Heating systems have come a long way since the discovery of fire. Nowadays, there are plenty of fireplaces and stoves with various applications. One of the most striking is the water fireplace, which serves both to distribute heat to other rooms in a house and to provide domestic hot water with the appropriate accessories. They have some advantages over other heating and hot water systems, such as being able to be installed in existing installations or combined with other energy sources.
What is a water fireplace or thermochimney?
Water fireplaces, also known as thermochimneys or biomass boilers, are heating systems that use the combustion of organic materials, such as wood, pellets, or chips, to heat water that is then distributed through radiators or underfloor heating in a house or building. This eco-friendly fireplace is a sustainable alternative to traditional gas or oil fireplaces.
What fuel is used?
One of the most interesting details about this type of fireplace is that there are models adapted to any type of fuel. From a pellet fireplace to gas, all are compatible with water fireplaces, although the former is gradually becoming more widespread and used more frequently.
In addition to the fireplace itself, the system can be connected to a solar panel or an electric water heater. This way, hot water can still be obtained without the need to light the fireplace when it is not cold. This is undoubtedly very practical in summer or on warm days when lighting a gas fireplace would not only be very uncomfortable but also an unnecessary expense.
How water chimneys work
The operation of these chimneys is very similar to that of a boiler. The heat is channeled to a water circuit that can be used to circulate through the house, heating it as if there were a wood-burning fireplace in each room. Radiators can be installed or placed under the floor to emit heat from below. The hot water can be circulated or transferred to a tank from which it can be used as hot water for washing or bathing. This saves a significant amount of energy and fuel, which in turn translates into lower economic cost.
Not all water chimneys work the same way. Depending on the installation, some models are only used for heating. Through a closed circuit, water circulates through all the pipes when the chimney is lit. Others are responsible for both heating and hot water, requiring a larger installation and a system that regulates when water is sent through the pipes and when it is only used to heat the environment.
- Combustion: Biomass, such as wood or pellets, is burned in the fireplace’s combustion chamber. The energy released in the form of heat is transferred to the water contained in a closed circuit.
- Heat exchange: The hot water from the internal circuit of the fireplace is exchanged with the cold water from the heating circuit of the house or building through a heat exchanger.
- Heat distribution: The hot water is distributed through the heating system, whether radiators, underfloor heating, or others, providing heating to the rooms.
- Water return: The now colder water returns to the thermo fireplace to be reheated and repeat the cycle.
Differences between water fireplaces and a conventional boiler
There are some important differences between these fireplaces and traditional hot water boilers. The main one is the aesthetics, since bioethanol or wood fireplaces, for example, are much prettier and can be used as an additional decorative element. They also function as a direct source of heat, something that boilers do not do. On the other hand, boilers usually have slightly more power, but they also have higher consumption.
Water fireplaces can be an interesting investment to combine comfort and domestic services in a single system.