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furnace, enclosed space for the burning of fuel. There are many kinds of furnaces, the type depending upon the fuel and the use to which the heat produced within it is put. Most familiar are the furnaces used in the heating of buildings. In the hot-air furnace, fuel is burned within an inner wall and air, led into a space between the inner and the outer wall, is heated and is led away to the various rooms of the building. Hot-water furnaces, by which water is heated to be led through pipes to radiators, and furnaces that turn water to steam for heating purposes are common. The kiln is a kind of furnace. In metallurgy, the separation of many metals from their ores is accomplished by the use of various kinds of furnaces, e.g., the blast furnace and the reverberatory furnace. The structure of these furnaces makes possible a good control of temperature. In the production of steel, however, the open-hearth furnace and the Bessemer converter are used in the treatment of cast iron. The electric furnace is extensively employed in the production of high-grade steels for use in making steel alloys and for the manufacture of high-speed tools. Heat may be generated in such a furnace by using an electric arc or by sending an electric current through resistive elements in the furnace. If the material to be processed is electrically conductive, heat may also be generated by creating an electric current in the material by induction or by inserting into it electrodes to which a voltage is applied. In the preparation of phosphorus from calcium phosphate, this compound of phosphorus is mixed with sand and coke and treated in an electric furnace. An electric current is sent from one electrode to another through the mass to create the extremely high temperature needed to bring about the chemical action that results in the production of free phosphorus. Graphite is produced from coal or coke in an electric furnace, and the extremely hard substance carborundum is made there by the combination of carbon and silicon (from sand). Nitrogen is obtained from the air (in the Birkeland-Eyde process) by passing a stream of air through an arc. The nitrogen and oxygen of the air combine to form nitric oxide.
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System used to heat air for a forced-air heating system. Furnaces can be gas-fired, oil-fired, wood-fired, or electric.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a structure in which heat, evolved as a result of the combustion of fuel or the conversion of electrical energy, is used for the thermal processing of materials and workpieces or for heating. Steam boilers, agglomerators, and certain electrical heating devices and other heating units (for example, a catalytic reaction furnace), which essentially meet the above definition have not traditionally been considered as furnaces. On the other hand, complex units for thermal or thermochemical treatment of metal items, in which the item is not only heated and maintained at a given temperature but also cooled (in a different section of the unit) to a certain temperature at a controlled rate, are called furnaces. The stack annealing furnace is an example of such a complex furnace unit.

In addition to their many industrial uses, furnaces are used in homes for heating and, in the form of stoves, for baking and other kinds of cooking.

The major parts of a furnace are the heat generator, which is a section of the furnace or a device in which heat is evolved; the working chamber, which holds the material or workpieces to be processed; and the cooling chamber (in units for thermal or thermochemical processing), for cooling the items. Processing furnaces must also have devices for fuel or electrical power supply and outlets for the combustion products, as well as feed and transport mechanisms to move items through the furnace and then to remove them. Other major components include systems for automatic control of the furnace operation, structural members (base, supportive framework, servicing platforms), and devices such as recuperators and regenerators for using the heat of the fuel combustion products.

Depending on the type of furnace, the heat generators and the cooling chambers may be structurally separate from the working chamber, as is the case with furnaces that have external fireboxes. However, in most modern furnaces, these sections are integrated with the working chamber. In some furnaces, such as induction furnaces, the heat is generated in the heated item itself. Heating furnaces have no working chamber at all, as the heat evolved in these furnaces is transferred to the heated space.

Furnaces are extremely varied in design and operation, using all types of fuel, electrical power, and solar energy. The operating temperature in furnaces may range from 100° to 5000°C. There is no generally accepted classification of furnaces. Furnaces may be divided into the two broad classes of industrial and lighter-duty furnaces.

Industrial furnaces may be classified according to their function. Furnaces for the removal of moisture are divided into drying furnaces for solid materials (lumber, molds, hides, and ceramic items) and evaporation furnaces, or evaporators, for solutions. Evaporators are used in the food-processing and chemical industries. Heating furnaces are designed for heating materials or workpieces without changing their state of aggregation. Furnaces of this type are used, for example, to heat metal prior to pressure shaping in metallurgy and machine building. Heat-treating furnaces are used for imparting new mechanical properties to materials and workpieces. They are used, for example, for the thermal and thermochemical treatment of rolled products in metallurgy and for processing items in machine building. Roasting furnaces are used in processing mineral raw materials (ores, clay, and limestone) in order to change the structure and chemical composition of these minerals prior to subsequent treatment. Roasting furnaces are also used for roasting items made of these raw materials, including construction and fire-resistant materials, clay and porcelain goods, and enameled metal items.

