This week the name of the game was research. Identifying needs customers/users have, related to our subtheme (known or unknown by the person(s)).
There are plenty of different areas to focus on within the fireplace sub-category. Consumer products, residential fireplaces, outdoor fireplaces, or custom/industrial fireplaces. I took some pictures and collected information through interviews on a little bit of everything and was able to glean a few problems.
My first stop to find information about consumer fireplaces, was the home depot in the quarry.
Interestingly, the only fireplaces this location sold were electric fireplaces and miscellaneous fireplace accessories (duraflame, lighters, screens, firewood, etc.). I interviewed Dave and Michelle of the gardening section, and they shared with me that fireplaces generally don't sell at this location. They couldn't really give me a reason why and kept saying "the further you go out, the more likely you are to see whole fireplaces selling". Last year, this home depot location tried to sell fireplaces but due to a lack of sales, they stopped the gas fireplace line.
I took a closer look at some of the fireplaces in the store and the one below is literally a flat screen!
Some people I talked to in passing about this assignment actually have a brick fireplace, but because their land lord doesn't want to pay for cleaning the chimney they just watch a flame flickering on a cable TV channel! (Also, can you spot the purple orb in the photo? Spooky...)
I called a chiropractor from my hometown that I vaguely knew. I knew he is a big gopher fan and my original intent for the interview was to talk about how he stays warm during a tailgate. I started to ask some questions related to tailgating, and it turns out he just shivers and layers up to stay warm. No heat source! He did say he got a chance to sit by a sunflower heater that attaches to a propane tank and it was quite pleasant. I have experience with these heaters, using the during ice fishing, hunting, or camping trips.
I pivoted the conversation towards his personal fireplace in his home. Because him and his wife aren't home during the day he keeps the furnace temperature low and turns on the fireplace when he needs a little extra heat at night or in the morning. This means when waking up or getting home at night the house is just a little more cool than normal. He mentioned a couple issues he has noticed since moving into his house a year and a half ago.
- The fireplace dries the air quicker than with it off.
- He felt conflicted on what to do during the summer about his pilot light running. He wanted to turn it off but heard it would cause rusting damage to the pipes.
At the end of the interview he mentioned he bought a portable fireplace but because he lives in a town house and took a lot of work to set up he only used it once.
THE COMMONS HOTEL
My last stop was the commons hotel on campus. Why? They have just went through a renovation and have two new, custom fireplaces.
The picture above is the outdoor fireplace near the entrance of the hotel.
The two pictures above show the indoor fireplace. It large and a focal point of the entire lobby. It has a massive hood that captures excess heat and smoke.
I interviewed the general manager and onsite engineer for a while about the two fireplaces. At a high level, they didn't have much say in the design or placement of the two products. But they shared a couple issues with me.
When they initially installed the indoor fireplace, it had a bad gas valve that blew and needed to be replaced.
The wind causes the flames to blow out and when they initially setup the fireplace they had to tweak the system to increase gas flow and get the flames as high as possible. When the flames blow out the system knows to shut itself down and restart but if it happens often enough the engineer has to manually reset the fireplace in order to get it operating efficiently again.
Both fireplaces in the hotel did not have a pilot light, rather an electric start.
THE RECREATION CENTER
I just observed the fireplace in the new recreational center on campus. The flame was off and not being used. The structure of the window panes intrigued me, though.
As you can see above, the fireplace has two solid window panes of glass separating the flame and the outside world. Why? Is this for protection? No one at the rec center had any answers for me.
MCNAMARA ALUMNI CENTER
The general manager at The Commons mentioned McNamara had a lot of issues with their water and fire setup. I went to do a little investigating.
McNamara has a beautiful fireplace in the lobby adjacent the their main event venue, seen below:
And then upclose, you can see a gross line of white caulk that seals the fireplace between the narrow band of water and the base of the fireplace:
Pretty gross! I haven't gotten to the bottom of why that needs to be there yet, but because I work in the building I will be able to dig into it.
1. Nick Johnson, a residential fireplace owner, needs a way to moisten the air because when he runs his fireplace the air becomes drier, faster.
2. McNamara Alumni Center needs a way to seal the fireplace water tight because water spills over the edge of the barrier between the fireplace and the moat causing failures in the fireplace.