Why do you get warm standing in front of a fireplace?
On a cold day, you might want to light a fire in your home fireplace to keep yourself warm until the weather changes.
Especially during the winter months, cold temperatures outside will result in colder temperatures inside. During those moments, a fireplace might be the easiest way to warm your home.
Fireplaces truly are a useful means of keeping warm, but logically, some questions may occur to you. Sure the fireplace keeps you warm, but what happens in the fireplace that has this effect on you?
To truly know why this happens, you need to understand how heat moves.
How Does Fire Warm You?
The three main types of heat movement that you need to be aware of are:
Conduction is when a hot, solid object comes into contact with a cooler one.
The heat transfers from the hot object to the cooler object until both are at an equal temperature. Then the heat dissipates into the surrounding, cooler air.
For example, if you are making hot tea or soup, the heat transfers from the hot liquid to the metal spoon.
Or if you are drinking hot cocoa in the winter, conduction happens when your hands begin to warm up as a result of you holding the container with the hot liquid.
Convection is when something hot that can move, like a hot liquid or hot air, circulates into a cooler area and makes that area warmer.
For example, if you are cold, you might consider turning up the air conditioning, making hot air circulate in your house, and warming you up as a result.
Radiation involves electromagnetic waves that are warm.
This is when there are heat energy emissions from things like the sun, a fire, or even a heat lamp.
Radiant heat is a form of infrared radiation. This is different from visible light. It is invisible to the eye, so we can’t see it, we just feel it as heat.
The rays that these heat radiation sources give off bump into cooler atoms and molecules and speed up their vibrations. This is most likely the type of heat movement that is chiefly at play when you’re standing in front of the fireplace.
So how does fire warm you?
When you are near a fire, you feel hot because the surrounding temperature becomes greater than your body.
It occurs through heat exchange, and your body gets heat from the fire. All of these will happen because of the radiation process. In return, your body absorbs heat, and you feel hot.
Types Of Fireplaces
While radiation is the main form of heat transfer that is at play when you stand in front of the fireplace, the type of fireplace you own may involve other forms of heat transfer that were talked about above.
1. Wood Burning Fireplace
For the most part, wood-burning fireplaces use radiation to make you warm.
Heat radiates from the burning wood, just as was explained in the previous section.
However, the difference between wood-burning fireplaces, as opposed to other common types, is that convection also takes a small part, especially in some wood-burning stoves that have chambers built into them for that express purpose.
Woodburning stoves, on the other hand, often have fans built into them to push the heated air through the house.
2. Gas Fireplaces
Gas fireplaces radiate heat due to the burning flame.
However, there is also some convection-style heat involved with them. Many of them have channels to control the movement of the warmer air before it escapes up through the chimney and helps redirect that air into the home.
Gas fireplaces often boast cleaner heat transfer than many other types of fireplaces that you might encounter. The issue is that you will have to purchase gas to keep this fireplace making you warm, which is something to take into consideration.
3. Electric Fireplaces
Unlike other common fireplaces, electric fireplaces make you warm by using chiefly convection-style heating.
These fireplaces draw cool air from the room into the unit. The cool air is then internally heated with the heating coil inside your fireplace.
The air that has been warmed is then gently pushed out of the fireplace and circulated gradually into the room.
A downside to this fireplace is that if you don’t have any electricity, you won’t be able to get good use out of this type of fireplace. If you have power outages often, you might consider one of the other types.
Is A Fire Conduction, Convection, Or Radiation?
In summary, while radiation is the main form of heat transfer that is at play when you stand in front of the fireplace, the type of fireplace you own may involve other forms of heat transfer.
The heat around you is transferred to your body, making you feel nice and warm beside the fire, in whatever type of fireplace you have.