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A History of Gas Fires

Gas fires have long been one of the most popular ways to warm a home. They’re reliable, safe and odourless, so you can enjoy fast heat in comfort – perfect for those colder nights during the winter. While gas fires have been a leading choice for homes for many years, it took a long time for them to become safe and viable for widespread use.

Here we look at the history of gas fires, how they work and why you should consider using them over electric models.

Family with Their Feet up by a Fire

How Gas Fires Work

Gas fires work by igniting gas supplied from your mains. However, oxygen is also needed for combustion to occur. Most modern gas fires are ‘closed combustion’ models, which draw oxygen from outside through a pipe, with a secondary pipe removing flue gases to prevent your home from becoming contaminated.

You can also get ‘open combustion’ models with an open flame (which may be behind a glass door for safety) but these are rare, mainly because most homes cannot use them, including any home with mechanical ventilation such as an extractor hood.

Gas fires are significantly more efficient than wood-burning stoves, which draw oxygen in from the room. Gas fires never remove air from a room, and they also require very little fuel to generate a high level of heat. So, you get a warmer room, without losing that temperature back into the fire.

Gas Fires from Inception to the Present Day

For much of the 20th Century, coal fires were prevalent. The coal industry was huge, and most homes had a traditional fire with regular coal deliveries. However, gas fires have actually existed since the mid-19th Century.

The first gas fires were partially made with asbestos and had no real safety features built in, so they weren’t exactly the best solution for home installation. Although they were available commercially, initial uptake wasn’t huge; without mainstream mains gas access, or the essential features to keep them secure, people opted for other, more established fuels.

It took almost one hundred years for gas fires to become efficient and safe enough to be a serious contender as a home heating solution. Ceramic radiants were first introduced in 1905, but it was the introduction of convector fires in 1950 that really changed the way gas fires worked. These eventually became more widespread and affordable, making them a viable option for many homes.

The Clean Air Act was passed by the government in 1956 to restrict the use of solid fuels in urban areas in a bid to reduce serious smog incidents, and suddenly gas fire popularity took off thanks to their lack of toxic by-products.

Coal fires were being ripped out and replaced with gas fires, with a particular rise in installations throughout the 1970s and 1980s. By the mid-90s coal was almost wiped out and gas had become the number one fuel choice for fires in the home.

In more recent years, developments have focused on enhancing safety. Oxypilots are now widely used to ensure that a fire shuts off automatically if the oxygen levels in the room drop too low, while glass front panels help prevent curious fingers from touching the flames, perfect for families who want a heating option that’s safe for children.

Gas Fires vs Electric Fires

There are a number of reasons to consider gas fires over electric models. Whilst it has come a long way, electric heating has a few disadvantages when compared to gas. For starters, gas fires tend to generate a higher temperature that can be more effective for single room heating.

Gas is also faster – as soon as you switch on a gas fire, you’ll start to feel the benefit, whereas an electric fire will take time to get going. On those cold winter nights, a gas fire is a godsend if you need to warm the room quickly on returning home. Electric may take a few minutes to generate enough heat to make a difference to the ambient temperature, while wood-burning stoves can take longer to ignite.

Some electric heaters rely on a fan to circulate heat which can generate noise; gas fires, on the other hand, are virtually silent. And finally, in the event of a power cut, a gas fire can at least keep you warm while you wait for the electric to kick back in.

Gas Fire Safety

When it comes to gas safety, the most important factor for your fire is that you have it installed by a registered engineer, who will know how to correctly install it into your mains gas to avoid any leaks.

You then need to get your fire checked annually, again by a registered engineer. This will ensure everything’s working as it should be and that there are no signs of wear and tear that could lead to damaged pipes and carbon monoxide escaping into your home.

It’s also worth investing in a carbon monoxide alarm, just in case there ever is a leak. Carbon monoxide doesn’t have a smell and can’t be seen, so you won’t know if there’s a problem, until it’s too late. While leaks are exceptionally rare, especially on a well-maintained fire, it’s worth getting an alarm for peace of mind.

The Wide Uses of Gas

Of course, gas isn’t just used for powering fires or other household products like hobs and boilers; it’s a versatile fuel with many uses, both residentially and commercially. As gas cylinder suppliers, we at Adams Gas offer a wide range of gas products, including industrial supplies for both factories and businesses.