ANSI Z21.84-2017: Solid-Fuel Burning Fireplaces

A cozy residential home with a natural gas fireplace that adheres to ANSI Z21.84-2017.

During the winter, is it a good idea to use gas fireplaces for residential heating? When properly configured and maintained, gas fireplaces provide efficient and an aesthetically cozy space heating. They account for 10% of all U.S. residential natural gas consumption, and their use can avoid bumping up a central heating thermostat. ANSI Z21.84-2017: Standard For Manually Lighted, Natural Gas, Decorative Gas Appliances For Installation In Solid-Fuel Burning Fireplaces covers decorative gas appliances installed in solid-fuel burning fireplaces.

What Is ANSI Z21.84?

ANSI Z21.84-2017 applies to manually lighted, natural gas decorative gas appliances for installation in solid-fuel burning fireplaces for use with natural gas only, at a maximum input rating of 90,000 Btu/hr (26,376 W). This American National Standard represents a basic standard for safe operation, substantial and durable construction, and acceptable performance of solid-fuel burning fireplaces. The appliances in the scope of the standard do not incorporate a pilot burner not an automatic gas ignition system. The main burner(s) is intended to be lighted by hand each time the appliance is used.

Fireplaces in Early America

In early America, the fireplace was a necessity. A burning hearth provided heat, housed multiple fires for cooking and baking, and served as the hub of family gatherings. In the 1600s and early 1700s, the typical fireplace was a walk-in: a wide, deep, open recess, generally with only the briefest semblance of a mantel, or no mantel at all.

The firebox was usually wider than it was tall (especially in the homes of Dutch settlers), and in Dutch houses, the fireplace flue projected into the room, concealed by a massive hood. In English colonial homes, fireplaces typically were surrounded by simple, floor-to-ceiling paneling, usually plain vertical or bead-edged planks. Decorative enhancements might include a few Delftware tiles, or in the case of the Dutch, a short decorative curtain that hung well above the fire pit.

In New England and the Mid-Atlantic, colonial homes had central chimneys with multiple flues so that fires could be lit in two or more rooms on each floor. The central mass of stone or brick also tended to retain heat, keeping the house warmer overall. In the South, fireplaces were placed at the far ends of the house to reduce heat buildup, keeping the house cooler in summer.

Invention of Gas Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces date back to 1895, shortly after the debut of the first cast-iron fireplace inserts. The very first gas fireplaces consisted of simple, standalone gas burners that were moveable. During the 1920s, they became regularly sold on the market. They increased in popularity in the 1950s, partially due to the Clean Air Act of 1956, which stated that dark smoke shall not be emitted from a chimney of any building and if, on any day, dark smoke is so emitted, the occupier of the building shall be guilty of an offence.

Gas fireplaces emerged as a more attractive option than a wood-burning fireplace. They did not produce ash and debris, thereby requiring relatively no cleanup nor maintenance, while still retaining the cozy ambiance and warmth of a wood-burning fireplace. The 1990s saw sophisticated gas fireplace designs with realistic flame technology, safer and more improved venting systems, and overall energy efficiency.

ANSI Z21.84-2017: Standard For Manually Lighted, Natural Gas, Decorative Gas Appliances For Installation In Solid-Fuel Burning Fireplaces is available on the ANSI Webstore.

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