It must be remembered here that the degree of diffusion of the vitiated air into the lower fresh air contained in the remaining 8 feet of the height of the room depends very materially on the difference of temperature between these upper and lower strata and the movements of air in the room. The heavy poisonous vapors and gases fall into and diffuse themselves among the fresh air of the lower strata - very readily if they are nearly the same temperature as the upper, but scarcely at all if the air at the ceiling line is much hotter. Hence it occurs that, in warmed rooms of such size as I have mentioned, where one or two petroleum lamps are used for lighting them, after two or three hours of occupation by a family of three or four persons in winter weather, the air at the ceiling line has become so poisonous that a bird dies if allowed to breathe it for a very short time - sometimes, indeed, for only a few minutes. With candles, if the illumination of the room is maintained at the same degree as in the case of lamps, the contamination of the air is very much worse.
It is doubtless the case that poisonous germs are rapidly developed in atmospheres which are called "stuffy;" and although, in a healthy state of the body, we are able to breathe them without perceptible harm, yet even then the slight headache and uneasiness we feel is a symptom which does not suffer itself to be lightly regarded, whenever, from some cause or other, the general condition is weak.
The products of combustion from coal gas (which are steam and carbonic acid mixed with an infinitesimal quantity of sulphur) are, proportionately, far less injurious to animal life than the products from an equal illuminating power derived from either oil or candles. They are, however, it is certain, destructive to germ life; and therefore, if taken off from the ceiling level, where they always collect if allowed to do so, no possible inconvenience or danger to health can be felt by any one in the room. But in our endeavors to take off the foul air at the ceiling, we encounter our first serious check in all schemes of ventilation. We draw the elevation and section of the room, and put in our flues with pretty little black arrows flying out of the outlets for vitiated air, and other pretty little red arrows flying in at the inlets; but when we see our scheme in practice, the black arrows will persist in putting their wings where their points ought to be; in other words, flying into instead of out of the room.
One of the best ways of finding the true course of all the hot and cold currents in a room is to make use of a small balloon, such as used to be employed for ascertaining the specific gravity of gases; and, having filled it with ordinary coal gas, balance it by weights tied on to the car till it will rest without going up or down in a part of the room where the air can be felt to be at about the mean temperature, and free from draught. Then leave it to itself, to go where it will.
As soon as it arrives in a current of heated air, it will ascend, passing along with the current, and descending or rising as the current is either warm or cold. The effect of the cold fresh air from windows or doors, as well as the effect of the radiant heat from the fire, can be thus thoroughly studied. Some of our pet theories may receive a cruel shock from this experiment; but, in the end, the ventilation of the room will doubtless be benefited, if we apply the information obtained. It will be discovered that the wide-throated chimney is the cause of the little black arrows turning their backs on the right path and our theoretical outlets for vitiated air becoming inlets. The chimney flue must have an enormous supply of air, and it simply draws it from the most easily accessible places. From 1,000 to 2,000 cubic feet of air per hour is a large "order" for a small room. Therefore, until we have made ample provision for the air supply to the fire, it is quite useless to attempt to ventilate the upper part of the room, either by ventilating gas lights or one of the cheap ventilators with little talc flappers, opening into the chimney when there is an up draught, and shutting themselves up when there is any tendency to down draught.
The success of these and all other ventilators depends upon there being a good supply of air from under the door or through the spaces round the window frames. These fresh air supplies are, of course, unendurable; but if one of the spaces between the joists of the floor is utilized to serve as an air conduit, and made to discharge itself under the fender (raised about two inches for the purpose), quite another state of things will be set up. Then the supply of air thus arranged for will satisfy the fire, without drawing from the doors and windows, and at the same time supply a small quantity of fresh air into the room. But the important fact that the radiant heat from the fire will pass through the cold air without warming it all must not be lost sight of. In reality, radiant heat only warms the furniture and walls of the room or whatever intercepts its rays. The air of the room is warmed by passing over these more or less heated surfaces; and as it is warmed, it rises away to the ceiling. Therefore, if we desire to warm any of this fresh air supplied to the fire, it must be made to pass over a heated surface. The fender may be used for this purpose by filling up the two inch space along the front, as shown in the drawing, with coarse perforated metal.
This will also prevent cinders from getting under it. It will be found that for the greater part of the year the chimney ventilator and the supply to the fire will materially prevent "stuffiness," and keep those disagreeable draughts under control, even although the room be lighted with a 3 light chandelier burning a large quantity of gas.