Smelting furnaces of various types are used for converting materials to the liquid state by heating them above their melting point. Thus, water-jacketed furnaces are used to produce metals from ores; open-hearth and two-bath furnaces are used in the smelting of steel and nonferrous metals in foundry production, and for fusing various materials. Furnaces for the decomposition and sublimation of materials, usually with changes in the state of aggregation, are used in the dry distillation of fuels for producing coke and charcoal. (The furnace that produces coke is called a coke oven.) They are also used in the sublimation of volatile metals, the cracking of petroleum, and many processes in the chemical industry. Included among the classes of lighter-duty furnaces is the large group of heating stoves. Many lighter-duty stoves, and especially the larger varieties of, for example, baking and confectionery ovens, are essentially industrial furnaces, and they may also be found under this classification.

Based on the method of heating, a distinction is made between fired and electrical furnaces. Fired furnaces are heated by some type of fuel. They are divided into direct-heating and indirect-heating. In the former (continuous and shaft furnaces), fuel combustion products come into contact with the heated material or workpiece. In the latter, heat from the combustion process is transferred to the heated material or workpiece through a wall of radiant tubes of muffles or, in several cases, through liquids (tank furnace).

Electric furnaces are divided into resistance furnaces, in which electric current is passed either through the item itself or through electrical heating resistances located in the furnace; induction furnaces; and arc furnaces, in which heat is evolved in an electric arc.

A distinct group is formed by furnaces with special types of heating, such as plasma-arc furnaces, electron-beam furnaces, and optical furnaces (including solar furnaces).

Industrial furnaces are also classified according to their heat exchange processes. A distinction is made between furnaces with radiant heat exchange (for example, open-hearth and continuous furnaces), furnaces is which heat exchange occurs mainly through convection (low-temperature heaters and driers), and furnaces with a layer mode of operation, in which the material being processed is a fixed or movable layer (shaft and fluidized-bed furnaces). In furnaces that process materials in layers, radiation and convection are usually of equal importance.

Furnaces are also classified according to such other features as the method of moving the heated items (conveyor furnace, roller hearth furnace, pusher furnace, drawing furnace, and walking hearth furnace) and design features (rotary furnace, Hoffman rotary-ring furnace, and bell furnace). They are also classified according to modes of heating and temperature control (continuous furnace, chamber furnace, and reverberatory, indirect heating furnace). Some furnaces, such as the Martin open-hearth furnace and the Siemens furnace, are known by the names of their inventors.


Glinkov, M. A. Osnovy obshchei teorii pechei, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1962.
Spravochnik konstruktora pechei prokatnogo proizvodstva. Edited by V. M. Tymchak. Moscow, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


An apparatus in which heat is liberated and transferred directly or indirectly to a solid or fluid mass for the purpose of effecting a physical or chemical change.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. That part of a boiler or warm-air heating plant in which combustion takes place.
2. A complete heating unit for transferring heat from fuel being burned to the air supplied to a heating system.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


an enclosed chamber in which heat is produced to generate steam, destroy refuse, smelt or refine ores, etc.
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The use of heat pumps on the exhaust air allowed cooling the discharged air at very low temperatures all year-round, ensuring maximum heat recovery and, therefore, rejection in the incoming outdoor airflow as well as elimination of reheat by electric heaters. Furthermore, by cooling the exhaust air at these low temperatures, it allows the recovery of latent energy by condensing the humidity present in the airflow, which was not possible with the heat pipe alone.
* Ceramic beaters are small portable electric heaters that use a ceramic disk heating element.
Reset the thermostat, in electric heaters, by pressing the reset button on the control unit and setting the correct temperature, using a screwdriver to do so.
Electric heaters and thermostats are available at electrical supply stores and many home centers.
"Portable electric heaters are devices not meant to be used that way for 24/7 [hours and days]," said Plank.
Installation for two electric heaters starts around $150 to $400.
"It was quite an intensive fire and it looks like it was caused by a small electric heater in the bedroom which was near to some flammable items.
She added that the council deemed that Mr Wright had heating, thanks to the electric heater, and that when the engineer left the property on December 23 hot water was running.
The Chinese-made electric heater is manufactured by Ningbo Aun Electric Appliance Co Ltd, type NSB100E1, and imported by Andreas Charalambous Electric Goods Ltd.
A DOG was rescued after an electric heater sparked a fire in a Saltburn bungalow.
West Yorkshire Fire Service said the 85-year-old man was rescued from an address in the Kirkstall area of Leeds after a fire broke out which is thought to have been caused by an electric heater left too close to a settee.