Franklin Stove – Design, Efficiency & Modifications

Ever heard of the Franklin stove? If you’ve spent a considerable amount of time studying fireplace history, then it’s likely you’ve come across related information.

This is an invention that dates as far back as 1742 (June 11th to be precise).

While this may sound too old for some, it birthed the concept and idea of making advanced and more efficient chimney stoves. The Franklin stove was birthed to fit inside a fireplace and it was the first of its kind.

Want to learn more? All you need to do is read on.

What Brought About the Franklin Stove Design?

One of the things that remain constant with humans is the need to explore.

There’s a drive to innovate or bring up better ideas to solve our everyday needs. Franklin stove was the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin who sought to find a more ergonomic and practical modification to traditional fireplaces.

Traditional fireplaces used for heating had lots of issues with efficiency.

First off, quite a lot of heat was lost while using the fireplace. Most of this heat went up the chimney. This created inefficiency as the aim was to retain heat while expelling hot gases and smoke from combustive action.

Before we provide further details about the Franklin stove, it’s necessary to first discuss the inefficiency of traditional fireplaces. This should help you better appreciate the Franklin stove invention.

  • About Traditional Fireplaces

During the 1700s and earlier, fireplaces weren’t as efficient as they are today.

Now, it’s important to note that the term “efficient” is relative. This is because the general understanding people have about fireplaces today is that they’re inefficient.

Despite the inefficiencies of fireplaces today, they performed better than those in the 1700s and earlier. Due to inefficiency, a significant amount of heat was lost as it went up the chimney.

Also, more wood or fuel was needed to warm a home.

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Basis Of Invention

With the flaws of traditional fireplaces exposed, it’s easier to see why someone like Benjamin Franklin brought about the concept of the Franklin stove. So far, we’ve not been specific about the features of this stove.

We needed to lay the groundwork for better understanding.

  • Basic Design of the Franklin Stove

Franklin stove came up as an unpatented invention where a cast-iron box was designed to fit perfectly into a fireplace. This enclosure designed for combustion had a baffle system that enhanced combustion.

There were iron plates within these baffles that were built for heat retention. When these plates became heated, the heat retained was gradually released throughout the day.

Did Franklin Stove Serve Its Purpose?

It did! The Franklin stove largely worked well and helped revolutionize chimney systems. The chimney stoves used today are an offshoot of the innovative work of Benjamin Franklin.

However, present-day chimney stoves have greater combustion efficiencies in addition to overall performance.

One of the basic flaws of the Franklin stove was the smoke outtake. This was located at the bottom of the stove instead of being at the top where it was supposed to be. Smoke rises or moves upward and not downward.

So, it wasn’t surprising that such smoke remained for longer periods within the Franklin stove before it got dispelled. Asides from this basic flaw, the Franklin stove worked pretty fine.

Today, it serves as a reference point when discussing the invention of chimney stoves.


The Franklin stove was brought to life as a better alternative to traditional fireplaces. So, was it any better in terms of efficiency? A little bit! Compared to the fireplace, Franklin stoves generated more heat.

As a matter of fact, there was too much heat produced that it easily posed a fire risk.

However, other inefficiencies like opening the stove while it was used was a thing. What more? A lot of firewood was needed to sustain the fire. Nevertheless, this consumed lesser firewood than traditional fireplaces.

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Does A Franklin Stove Have Any Use Today?

Today, Franklin stoves are seen as basically outdated. There are more superior designs today that are much better. Newer designs are known to have greater efficiencies that trounce those of Franklin stoves by a large margin.

So, the basic answer is; Franklin stoves have no use today in terms of heating. However, these would better serve as ornamental planters than for any other use.

Franklin Stove Modifications

As expected, there were attempts at improving this invention with the most notable improvement being in 1780.

David Rittenhouse is credited with making basic improvements such as adding an L-shaped flue to help vent out smoke. This smoke was supposed to flow out the chimney.

It was such modifications that steadily improved the Franklin stove design.

We have these processes to thank for the more sophisticated designs available today. Franklin stoves have since been modified to serve as inserts that burn all sorts of fuels.

Most of the credit should go to Benjamin Franklin who graciously declined to patent his work. Today, we all have him to thank for significant gains made on fireplace stoves and inserts.

Lesser Dependence on Firewood

Today, there’s a gradual shift from firewood burning stoves to other more sustainable and less expensive alternatives. Gas, pellets, and electric stoves are being used widely today.

However, this isn’t to say that firewood stoves are phased out completely. Far from it! Firewood is still used as a burning fuel to this day.

The invention of Franklin stoves and subsequent improvements have given rise to present-day fireplace stoves and inserts. Although these are far more efficient compared to Franklin stoves, they’re available today because Benjamin Franklin decided not to patent his innovation.

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