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Fireplace and Home Heating Top Tips

February 2017

Property expert Alex Goldstein meets Chris Worsley from Easy Fireplace who shares fireplace and home heating top tips. He discusses the pros and cons of open fires versus glass-fronted fires, and reveals whether a multi-fuel stove will save you money on your heating bills, along with many more fire and home heating nuggets of wisdom.

Fireplace and Home Heating Top Tips

Alex: Very privileged indeed to have in the studio with me Chris Worsley from Easy Fireplace. Chris, thanks so much indeed for coming by. Just talk everyone through your business. It’s a bit more unusual than most, I think.

Chris: Yes. My pleasure to be here, Alex. Our business is based in Huddersfield. Easy Fireplace is what was known as a bricks and mortar showroom and business. That basically means you can come along, touch and feel, experiment with the fireplaces, play with them, see how they work and basically get a gist of what the product is and what it does.

Alex: But you cover a host of entities, not just the sf mantelpieces that go over it, it’s much more than that.

Chris: Yeah, the aspect of the fireplace industry is so much more than what is known as the mantle of the surround. We do the fireplaces. We do them bespoke made from limestone marble, wood Castilian, black granite. You then got things like the gas fires. You’ve got your inset fires, your outset fires, your wall-hung fires. You’ve then got your stoves, you’ve got your wood burners, you got your motor fuel burners.

Alex: Is there anything you don’t actually stock [inaudible 00:01:14]? This could be quite a technical conversation I think.

Chris: Yeah. I mean, from the business in…it’s a little village called Milnsbridge, which is in Huddersfield. We’ve got over 180 products on display that we can demonstrate. It’s a case of coming in and we get the product right for you and your home. It’s not about selling a product. It’s about selling something that’s perfect for the home and how you’re gonna use them.

Alex: I mean, it’s been quite interesting. I mean, what are the changes you’ve seen in the market in recent years? I know the oil price, for example, is all over the place, and I don’t know whether you just see it as a direct result whether there’s been an upsurge in business.

Chris: The main thing that’s changed is it’s all about performance of what you’re purchasing. With the economic crisis that we all went through, everyone started looking after the pound. Our money is very virtual, and so are our heating bills. Then once a month we get slapped with a bill, and that’s when the virtual becomes reality. So, suddenly, it’s how can we stop this virtual money becoming such a big reality check at the end of each month.

Alex: So it’s people seeing, as you said, the bill land on the doormat once a month, thinking, “Well, that’s quite a lot to be forking out for my gas oil” or whatever you’re running off, and then people are switching, I dare say, to sf stoves and fire alternatives.

Chris: There is quite a lot of things in the industry that have changed. Basically, the stove market went right through the roof. Everyone wanted wood burning because they thought it was an ideal solution to make their heating bills a lot cheaper.

Alex: Is that true? Is that the case.

Chris: It actually wasn’t. We as a company… My decision was not to join that rat race. Basically, everyone was selling stoves based on no knowledge, no information given to the customers, and the stove and the idea behind the stove basically sold itself. It is a beautiful product. You’ve got the warm, romantic flames, you’ve got the heat from it, it brings back memories of grandparents, brings back memories of holidays in cottages. Whatever it’ll be, an open fire brings back and triggers memories, and that’s basically how the industry romantically rose through the last few years.

Alex: It turned it into a big marketing sf campaign on the stove front, but why didn’t it work out for people, do you feel?

Chris: It’s a little bit… The stoves are a really, really great product, and if it’s used correctly it can be a good heating source. The main thing is the cost. The cost of wood has gone up. The cost of coal has gone up. So the cost of actually fueling that appliance has gone up, so now it’s just not that cost-effective.

Alex: I suppose the other thing that often crops up is that people really want a fire, and you always traditionally think that you need a chimney or a chimney breast that you can actually utilize. But I think I’m right in saying that nowadays you don’t necessarily need to actually have a chimney at all. There are other options open to you.

Chris: The industry has gone down a little bit of a line of interior design. You walk into the room, you assess the room, you assess even things like the shape of the room, the window — is it a bay window, is it a curve, is it a hexagon shape, is it straight — the room layout even before you think about the appliance and the product you’re gonna sell the customer. With our sales, that’s first and foremost because it’s not about the sale.

