Glass Toppers, Ice or Drops

Because the flames burn above the bed of glass, the glass stays free of soot.  When objects get touched by the yellow part of the flame, soot can deposit.  Keeping that in mind, the sizes of some of our glass products are starting to become pretty chunky (like 1 inch in diameter).  So to help avoid any traces of soot on your glass toppers, push them into the bed of glass to help “seat” them so they don’t stick up quite as high.  This is good practice if you are using the larger glass products.


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Managing SPAM


Because of my public email addresses, I am showered with close to 300 spam emails each day.  I started looking for a solution by browsing the web, and came across a wonderful plugin for Microsoft Outlook.  It is called SpamBayes.  It is easy to install and the results are immediate and keep getting better.  After only one day, only occasionally does a SPAM email get through to my inbox.  If they do, you click on a button to label it spam and the tool keeps getting smarter.  Best of all, it’s free.  You can go take a look at it here.


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Sand and Lava Rock, or Just Lava Rock?

The short answer, just lava rock.

Upon reading our installation guides, you will see sand as an optional medium to use over the top of lava rock in order to create a bed for the glass to sit on.  We used to use sand in most installations.  We have moved from that position to recommending the use of lava rock (or pea gravel) only.  Consider the following:

  1. For a fire pit, the lava rock can be brought up until it is level with the ring burner.  There will be no chance of the gas flow being blocked once the sand gets damp from rain.
  2. When the lava rock or pea gravel size is around 1/4 inch, the glass will rest on top of it and won’t trickle down and get mixed with the lava rock.
  3. Not using sand simplifies the installation process by removing one step.
  4. For fireplaces, you need not worry about finding dry sand to use, as sometimes the sand is damp when you purchase it.
  5. Natural gas will flow through the crushed lava rock better than it will flow through dry sand.  It will have a very hard time flowing through wet sand.
  6. There is no concern of crushed lava rock settling/sinking in a fire pit as there is with sand.

Hopefully, this clears up some misunderstandings of the use of sand as your base fill in fire pits or fireplaces.  Feel free to bring on the questions.



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Propane in Fire Pits

Here is a fallacy.

“Natural gas and propane are the same.  A regulator is all you need in order to use propane with a natural gas burner.”

Natural Gas and Propane ARE, in fact, VERY different.  Even more so when using with Aquatic Glassel.  Let me point out a few differences, then leave this open for questions and answers.

Propane is much more difficult to work with versus Natural Gas.  Natural Gas rises where Propane tends to sink.  What does this mean, relating to a fire pit?  If Natural Gas is turned on and not ignited, it will float upward into the air, eventually dissipating and becoming harmless.  Propane, on the other hand, will fill up the pit and overflow onto the ground.  It will create an invisible blanket on the ground, filling up all low lying areas.  Now you can imagine what will happen if it gets ignited!

This brings up the need for a thermocouple.  Since disaster can occur when Propane is left running without being burned up, a thermocouple is used to stop the flow of gas should the flame go out.  A thermocouple detects heat.  When there isn’t enough heat, it will close a valve.  This is a very important safety feature in Propane burner assemblies.  If you plan to build your own Propane burner, you must have a pan under the burner so the Propane will not sink down to low lying areas.  You must also use a thermocouple.  This means you will have to hold a control knob in place when lighting your burner.  When the thermocouple gets hot enough, the valve will stay open and the burner will stay lit.

Natural Gas is normally delivered at a very low pressure, so there is usually no need for a regulator to reduce the pressure before combustion.  Propane is usually stored at a high pressure and needs a regulator to reduce the pressure prior to combustion.  THEN it needs to be mixed with air before entering the burner.

I covered a couple basics.  Let the discussion begin…


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Natural Gas – Interesting Facts About It’s Use

Natural gas is easy to transport and use, and is cheap and clean.  Even though it is more attractive than using coal and oil, it is not the perfect answer to a long term energy solution.

Like oil, natural gas is a product of decomposed organic material.  It is a byproduct of plants and animals that decomposed without the presence of oxygen. As they were covered with sediment they became trapped.  That is why natural gas is called a fossil fuel.

Natural gas is similar to oil, in many ways.  The gas is often found mixed with oil or floating on top of underground pools of oil.  The gas and oil are both extracted by drilling.

