Title:
Apparatus and method to increase the air flow in a fireplace
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
This invention relates generally to a fireplace having a firebox chamber exhausting upwardly to a chimney, a front opening and fuel positioned in the firebox chamber and more specifically to an easily removable cover apparatus for the upper portion of the front opening whereby air flowing through the front opening will predominately flow through the lower portion of the firebox which increases the air flow onto the fuel.



Inventors:
Lynn, John M. (Austin, TX, US)
Armstrong, Frances (Wilmington, DE, US)
Application Number:
09/749965
Publication Date:
07/04/2002
Filing Date:
12/29/2000
Assignee:
LYNN JOHN M.
ARMSTRONG FRANCES
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
126/549
International Classes:
F24B1/19; F24B1/192; (IPC1-7): F24B1/192
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
COCKS, JOSIAH C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
John Lynn (Austin, TX, US)
Claims:

We claim:



1. In combination with a fireplace having a hearth or floor, a firebox chamber exhausting upwardly to a chimney, and a front opening; a cover apparatus comprising: a cover surface designed to cover the upper portion of the front opening which cover surface is easily removable from the front opening.

2. The cover apparatus of claim 1, wherein said cover apparatus is attached above the front opening.

3. The cover apparatus of claim 2, wherein the cover surface may be rolled up into the cover apparatus or compressed back toward the cover apparatus.

4. The cover apparatus of claim 3, wherein the length of the cover surface covering the front opening of the fireplace may be altered.

5. The cover apparatus of claim 1, wherein the cover surface has supports which are sufficient to prevent a pressure differential from pulling the cover surface into the firewall.

6. The cover apparatus of claim 1, wherein said cover apparatus is attached to a fireplace screen placed agaisn't the front opening of the fireplace.

7. The cover apparatus of claim 1 wherein, the cover surface has legs setting upon the hearth or floor.

8. A method of increasing the intensity of a fire in a fireplace having a front opening; comprising covering the upper portion of the front opening of the fireplace with a cover apparatus which can be easily removed from the front opening of the fireplace once the fire has become self perpetuating.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] This invention relates generally to a fireplace having a firebox chamber exhausting upwardly to a chimney, a front opening and fuel positioned in the firebox chamber and more specifically to an easily removable cover apparatus for the upper portion of the front opening whereby air flowing through the front opening will predominately flow through the lower portion of the firebox which increases the air flow onto the fuel.

[0003] 2. Description of the Prior Art

[0004] One of the more important issues to be addressed in fireplace design or fireplace tools and devices is how to get the maximum amount of air (i.e. oxygen) to the fuel (eg wood, coal, peat and so forth). This issue of maximizing air flow to the fuel is especially important during the initial stages of starting a fire. For a standard residential fireplace it is not as important once a fire is well underway in the fireplace. This is because most residential fireplaces are obviously designed such that once the fuel is fully burning they draw quite well, burn efficiently and do not require additional means or structures to focus air flow on the fuel.

[0005] In the past, the issues of maximizing air flow on the fuel at the early stages of the fire have been addressed by both (1) the design of the fireplace or fireplace openings to increase the airflow over the fuel, and (2) by the use of tools or methods to direct air on the fuel by manually blowing, fanning or pumping the air to the fuel (e.g. diaphram blowers or methods as simple as fanning the fuel with magazines).

[0006] In most commercial situations or in residential situations where aesthetics is not an issue (i.e. the primary means of heating the home is the fireplace) these problems are typically solved by focusing the airflow onto the fuel by means such as restricting openings, dampers and deflectors. These methods result in fires which are easily started and efficient but almost by definition they are not as aesthetically pleasing since they necessarily involve in some way restricting the opening to the fireplace. In other words, what you gain in ease of starting and efficacy you give up in aesthetics since one can't see the fire burning in the fireplace as well as one can see the fire with an unobstructed view

[0007] Examples of such fireplace designs to increase the oxygen/air flow over the fuel includes the following patents:

[0008] The Brown patent (U.S. Pat. No 4,173,967) discloses a grate which has orifices which force the air to flow toward the center of the grate to maximize combustion in this area.

