially important will no doubt be enthralled by the likewise truly endless range of panorama and architectural stoves, such as are marketed by Rüegg for example. These stoves bring much joy to a room and can best be planned from the outset as an integral part of the new home – whereby there are stunning solutions for retrofitting, too. Manufacturers such as EdilKamin have even fine-tuned their appliances to the needs of insulated energy-neutral interiors: They are exclusively ventilated from outside and do not draw in air from the living space. Today, open fires are always safely tucked behind a glass pane – that is as large as possible. It perfectly radiates heat into a room, considerably boosting the stove’s efficiency. Moreover, the glass protects the interior against dirt, the smell of burning and sparks.

Hunting for the new

Two years ago, at the ISH the manufacturer Buderus presented retrofit elements with a glass door for existing heating systems – designed by none other than Stefan Diez. At this year’s fair, Buderus and Diez are going to be showcasing new standalone stoves. Not only the outer shape, but also color issues and user interface details played a special role for Diez. How to change the conventions? And how can the design of the stoves be calibrated better to meet contemporary living interiors? Because although the industry makes countless shapes and detailed solutions available, from purist units to playful decorative surrounds, precisely among the high-end stoves certain basic types and material and color mixes predominate: for example round units with cast-iron components in anthracite. Products differ from one maker to the next in terms of the modules for the individual components, and how the brand is incorporated or presented. And specifically those details can best be compared and evaluated at a fair that brings together the main manufacturers in the segment, and this the ISH in Frankfurt most definitely does.