Fireplaces have been used to heat homes for as long as people have had homes to live in. Having orange and yellow flames flickering in the corner of a room can be comforting on a long, cold night. Although radiators and forced-air heating have made fireplaces less necessary, they are still common. Some, though, have abandoned wood in favour of burning propane gas. A convector gas fire is one of two basic gas fireplace types.
Gas Fire Defined
While many fireplaces still burn chopped wood, this has several disadvantages. The wood must be regularly loaded into the fire to keep it burning, and the ashes accumulate at the bottom, requiring regular cleaning. Wood fires also take time and effort to start with kindling and paper. A gas fire, by contrast, keeps a small flame, or "pilot," burning at all times next to an incoming gas line. When the homeowner wants a fire, they need only turn the fire on by opening the gas line. The gas is then ignited into flame by the pilot light. This heats the room without leaving any solid residue.
A convector is a heater---in this case a gas fireplace---that uses the principle of convection. In this process, an outer shell is built around the firebox, creating a column of superheated air that rises to the top of the space being heated. As the air cools, it settles and is drawn back into the bottom of the heater to be heated and recirculated.
Uses for Convector Gas Fires
Convection fireplaces are most effective when there is a need to circulate heat away from the stove itself, such as to other rooms or stories of a building. Since they heat rooms from the top down, these fireplaces are less effective in rooms with high ceilings. Personal preferences also matter; convector fires heat the air itself, which can feel dry when inhaled. This is quite a different feeling from the radiant heat that emanates from a traditional fireplace and soaks into those sitting around it. Convection is also the principle that forced-air heating uses; a flame in the furnace superheats the air, which then rises through the home's ductwork.
Alternatives to Convection
The other major type of heating method in use is radiant heat. A simple wood fireplace is a radiant heat source, with the heat energy emanating in all directions and being absorbed by people and objects close to the flame. A radiant gas fire is best for heating single spaces, or when the occupants of the space prefer the air to be heated slowly.