[0009] The Wilkening patent (U.S. Pat. No 4,706,647) discloses an air flow damper-director control which controls the flow of air to fire from openings disposed in the fireplace enclosure.

[0010] The Shults patent (U.S. Pat. No 2,814,287) for draft control shows and adjustable deflector used with seperate damper controls over openings in the front of fireplace to control the direction and amount of air flow.

[0011] The Merryweather patent (U.S. Pat. No. 2,707,946) shows a stationary deflector for directing the air flow from an adjustable damper which controls the flow of air from openings in the front of the fireplace enclosure.

[0012] The Lydle patent (U.S. Pat. No. 3,459,173) discloses a fireplace front or screen with a plurality of openings that are connected to a chamber with a damper which allows air flow in one direction and a deflector that is always open that deflects air in another direction.

[0013] These strucural examples all have the additional disadvantages (in addition to not being aesthetically pleasing) of being relatively complicated from a structural point of view and also they are typically built into the structure of the fireplace, grates or fireplace openings. This permanence of the structure means that it is normally still there after the fire is self perpetuating (i.e. with sufficient fuel will remain burning without additional human intervention such as fanning the flames or adding combustible materials such as newspaper or lighter fluids). Lastly, the prior art structural solutions above require retrofitting of the existing fireplace, grates or fireplace openings. This can be expensive, time consuming, and complicated.

[0014] What is needed is a simple, inexpensive, cover apparatus which is easily mountable and easily removable from the front entrance of a fireplace to focus the air flow on the fuel. This mobility and ease of attachment of the cover apparatus to the front of the fireplace or the fireplace opening will allow for removal (including detachment, retraction, rolling up or compression) of the cover apparatus once the fire is self perpetuating. This removal of the cover apparatus allows one to see the full frontal opening of the fireplace. The advatages of such an apparatus is simplicity, no retrofitting and no change of appearance of the fireplace once the apparatus has been removed or retracted.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0015] Our invention provides a novel and unobvious apparatus which helps to improve air flow to the fuel in a fireplace. This apparatus involves an easily attachable or positioned and easily removable or retractable cover apparatus which can be placed over the front opening of the firebox of the fireplace. This cover is placed and sized such that it covers the upper portion of the front opening of the firebox and accordingly forces the air flow through the lower portion of the front opening which in turn increases the air flow to the fuel. This cover is especially useful during the time period when the fire is being started. It will normally be either retracted or removed once the fire is self perpetuating. By removing or retracting the cover apparatus the fireplace owners can enjoy seeing the full front opening of the fireplace.

[0016] In one embodiment of our invention the apparatus is a fireproof cover (for example a rectangular canvas cloth possibly covered with fire retardant material) which hangs down from a rod which in turn is attached to two or more hooks or other attachment devices over the front opening of the fireplace. The cover is sized such that it covers the top portion of the front opening but not the lower portion. The cover is hung over the opening after the fire has been started and is beginning to draw air into chimney but before the fire is self perpetuating (or the cover apparatus can be used to revive a fire that is beginning to die down). Normally but not necessarily the cover apparatus would be removed once the fire is self perpetuating. This detachment or retraction of the cover would return a normal appearance to the fireplace (i.e. nothing obstructing the front opening of the fireplace).

[0017] This invention solves the problems with previous prior art because it is: (1) simple and inexpensive; (2) easy to retrofit; (3) does not change the appearance of the fireplace (except when it is in use when starting or reviving a fire); and (4) does not involve the manual methods of fanning a fire such as a diaphram blower, fans, or newspapers used as fans.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0018] In the drawings:

[0019] FIG. 1 is front view of a fireplace with the cover apparatus attached above the opening of the fireplace but in a retracted (rolled up) position.

[0020] FIG. 2 is the same front view of the fireplace with the cover surface unrolled and hanging in front of the fireplace opening.

