Still debating whether or not you should install a fireplace blower? Keep reading.
A gas fireplace can make a beautiful addition to your home, whether you enjoy the romantic dance of flames at night or the warm feel of a fire on a cold night, there are literally hundreds of models and variations to choose from. While everyone's reason for choosing a gas fireplace is different, many of us purchase fireplaces for their ability to be used as a heating appliance. While it's true that some gas fireplaces are more efficient than others, most gas fireplaces are wasteful heating appliances.
Gas fireplaces are designed to vent the heat and gas created in the firebox out of your home. While a moderate amount of this heat is radiated into your home, much of this heat is lost. This is where installing a fireplace blower becomes essential. Installing a fireplace blower allows you to recover otherwise lost heat by helping to distribute the heated air your fireplace produces.
Will my fireplace accept a blower kit?
Not all fireplaces accept blowers, so how can you determine if your fireplace can take advantage of the benefits a blower offers? Fireplaces that allow the addition of a blower or fan kit are considered circulating. This simply means the fireplace uses the blower to draw in cool room air through a vented panel. As cool room air is taken in, that air is heated as it circulates around the hot firebox. The blower helps push this heated air back out of the fireplace, typically through a vented or louvered opening on the top of the fireplace. The image on the right illustrates this circulation.
Most manufacturers will specify if a fireplace model includes the option to add a blower or fan kit, so it's important to read your owner's manual for details on which kit to use. Blowers are most commonly used in gas fireplaces, but wood burning inserts, stoves and even masonry fireplaces can often times take advantage of a blower.
Which blower kit should I use?
Your fireplace's manufacturer typically makes recommendations on which blower or fan kit to use based on your fireplace's model number. FireplaceBlowersOnline.com offers a wide range of aftermarket blower kits that not only meet the specifications of the OEM blower kit, they often far exceed them. This website provides an easy way to search, locate and purchase the correct blower kit for your specific fireplace. If the correct blower kit for your fireplace has either been discontinued or is no longer available, we can often times recommend a universal blower kit that works equally as well as the original.
What blower kit options are available?
Not all fan kits are created equal. In fact, there are a number of options that set some fan kits apart from others. Here we will explain a few of the popular fan kit options and how they might pertain to your home setup.
Variable speed control
A variable speed blower requires a rheostat variable speed control, which allows the user to control the RPM speed of the blower's motor. By controlling the speed at which the blower operates, you can control both air flow and noise. A blower running at it's highest RPM speed will produce more air flow, while a blower running at a lower RPM speed will produce less air flow. Noise is also a factor to consider. While a fast running blower produces more air flow, it also tends to produce more noise. And visa versa. In blower kit applications, there are typically two types of variable speed controls used. Some kits have the variable speed control mounted inline into the wiring harness of the blower. These variable speed controls are typically installed below the fireplace. Some fireplaces even provide specific mounting locations for the variable speed control. The second type of variable speed control used is the wall mounted control. These rheostats are typically used to replace an existing wall switch that controls the blower's electrical outlet. The rheostats that we use include an ON/OFF position and allow you to control the full RPM range of the blower. Light dimmers and ceiling fan switches can be used, but they must be rated properly for use in a blower kit application. Therefore, we recommend dimmers be in the 3-5 amp range. Failure to use a properly rated dimmer will result in improper blower control, audible feedback from the blower, and possible damage to the blower's motor.
A thermostat limit switch is most commonly used in blower kit applications when no designated wall switch is present for the blower. When a fireplace is installed, the installer has an option of installing a wall switch to control the electrical outlet below your fireplace. When no wall switch is installed, a thermostat limit switch makes it possible to control the blower's on and off operation automatically. A thermostat may be used in applications where a designated wall switch is present. In these installations, the wall switch is left in "ON" position so that power is always being supplied to the outlet. The thermostat therefore takes over control when the blower is turned "ON" and "OFF".
So how does a thermostat limit switch work? Great question! Thermostat limit switches work by opening and closing a circuit at 2 predetermined temperatures. In most fireplace blower kit applications, these temperatures are 90°F and 120°F. The switch closes at 120°F (blower on) and opens at 90°F (blower off). Through repeated testing, we have found that limit switches with operating temperatures of 90°F and 120°F function best in most applications. Thermostats are often attached to underside of the firebox or flush mounted in specific mounting locations on the fireplace. Some thermostats are held in place with magnetic brackets, while snap disc style thermostats are held in place by a small clip on the firebox. These clips are typically provided by the manufacturer of the fireplace and are usually installed with the fireplace.
High temperature wiring
In the previous section, we discussed thermostat limit switches and how they're used in fan kit applications. While most of these limit switches are flush mounted underneath the firebox, some thermostats must be mounted in a way that requires the use of high temperature rated wire. This wire is included in some of our fan kits, but can certainly be requested for custom applications.
Ball vs. sleeve bearings
There's an ongoing debate regarding the differences between sleeve and ball bearing blowers. Most OEM blower kits, as well as the cheaper kits you find on Amazon and eBay, use sleeve bearing components. There are typically 3 bearings in a blower assembly. 2 for the motor and 1 outboard bearing that the shaft of the blower wheel uses. Sleeve bearings have a tendency to operate quietly during the initial several months of their lifespan, but also have a tendency to degrade faster with continual use due to friction and normal wear. They are also more prone to the effects of foreign contaminates and heat. Overtime, sleeve bearings diminish and they become increasingly prone to premature seizing and noise. The alternative to sleeve bearings is the more expensive ball bearing. Ball bearings reduce friction and improve efficiency by design, so they are not nearly as susceptible to heat and pre-mature failure. The ball bearings that we use on our blowers are a sealed design, so they use a self-contained lubricant and will not require lubrication over their lifetime. The ball bearings are also designed to a much higher tolerance than their sleeve bearing counterparts, so the blower runs more efficiently, has absolutely zero shaft play, and will last much longer if maintained properly.
So what are the benefits?
Winter is ALWAYS around the corner, and if you're like me, the thought of another seemingly never ending season of cold weather, snow drifts, and iced locks seems unbearable. This doesn't mean however, that your time spent indoors must be spent in the cold as well.
Fireplaces are becoming an increasingly popular appliance installed in just about every new home and condo. Chances are you already have a fireplace installed, but rarely use it for fear of its operating expense. But when compared to running a standard home furnace, fireplaces can be a wonderful alternative source of heat. I say "can" be a wonderful source of heat, since most fireplaces are wasteful heating appliances. A fireplace blower helps dramatically increase the efficiency of your fireplace by taking advantage of the heat that would otherwise be lost. Used in conjunction with your home's primary source of heat, a fireplace equipped with a blower or fan kit can help save you hundreds of dollars a year in wasted energy. Adding a blower kit can literally pay for itself!
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