Natural gas didn’t used to be regarded as a useful resource and was burned off as it was extracted from the ground.  Imagine that?  It wasn’t until it was regarded as a useful fuel source that pipelines were developed for its transport.

It’s not entirely clear how much natural gas remains in the ground.  As far as experts can tell, there should be a supply of at least 60 years from now.  It is estimated that Russia has vast supplies along with many more undiscovered sources in the world.  This prediction puts the supply out to a couple human lifetimes from now.  Who knows what the world will be like, that far into the future.

Natural gas was first used to provide light for houses and buildings, but it was manufactured from coal and oil. So the construction of pipelines began in the 50s and covered most of the nation by the 80s.  Pipelines are still being added to this day.

Nearly 70% of US homes are heated with natural gas. The best home furnaces are over 90 percent efficient at utilizing the heat from the gas.

Even though natural gas is a fossil fuel and is made mostly of carbon, byproducts from gas are much less than coal or oil. Compared to coal, natural gas produces 43% less carbon byproducts for each unit of energy produced and 30% less than oil. A coal plant produces large amounts of ash where natural gas does not.  However, burning gas still produces nitrogen oxides byproducts, contributing to smog and acid rain.

The natural gas market continues to grow at a rapid pace.  Gas turbines have added to this.  The turbines are less expensive than adding coal plants, for the production of electricity.

A fuel cell is a different approach to turn gas into electricity.  Fuel cells convert natural gas directly into power without combustion.  A molecule of gas is made up of carbon and hydrogen.  When the hydrogen is separated from the carbon and fed into a fuel cell, it combines with oxygen to produce water, electricity and heat. The carbon is released as carbon dioxide, although in much smaller quantities than from gas turbines.

Fuel cells are highly efficient, converting about 60 percent of the gas energy into electricity.  They are totally silent and can be made in different sizes.  They can be made small enough to power a car or large enough to provide electricity, heat and hot water to apartment buildings or factories.

Natural gas in the future may be produced from biomass.  Biomass can be animal waste, sewage or trash.  When these items decay, methane is given off.  The methane can be captured and burned for heat or power.

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The Reasons Why Gas Fireplace Logs Heat Your Chimney Better Than Your Room

Frustrated with the lack of heat you get from your natural gas fireplace log set?  Carl Herkes explains why gas fireplace logs are inefficient.

Natural gas is on the rise.  It is predicted to double in cost this year.  Are you afraid to use your gas fireplace because you know those gas logs don’t throw enough heat?  Are you frustrated because the gas logs are downright ugly when they aren’t burning?  And now you won’t use them because you can’t stand to waste the natural gas?  Let’s face it.  Traditional gas fireplace logs are inefficient.  Let me explain why.

First, much of the gas burns behind the logs.  You don’t see most of the flame and you don’t feel the radiant heat from it.  In order to see a good deal of flame, you must turn the gas much higher than just an idle.  In doing so, you are burning more gas than you should.  This also presents an additional problem.  By-products, mainly in the form of soot are produced.  Not enough oxygen can combine with the natural gas to completely burn it up.  Remember the days when cars were not equipped with catalytic converters?  Remember driving down the road and smelling the exhaust of the cars around you?  That is the smell of gasoline not being completely burned.  The catalytic converter solved that problem.  It gets very hot and helps to burn any leftover gasoline before it exits your exhaust system.  Fireplaces are like cars without catalytic converters.  Soot and other by-products are produced when natural gas is not completely burned.

Secondly, gas fireplace logs have some fill underneath them that is supposed to look like ash from a wood burning fireplace.  That fill substance is usually crushed lava rock.  Lava rock neither retains nor radiates heat.  No doubt, you have seen countless styles of heaters on the market.  Whether electric, natural gas, kerosene or propane, they all share a common feature (with the exception of a few radiator-style heaters).  The heaters all have reflective surfaces around the heating element to better radiate heat into your room.  Those heaters do not have a lava rock lining around the heating element.  Manufacturers know that a reflective surface is the best surface for throwing radiant heat.