[0021] FIG. 3 is the same front view of the fireplace but there is a different cover apparatus which is standing on the hearth as opposed to hanging from above the opening of the fireplace.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0022] The embodiment of the invention shown in FIGS. 1, 2 and 3 shows a standard residential fireplace which has hearth 11 (it could also just be called the floor or base), firebox 12, and front opening 20 which is defined by the front perimeter walls 13. It has been observed by inventors that when making a fire in a fireplace such as is shown in FIG. 1 (or in fact any type of fireplace) that it is important to have maximum air flow over or toward or through fuel 50 (in this case wood). It has further been observed that once a fire has been started and the chimney is drawing air that much of the air flow ends up not being helpful to the oxidation of fuel 50 but instead simply goes up the chimney or flue (not shown in these figures) through the upper portions of front opening 20. In short, the air (with the vital oxygen) is wasted and never comes in contact with fuel 50 because of its upper level path through front opening 20 and out the flue. (This is despite the fact that grate 60 attempts to maximize the air flow on fuel 50 by raising fuel 50 higher in firebox 12 and grate 60 also allows for air flow to go underneath grate 60 since it is typically a series of open spaces defined by bars of metal).

[0023] In order to maximize the air flow on fuel 50, persons over the years have tried numerous methods as discussed in the Background section. As may now be easily understood from the description and the drawings, inventors have determined that an easily removable or retractable cover apparatus will force air flow through the lower portion of front opening 20 and into the lower portion of firebox 12 and onto or toward fuel 50. This is especially effective once the fireplace has begun to draw. This is because once the fire has begun to draw if one puts cover surface 41 over the top portion of front opening 20 the fireplace will continue to draw but all the air flow is forced through the much smaller opening at the bottom of front opening 20.

[0024] In fact, if the fire is drawing well there will be significant pressure on cover surface 41 since there will be low pressure on the backside (i.e. in firebox 12) and higher pressure on the front side of cover surface 41 (i.e. facing the room). This pressure differential acts to pull cover surface 41 toward firewall 12. If cover surface 41 is canvas or cloth or some other easily rollable material the pressure differential may necessitate attaching support structures 70 onto cover surface 41 or incorporating support structures 70 into cover surface 41 (as shown in FIG. 2). Support structure 70 can be any of a number of well known materials (metal, wood etc) and can be in the form of a rod, bar, slat, or webbing and so forth. The good news about the pressure differential is that it acts to pull cover surface 41 agaisnt the walls and perimeter 13 which can minimize the leakage of air around cover surface 41 and force the great majority of the air flow through the lower portion of the frontal opening where it is most beneficial in oxidizing fuel 50.

[0025] There are a number of different ways in which cover surface 41 can be placed over the top portion of front opening 20. In FIG. 1, the preferred embodiment shows cover apparatus 40 attached to attachment means 30. It could also be attached to a fireplace screen if the screen was flush agaisn't front opening 20 (see the Experiments below). In FIG. 1 attachment means 30 are simple hooks which have been anchored into the wall above fireplace front opening 20. Cover apparatus 40 is comprised of cover surface 41 which has been rolled around rod 42. The ends of rod 42 are attached to attachment means 30 (in a preferred embodiment it is very easy to attach or detach cover apparatus 40 so that it installed (e.g. hung) and removed very quickly and easily such as would be the case with the simple hooks shown as attachment means 30).

[0026] FIG. 2 shows cover apparatus 40 (which includes cover surface 41) unrolled, unfurled or pulled down such that cover surface 41 covers the upper portion of front opening 20. In the preferred embodiment one can alter the length of cover surface 41 hanging over front opening 20 to modify air flow and direction into firebox 12. This unrolling, pulling down or unfurling of surface 40 can be done by methods identical to the extremely well known action of pulling down window blinds and by using identical mechanisms (e.g. rolling and unrolling a flat sheet or compressing, extending a pleated sheet in a concertina type action or even the use of slitted materials similar to those used in Levolar™ window blinds). For example, the unrolling, pulling down or unfurling action could be accomplished either manually by simply turning rod 42 in a circular motion or if cover apparatus 40 is designed like the well known window blinds then this unrolling could also be accomplished by pulling down on surface 41 until cover surface 41 covers the desired upper portion of front opening 12. In short, there are numerous ways in which surface 41 could be placed over front opening 20 and they will be well known to those skilled in the art.

