So I thought that a fire was a fire, no matter where you live in the world. Turns out I was wrong.
Kemlan Industries are an Queensland based fireplace manufacturer, and they’ve been producing fireplaces specifically for Australians & Australian conditions since 1969. But what does that actually mean? And what’s so special about Australian conditions? Read on – it’s a lot!
I spoke with James Kearsley from Kemlan Industries, James is the Head of R&D and Product Development, and it was fascinating to learn the kind of considerations that go into designing and making a top selling slow combustion fireplace.
Let’s wind the clock back to 1969 – Rob Kempson & Doug Lange in true entrepreneurial style set up shop in a garage and created an on trend (for the time!) beaten copper fireplace.
What’s more interesting though, are the challenges they were trying to solve in creating a fire that suited Queensland and inland Australian conditions.
And whilst we are definitely not the coldest place on the planet, they are some differences in Australia that mean we have some fairly specific requirements of our fireplaces. These are things like:
• Large overnight temperature variations
• The way our homes are built
• Our wood
• …and even, our national character!!
Design features especially for Australia
While there are lots of fireplaces designed & built by the Europeans and North Americans that work very well for their conditions, things are a little different here.
Our daytime and nighttime temperatures vary much more widely than those in the Northern Hemisphere. This means that when it starts to get cold at the end of the day, we need our fireplaces to light quickly and heat up quickly. This is different to a lot of European products that are designed to give out a consistent low, slow heat, over a sustained period of time.
The standard to which Australian homes are constructed also varies widely, but it’s fair to say that a lot of our housing stock is poorly insulated. As a result they do require a significant amount of heat generated by the fireplace to keep the house at a comfortable overnight temperature.
Add to this, for most Australian homes, the slow combustion fireplace will be the primary heater, rather than being in addition to hydronic, ducted, underfloor heating or some other kind of house wide heating, as it is in other parts of the world. Plus our homes are generally larger, and recently there has been a trend towards open plan home design.
Contrast this with European trends where fireplaces are designed to be supplementary heat, so they are often taller, with a compact footprint, producing less heat output, from a small chamber, and all suited to heating a smaller room quickly, and for short period of time.
It becomes pretty obvious that what we Australians need/expect from a slow combustion fireplace is quite different to other markets – easy & fast lighting, quick heat up times, and to be the primary heat source.
The type of wood makes a difference
Oh, and we haven’t covered wood yet. The majority of the wood burnt in the Northern Hemisphere is soft wood, which is easier to light, gives out more heat than our hard woods, but burns for a shorter period of time.
Plus, apparently we Australians don’t like chopping wood into small pieces! Or maybe because the bulk of our wood comes from hard wood trees, it’s just too hard to! The result is we look for fireplaces that have bigger fireboxes that will comfortably take larger sized pieces of wood.
And – did I mention that we also like to see big flames?
As James explains, “It’s like an insight into our national character – we’re not fans of chopping wood, we like to burn big bits of hardwoods in square, easy to load fireboxes, and for our slow combustion stoves - to light easily, heat up fast and have burn times that are longer.”
And right there you’ve got the brief that Kemlan fireplaces are designed and built to.
Built in Australia, for Australian conditions!
And for the past forty years, that’s the market that Kemlan have been building fireplaces for, all the time pushing their product design to be better. They are still a family business, with fourteen people working on the factory floor in Queensland.
Their newest range of products feature more linear products – a bigger flame viewing area, in that wide landscape shape. Plus longer burn times and double sided units. Kemlan wood heaters are available in Victoria from Jetmaster Heat & Glo, Richmond.
We hope you found this article helpful. If you are ready to find your perfect fireplace, then be sure to check out our range.
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