Thirdly, the gas logs themselves do not help to drive radiant heat into the room.  The logs do retain heat, but the surface of them (made to look like bark on a tree) is certainly not reflective.  The surface of the logs is usually very rough and starts getting covered with soot the first time they are used.  The soot further inhibits the logs from radiating heat.

In summary, gas fireplace logs are sold because some people would like to see a fire that mimics what a real wood fire looks like.  Often, manufacturers don’t take into account that consumers are only getting half the benefit of having a fire if it’s only visual, but lacks the heat advantage.

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Vent Free, Direct Vent or Fully Vented Fireplaces – How to Choose the Right One

Are you in the process of looking for a new fireplace for your home, but have no clue on what type to get?  In this article three main types of fireplaces will be discussed, and the pros and cons of each.

First, let’s get an understanding of the venting used for each type of fireplace.  The word venting refers to the means the fireplace uses to vent its exhaust safely from the room.  In the case of Vent Free, exhaust is vented directly into the room.  In a Vent Free system, the consumption of gas is limited to a maximum of 40,000 BTU per hour to help prevent the room from being starved of oxygen.  In a Direct Vent system, a double vent pipe is used (pipe within a pipe).  The outer pipe draws fresh air from outside to feed the combustion process while the inner pipe vents out the exhaust from the combustion.  A Fully Vented system, including a B-Vent system, uses either a masonry chimney or a B-Vent (double wall metallic pipe).  Now that we touched on the three primary methods of venting, we can take a closer look at the pros and cons of each.

1. Vent Free – As mentioned, a Vent Free system vents its exhaust directly into the room.  In other words, it does not use a chimney at all.  As you can imagine, this can cause a carbon monoxide concern as this system continuously uses oxygen from the room it’s being used in.  For this reason, Vent Free systems are equipped with an oxygen detection safety pilot which detects when the oxygen level falls below 18%.  If this occurs, the gas will automatically be shut off.  The pros for this type of fireplace?  You can install them almost anywhere in your home.  They are very efficient, meaning you get almost 100% of the heat benefit from the fuel you are burning (the heat is not escaping outdoors).  The downsides of this type of burning system?  You need to buy specific types of burners/log sets specially made for Vent Free systems.  You cannot burn wood in them nor regular vented log sets nor other specialty vented products.  If you have respiratory-related health conditions, you may want to think twice before installing this type of system.

2. Direct Vent – A Direct Vent system pulls fresh air in and sends its exhaust out through a combined flu system.  The flu pipe vents either out of the top or out of the back of the fireplace, for versatility.  The flu pipe generally exits through a side wall in your room.  The positives for this type of fireplace?  No chimney is required, so less expensive to install than a Fully Vented fireplace.  They are highly efficient and may be used as a gas wall furnace.  If you like a fireplace with a sealed fire box (because of children, cats, etc.) this style may work well for you.  The cons?  You can’t burn wood in it.  They require specific types of burners and logs so you cannot use specialty vented products in them.  You are not supposed to burn them without the glass cover attached, as this disrupts the air flow in the balanced vent system.

3. Fully Vented – A Fully Vented system is what most of us think of when we think of a traditional fireplace.  Most of us think of a fireplace having a full chimney (like the kind Santa Claus comes down).  Usually we think of a brick and mortar chimney, but a Fully Vented fireplace can also incorporate a B-Vent flu (a double wall metallic pipe that rises up from the fireplace and out through the roof).  Air for combustion comes from the room.  The upsides of this type of fireplace?  You can burn wood it in.  You can purchase a model that helps to make it more heat efficient by having a fire box float inside a second box so that air can circulate around the fire box and back into the room.  You can burn many kinds of vented fire logs and specialty vented fireplace products in this style of fireplace.  Now the cons.  For a new fireplace installation, you may spend more money having a chimney built than you would with the other styles.  This style is less heat efficient than the other two styles.

Hopefully, you have a much clearer understanding of the three types of fireplaces that were discussed.  After reading the various points on each, you may have very valid reasons for choosing one over the other to suite your needs.  I’m glad this article helped you make this decision.  Personally, I choose Fully Vented because I like the versatility of being able to use this type of fireplace for a number of different products.  New products are coming out all the time and I don’t want to be restricted from using them.  With Fully Vented, you can switch to different types of products as often as you choose.

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