Alex: Yeah, and I thought it was surely on sf stoves and fires. I just thought most people just look at what’s the output, try and match it with a vague sf room dimension, and then you’re done. But it’s more than that, isn’t it?

Chris: That’s the way a lot of shops and showrooms still work, because it’s all about the sale. With our sales it’s about…yes, it’s about the here and now but it’s about the future, how is it gonna best work for the family. There’s many things: Have they got children now? Are they expecting children? Did they plan for children in the room? Therefore we don’t want to take up too much space in the room because the child is gonna be playing. So therefore we might not go for a false chimney breast. We might go for an inset balance flue fire, which could be either hole in the wall or inset.

Alex: He’s just talking through the flue option there. As you said, if you don’t have the chimney, that there’s a flue option that you can base it…as long as you got an external wall, you can make it happen.

Chris: If it’s on an external wall, you’ve got your power-flue option, which basically is a hole in the wall which has got an external fan, and that pulls the products of combustion out and through the wall. With that, the downside is you get a draft when the fire is not on. If you ever had a power cut, the gas can’t come through. The best market now is balanced flue, which is basically a glass-fronted, high-efficiency gas fire. They range from around about 80% up to in excess of 90% efficiency. So in terms of efficiency…

Because a lot of people don’t understand efficiency, we created, like, layman’s terms of how to understand efficiency. If you physically put one pound of gas into a fire, it’s how much heat you get on your legs? So for a glass-fronted fire, you’re taking 80 to 90 p into the room onto your legs. The rest of it is lost through the flue, through the products of combustion, latent heat, many different things. You’ve then got your open-fronted fires, and with them they range from around about 50 to 75% efficient. But the industry has changed quite a lot and is now a lot more focused around energy efficiency.

Alex: And is that the new frontier at the moment? Is that where the latest technology is being plowed into the industry, it’s all about energy efficiency? Are there any other needs as well being looked at?

Chris: The industry went down a different route, so they went to the glass-fronted. Now, the glass-fronted industry peaked quite a lot, but the cosmetic side of it wasn’t as good and wasn’t as appealing as open-fronted fires. An open-fronted fire, even when the fire is off, you’ve got the look of the coals, all the logs, all the pebbles. You can physically touch them and you can see them a lot easier. So, cosmetically, they were a lot more appealing, but the efficiency rate isn’t as high.

So then you’ve got the glass-fronted fires. So you’ve got the glass in front, you’ve got the coals, all the other cosmetic…whether it’s logs or pebbles behind, and cosmetically it doesn’t look as nice because you’ve got a reflection or a shadow. So the industry went for a big change and the glass-fronted fires, now they’re a lot more appealing. The fuel beds have changed, and whether it’s the angle or the cosmetic look of them, the glass is now non-reflective. There’s a lot of changes.

So, the glass-fronted market for the high efficiency has improved a lot, but the open-fronted as well has, because it’s now a different category. So you’ve got high efficiency, you’ve now got open-fronted, and then you’ve got open-fronted high efficiency. The open-fronted is… If you look at the fire and the face of the fire, you’ve got what I call as face value. How much air can be drawn through that face at any given time?

Now, with the glass-fronted, it’s minimal because as a glass air, as you can imagine, there’s not much air to pull through. It only pulls through the top of the fire and through the bottom. Now, with the open-fronted fire, the face value is a lot more dramatic because you’ve just got the canopy and then all the coals or whatever the cosmetic layout is. So you’ve then got the open-fronted [inaudible 00:09:13], so it’s still open, you still got all the cosmetic stuff,but the canopy is slightly bigger. And then they’ve got a convector on there as well. So the face value is actually reduced. So the visual look of it, you see less of the fuel bed, but cosmetically it’s still more pleasing.

Alex: Chris, thanks so much. And also, if people want to get in touch with you, what are the best ways?

Chris: You can contact us via telephone, and that’s Huddersfield 014-846-444-64. Or you can visit our Web sites. You’ve got easyfireplace.co.uk, or you’ve got envyfireplaces.co.uk. We do cover all of Yorkshire, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact. And we’re here to help.

Alex: Fantastic. Thanks very much indeed again, Chris.