Home Lifestyle The Fireplace Effect: Exposure to Firelight Improves Health and Wellness

The Fireplace Effect: Exposure to Firelight Improves Health and Wellness

New studies commissioned by Napoleon find a fireplace can help reduce stress and improve brain function

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A fireplace creates instant ambiance in any room, but new research indicates they are also good for your health and mental wellness.

Two studies, one conducted by the University of Alabama and the other by the University of Illinois in partnership with Napoleon — a leading manufacturer of gas, electric and wood fireplaces — found that the presence of an electric fireplace in a room significantly reduced both the heart rate and the blood pressure of the people in that room, and also increased cognitive ability.

“Of the four natural elements of our world – earth, air, water, and fire – everyone who owns a home has an opportunity to experience the first three on a daily basis,” says Chris Schroeter, co-Chief Executive Officer at Napoleon. “But how many people are living without fire? We partnered with these research universities to see if fire could be the missing link between the home and health and wellness. We had no idea that what we’d discover could actually change what we know about aging and impact the future in such a big way.”

The first study, which took place during fall of 2022 at the University of Alabama, tested whether an electric fireplace could induce physical relaxation. To establish an electric fireplace as an effective tool for relaxation, 226 unassuming adults were asked to spend 15 minutes in two different rooms. The rooms were exactly the same with one exception: an electric fireplace. Participants wore a simple heart rate monitor and pre- and post-test blood pressures were compared.

The study found that 15 minutes in front of a fireplace can significantly decrease both heart rate and blood pressure. The results indicate that a fireplace could be used as an effective in-home amenity to combat feelings of stress, which can lead to enhanced well-being and improved health.

The second study, in the fall of 2022 at the University of Illinois, tested whether an electric fireplace could support wellbeing by creating environments that bolster enrichment seeking in adults aged 50 or older. Those who seek out and engage in novel, intellectually challenging or socially complex activities tend to also maintain higher cognitive and socioemotional well-being as they age. Therefore, enrichment seeking is important for health and well-being, but it must be nurtured.

Sixty adults played a game in high pressure/no pressure conditions with and without a fireplace. Participants in the room with a fireplace saw a 12 per cent improvement in cognitive ability (as measured by game performance) and their adaptivity to enrichment seeking increased. The results provide evidence that adding a fireplace to a home environment nurtures curiosity and openness to new ideas, thereby supporting health and wellbeing as people age.

“Stress-related disorders are among the leading causes of disability in the modern era and pose significant economic impacts worldwide,” says Garry Scott, Vice President of Marketing at Napoleon, “This study proves that fire can not only feel relaxing, it can also physically reduce stress. In essence, a fireplace is more than just a fireplace. It’s not just a source of warmth or nostalgia. It’s a beacon of health and wellbeing in the home.”

When the global pandemic hit and new normals took their toll, daily stress and anxiety were on a universal rise. From that, topics such as mental health and wellness — particularly in the home—emerged as a new priority for people. This trend has become an enduring shift in people’s priorities.

“For builders, architects, and designers who are on the front lines of consumer requests for wellness in the home — including spa like bathrooms, outdoor oases or indoor gyms — this research supports that adding a fireplace can help provide yet another positive health experience in the home,” adds Schroeter. “And not just in the living room, but any room. No matter where your ‘happy place’ is in your home, a fireplace, including an electric fireplace, has the capacity to transform any space into a sanctuary and encourage healthy aging.”

Learn more about the research and its impact by visiting Napoleon’s website or clicking here.