WilkeningThis company only makes a couple styles of doors, but they are each designed to be very airtight. Where the majority of available fireplace doors fit pretty well and greatly reduce room air managing to go up the chimney, these are designed to eliminate that completely. This may or may not be an important consideration for you. It seems that most people do NOT need this characteristic, which allows the extremely wide range of door appearances (our 2,000+ choices are a good start!) Those "standard" fireplace doors do not have any gasketing around the movable door sections. Depending on the quality of construction (you can read that "price"!) some amount of room air manages to leak into the fireplace and goes up the chimney. At mass marketers, they sell VERY cheap doors, which generally fit very poorly, which often allows a lot of such leakage. We like to think that ALL of the doors that we handle are of a sufficient quality level so that such leakage is minimal. But, without gaskets, no matter how excellently the glass panels and doors are aligned, it cannot be zero.
For the majority of houses, this is not a real problem. ALL houses have something called "infiltration" where outside air leaks INTO a house, usually near ground level. Even if a house does not have a fireplace, that incoming air forces out some heated air out around upstairs windows, kitchen ventilators, etc. A fireplace chimney just represents an alternate (and easier) path for that air to leave the house. That's the argument why it may NOT be necessary to get AIRTIGHT doors such as Wilkening's.
There are also arguments FOR getting them! Some newer homes have been built SOOOO tight that infiltration has virtually been eliminated. In such houses, assuming a fireplace was allowed by local building codes, when a fireplace tries to operate, there is no available source of infiltration air to replace smoke that needs to go up the chimney. The house could regularly or occasionally fill with smoke! Bummer! And it's not even the fault of the fireplace or the chimney! If insufficient infiltration air is available, it can actually be the house's fault!
Some builders in the 1980s had very bad experiences about this! It soon became standard to require that a fireplace in such a house had its own separate air source, through a tube or tunnel from outdoors. Such a fireplace does not have to rely on house infiltration to work properly. It represented a seeming solution.
But such super-tight houses have other problems. With essentially no infiltration, no house air can ever leave either. If someone smokes a cigarette in the house, the smoke remains for a very, very long time. Ditto, for any other smells or airborne particles. This issue started an IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) movement where people started realizing that many of those super-tight houses contain extremely polluted air in them! Older houses had a lot of infiltration, where smells or other pollutants soon escaped out of the house, and these problems never existed.
Legislators soon went crazy! All kinds of IAQ laws and building code rules were passed, even when minimal data had been available. Some modern super-tight houses are now required to have windows that have PERMANENT holes in their frames! It's as if the windows are permanently open a little! Seems to us to somewhat defeat all the expensive super-tight technologies! Some super-tight houses are now required to have motorized air exhausters. This is a truly stupid type of law, as it always keeps a house at a slight vacuum! (Regarding a fireplace, air gets sucked DOWN a chimney and through fireplace doors, bringing fireplace smells into the house!) Others now have to have motorized air pressurizers, so the owner gets to pay for the electricity for that (expensive) device. Ahhh! Modern advanced technologies! Expensive, super-tight construction methods and materials! (Sorry for the editorial!)
In any case, there are probably three arguments for getting airtight
Now, if energy efficiency is seen as an important consideration, it really isn't, at least as compared to decently fitting non-airtight doors. A non-super-tight house is going to have a limited amount of infiltration anyway, so you will not be able to avoid losing a little heated air around windows and such. As long as your fireplace's throat damper fits tightly, and a doorset is of decent quality, the amount of "wasted" house air should be very minimal when the doors are closed. In the one minute you have them open, while starting the fire or tending it, more air probably goes up and out than during the other three hours of the doors being closed! Airtightness of doors loses much of its economic advantage!
Now you know the main arguments for and against buying airtight doors. Wilkening's products are very good, and the seal extremely well. If you're going airtight, we think they are the way to go!
In general, we don't think this is necessarily an advantage when combined with a JUCA fireplace, but they ARE compatible with JUCA units. This means that for areas where the local building codes require absolute separation of house air and the air used for the fire, this type of door should be used and COMBINED with JUCA's OUTSIDE COMBISTION AIR provision option.
We have had relatively little interaction with this company, because, so far, few customers have chosen to get Wilkening doors as part of their JUCA F-9A built-in Fireplace, or as separate doors. We have gotten complaints from customers.
We have been told that Wilkening went bankrupt and is no longer in business.
E-mail to: JDoor1@mb-soft.com
The JUCA Home Page is at: http://mb-soft.com/juca/index.html