How glass-ceramic helped realize Ben Franklin’s wood stove ideal

Benjamin Franklin famously invented bifocals and discovered electricity, but less known is his hand in the creation of the modern wood stove. In a time before gas and electric heat, Franklin sought a better stove, one that allowed homeowners to see and feel heat without inhaling harmful smoke. His desire drove him to develop the Franklin stove, a metal-lined fireplace featuring an open front that heated rooms more efficiently and reduced smoke exhaust. Franklin’s principles remain a benchmark for wood stoves today.

The advent of glass-ceramic and closed stove systems have realized Franklin’s ideals in a way he never could have imagined. Fireplaces and stoves sealed using heat-resistant glass-ceramic offer an unobstructed view of the fire, more evenly radiate heat throughout a room, and stop all smoke and particulates from entering the house while trimming emissions, making them better for the environment too. Here’s how glass-ceramic has helped to revolutionize stoves and fireplaces.

Improved air quality

Older methods of heating, such as open fireplaces and inefficient wood stoves, are notorious for their emissions, both indoors and out, and Franklin was well aware of the problem, adding a complex siphon system to his stove that drew smoke up the chimney and out of the house.

Glass-ceramic has taken the drive for healthier indoor spaces to a new level. Sealed with heat-resistant glass-ceramic, modern wood stoves and fireplaces make it impossible for smoke or particles to enter the home. These fireplaces funnel smoke and other particles up the chimney, leaving homeowners the comfort of an indoor fireplace without subjecting their families to smoke and particles.

And because modern stoves burn hotter and cleaner, few emissions reach the atmosphere. Modern wood stoves are often 50 percent more efficient than traditional stoves, and they can reduce particle emissions by 70 percent, impacting indoor and outdoor air quality.

Visibility

Both Ben Franklin and modern fireplace designers would agree: Few sights are more mystifying than a fire. In contrast to wood stoves that seal off the fire behind cast iron or steel doors, the original Franklin stove featured an open-front design to offer a prime view of the flames. Modern fireplaces sealed with glass-ceramic inherited this attribute and offer unobstructed visibility through transparent glass fronts — sometimes from multiple angles. Manufacturers can produce glass in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and designsincluding 270-degree curved glass — that allow homeowners to enjoy the fire from anywhere in the room.

Stronger safety

While the Franklin stove boasted an aesthetically appealing open-front design, the open flames posed potential fire threats for homeowners. Modern fireplaces enclosed with glass-ceramic solve this problem. Heat-resistant ROBAX glass-ceramic panes, for example, can withstand heat spikes and temperatures up to 1400 degrees Fahrenheit, containing flames and preventing sparks and ashes from spilling out and igniting while allowing the aesthetic view of the fire that Franklin envisioned.

More efficient heating

Franklin’s stove contained a system of baffles and inverted siphons to repurpose escaping fumes as an efficient source of heat. Energy efficiency has new meaning in modern stoves and fireplaces. Closed fireplaces sealed with glass-ceramic burn fuel more efficiently and radiate heat more evenly than traditional fireplaces. Glass-ceramic allows fires to burn hotter, and radiate heat more evenly throughout the room.

The higher temperatures also save fuel. By burning hotter, glass-ceramic-enclosed fireplaces fully consume the wood, and produce a slower burn. Fireplaces sealed with ROBAX glass-ceramic can burn up to 43 percent less wood and can produce up to 26 percent more heat per kilogram of fuel than a standard open, wood-burning fireplace under the same conditions.

The ideas behind the glass-ceramic-enclosed fireplace are centuries old, but modern technology has transformed ideas into outcomes. New wood stoves and fireplaces sealed with glass-ceramic provide aesthetic appeal, better air quality, improved safety, and greater heating efficiency, making them the optimal choice over traditional open, wood-burning fireplaces. If Ben Franklin were alive today, he’d be sure to upgrade.

A version of this post originally appeared on The Alliance for Green Heat’s blog: Heated Up!

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Hi there! I’m Karen Elder, Marketing Manager at SCHOTT North America. I’m responsible for developing and executing marketing and PR strategies for the Home Tech department. I also play a role in product development where I have the opportunity to work with our customers to implement innovation and design. Improving kitchen design is particularly exciting, partially because I love entertaining family and friends and the kitchen is the hub of every dinner party! Before coming to SCHOTT North America, I held communications roles at Coolbaker’s International and I also managed customer relations at CT Innovations. I’m an active member of the Emerald Circle, which supports the efforts of the green building and sustainable living industries. And I earned my bachelor’s degree from the University of Evansville. On the weekends you’ll find me outdoors, traveling, and attending music festivals and concerts.

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