The Rumford Fireplace – They Are Not All Equal – Do It Right

The Rumford fireplace is an amazing design, an efficient and great looking fireplace.  Yes efficient.. hard to believe for many.. and some looking at the design would say it will not work or that it will be smoky in operation.

Fact is it does work, fact the Rumford is efficient.  Fact is it is even EPA approved and is the ONLY fireplace design that can support a secondary burn!

But there are modifications to the Rumford that have been done over the years and many do not work, they neglect the science behind the design – remember that Rumford himself was a physicist and understood Fluid Dynamics, Thermal and Heat Properties and built the fireplace design with science in mind. One of these early design changes was actually Thomas Jefferson, making some drawings to “improve the design” which unfortunately neglected science and frankly were a failure.

Fact is Rumford did it right and we can still use his original design today if we implement correctly – do not attempt to modify it or you may end up with a smoky mess!

If you want an efficient masonry fireplace – why not research and consider a Rumford – it does work!

The Beautiful and Efficient Rumford Fireplace

Never heard of a Rumford; I am sure you have seen one and just not known what it was.  A Rumford is a fireplace design, actually a historical design build for efficiency and also for design – invented in the 18th century.  If you have seen, you likely saw in an elegant home, and likely assumed it was far outside your budget range or that of a typical homeowner.

Well, let me give you the real information.  First of all, the Rumford design is efficient and is actually EPA tested and approved, yes that is right.  Most assume that fireplaces are simply inefficient and there is nothing you can do about it to make it any better, well the inefficient design was actually a more recent design built to make the fireplace smaller and fit into a tight / tiny space.  In fact it was designed by an architect, and not a scientist!  It was not build with any degree of efficiency in mind, and hence it has little.  The Rumford was on the other hand designed by a Physicist who understood Thermal properties and Fluid Dynamics – understood heat flow and insulating properties of air and materials, understood what it needed to make a fire place work efficiently.  That is what the Rumford is, and yes the Rumford design has been EPA tested and is EPA approved.  There may be some hurdles in some municipalities understanding the Rumford fireplace, as they are not used to this design.  They may balk at the concept and think there will be smoke spillage; it goes against what most are taught in modern fireplace design – rather unfortunate as we have designed our concept of a fireplace around something that really is a very poor design.  Something that is purely aesthetic and not functional while the Rumford’s on the other hand were designed for BOTH – efficiency first and then of course as designed in the 18th century – attention to detail and appearance was not left out.

A Rumford fireplace is a custom crafted work of art, yes a craftsman can help you determine what options are best for your space but you need one who understands the Rumford design.  Of course there are many ways one can add to the Rumford basic design as well and still maintain the efficiency – but ensure the craftsman understands and adheres to the intended function and efficiency – there are good reasons these were calculated and built that way.

Building a Rumford Fireplace!

Are you thinking of a fireplace in your home, or maybe have one and it simply does not provide heat!

Ever consider the Rumford?  Ever hear of a Rumford?

A Rumford is an old designed – designed to heat the home rather than the outside.  But the Rumford with the tall openings creates a beautiful and efficient fire that you and your family will love – and the shape of the opening will ensure you get the most heat from the fire as it burns.  Your friends and family will love. The unique shape ensures that you will get the most heat out of the wood you burn.

You see Count Rumford understood that the only really useful heat generated by any fireplace was the radiant heat. Any air that was heated by the fire simply went up the chimney, he therefore worked to design a fireplace with a large opening – which was fairly shallow – to reflect as much heat as possible back into the room.

The problem with the design is that a tall, wide shallow fireplace by design will tend to smoke, making the room uncomfortable. However, keep in mind that Rumford was a physicist and understood fluid dynamics – in fact he was way ahead of his time – in his design he essentially created a venture or nozzle which essentially will pull the smoke up through the throat into the receiving smoke chamber.  Because of this in the Rumford design the smoke is effectively pulled out the chimney instead of lingering and entering the room – an added benefit for those new to lighting a fireplace.

The problem is that is not the way masons were trained and many masons today, who are trained to build modern fireplace will have trouble believing a Rumford will draw – that is until they see it work.  You see the rules and Building Codes are different – in a modern fireplace the fireback is usually sloped forward pushing the gases from combustion toward the front, the incoming air from the room flows over the steel lintel and mixes with the heated gases, causing a turbulent smoky mixture.  Most masons, who while good at their job, do not understand fluid-dynamics and will tell you that you need to “cross over” or drop the lintel about 200 mm or so below the damper which will create a pocket for this turbulent smoke – or else there will be smoke coming out of the fireplace opening.

Because of the design, the opening into the chimney is only half as large, it takes more room for this turbulent air to get out.  It is a more efficient design, invented by a physicist.   The Rumford is more efficient, radiates more heat and wastes less heat to the outdoors.  Frankly, other than for aesthetic benefits one wonders why the modern fireplace design ever came into existence – it really was because an architect liked the looks – did not care about efficiency and designed around looks over performance.  It is rather unfortunate as our whole system now has grown accustomed to this design and feels there is no other that will work!  And a poor design it is – built on looks versus function – and with a Rumford you can actually have both!  Yes the Rumford – although not today considered traditional can be a beautiful and a functional fireplace which can heat the home efficiently.