[0027] It is important that cover surface 41 and support means 70 are sized such that they extend beyond perimeter 13 and out onto the wall beyond perimeter 13 because the pressure differential will tend to bow or pull cover surface 41 in towards firewall 12 and accordingly cover surface 41 and support(s) 70 needs to be somewhat larger than the horizontal dimension of front opening 20. Also it may be desirable to make support(s) 70 out of heavy material so that they keep cover surface 41 pulled taut so that the pressure differential does not pull cover surface 41 into firebox 12.

[0028] In a less preferred embodiment, cover apparatus 40 could be designed such that it does not roll up into a cylinder as shown in FIG. 1. It is possible that cover apparatus 40 could simply be permanently as shown in FIG. 2, where surface 41 is not rolled around rod 42. In such a case cover apparatus 40 would simply be attached to attachment means 30 and would always be in an unrolled or rectangular configuration. In this configuration, cover surface 40 might even be rigid (as shown in the embodiment of the FIG. 3). However a rigid application is probably not a preferred embodiment since it would take up more space then the embodiment where cover surface 41 is able to be rolled up onto rod 42. In the “window blind” embodiment cover apparatus 40 is a relatively compact cylinder that is able to be stored unobtrusively near the fireplace for frequent use.

[0029] FIG. 3 shows another less preferred embodiment of cover apparatus 40 which does not involve hanging cover surface 41 from attachment means above the fireplace opening. In FIG. 3 surface 41 is rigid and is supported by legs 45 which set on hearth 11. In this instance surface 41 and legs 45 can be any of a number of different well known metallic or fireproof materials (fireproofing is probably preferred but is not strictly necessary as applicants actually used newspaper agaisn't a screen in proof of concept experments detailed below and the newspapers had small burn marks but never caught entirely on fire). The embodiment shown in FIG. 3 is also not preferred because it is difficult to change the amount of the upper portion of front opening 12 which cover surface 41 is covering.

EXPERIMENTS

[0030] Proof of concept experments were run in a standard residential fireplace with an upwardly extending flue and chimney and which had a standard metallic screen which laid flush agaisn't the front opening of the fireplace. The fireplace front opening was approximately 26 inches high and approximately 46 inches wide. The screen could be drawn shut so that it covered the entire front opening of the fireplace. Wood was placed on a standard metal grate. Assuring that the flue was open to the chimney, we used scrap newspaper underneath the grate to attempt to light the slightly damp wood (it had been stored outside without cover) on top of the grate. Using standard methods we were successful in getting the .chimney to draw air flow into it and we were successful in getting the wood partially burning but not self perpetuating (these moderate successes were attained with great effort by continuing to feed newspaper under the grate and fanning the newspaper and wood).

[0031] In proof of concept of the invention, we then proceeded to take portions of newspaper and put them agaisn't the front opening screen. The pressure differential caused by the draw from the chimney was such that the newspaper (in single sheet thicknesses) was forced agaisn't the screen and did not have to be held in place agaisn't the vertical screen by hand. Experimenting with placement of the newspapers we found that by covering the upper portion of the front opening screen and leaving the bottom portion uncovered that comparatively large quantities of air (and obviously oxygen) flowed through the bottom portion of the screen and onto the wood. The effect was dramatic and could even be heard as the rush of air flowed past the newspapers and onto the burning wood. In a matter of seconds the wood was burning more intensely. In a matter of 1-2 minutes the fire (which previously had been difficult to start) was roaring and self perpetuating. We found that the invention worked best by covering roughly the upper two thirds (16 to 18 inches) or the upper three quarters (19-21 inches) of the screen over the front opening (although it is entirely possible that in other fireplaces with other geometries and designs that other ratios may prove more effective—in addition, the effect is apparent, but not optimized, with almost any amount of coverage of the upper portion of the fireplace opening). After the fire becomes self perpetuating it was very easy to remove the newspapers and enjoy the full frontal view of the fireplace.

[0032] This experiment was repeated a handful of times over a 3-4 day period and in each experiment it worked quite well in starting or in reviving a fire.

[0033] An invention has been described that provides advantages in the art of fireplace cover apparatuses. Although the preferred embodiments have been described specifically with regard to detail, it should be noted that many details my be changed without departing from the scope of the invention as it is defined in the following claims.