With the weather changing and starting to cool off in the afternoons, you might be facing the same dilemma as I do. Should I really turn my furnace on…just to knock the chill off the room? I think it is still too early to fire up that monster in my basement, so I’d like to recommend some options and talk about the various types of fireplaces you could add to a room and the considerations you should consider before purchasing. Before we go indoors, I would like to spend some time talking about my favorite type and place to enjoy a fire.
I’m a wood burner at heart, and there are few things I enjoy more than the smell of a nice pinon fire outdoors during the fall and spring. The sound of the crackling fire as well as the hypnotic effect of watching the flames dance around the fire is much needed escape from the hectic schedule my wife and I keep. We spend so much time running kids to and from practices that we need the time to slow down. We will sit down outside under the stars, with a good red wine, and unwind to the sound and sights of a wood fire. If you don’t have a wood burning fireplace outdoors, you can always add a metal fire pit to your concrete patio. I’ve had several over the years but the one I am currently using and like the best for outdoors are the stainless-steel portable fire pits. They are lightweight, portable, and they don’t rust. Make sure you buy the stainless-steel versions to fit the rust! It’s worth the extra $$$ to have it last forever. If you start a fire early enough and allow the first batch of wood to burn down to hot embers, you might be pleasantly surprised by the amount of radiant heat it produces.
As much as I love the wood fire, we do not burn wood inside our home. While I’ve mentioned why I love a wood fire so much outdoors, it’s the smell and ash that I do not want inside my home. For us, gas fireplaces are the way to go. Specifically, the direct vent gas fireplaces. For those not familiar with the various gas fireplaces, our sales staff at Fireplace & BarBQ Center, Inc. would love to show you the differences. We have a very detailed .pdf file on our website under our gas log section. Here are the “cliff notes” version of that same sheet:
- Vented gas logs: The perfect wood substitute because it gives you the look and hypnotic effect of a real wood flame without the mess. The downside is that they are the least efficient in terms of heat (still better than wood).
- Radiant gas logs: Think of these as a “hybrid” gas log in terms of looks and efficiency. They utilize specialized fiber materials to radiate more heat into the room. They also burn about ½ the gas the vented versions do (so they don’t look as good).
- Vent-free gas logs: These are the most efficient log type for someone that has a regular wood burning fireplace. They burn 1/3 of the gas compared to the vented type (they don’t look as good). More importantly, because they don’t produce carbon monoxide, you don’t have to open your vent/damper all the way like the other two options. Most people still find that you need it to open just a little to get rid of the smell and water vapor associated with burning gas.
- Direct vent fireplaces: These are my favorite because they combine the best of both worlds. They burn 1/3 of the gas as vented, are completely sealed/air-tight, and can be turned on with the push of a button. These are quick and easy to light and highly efficient due to their outside air intake system. They also happen to be the most expensive option.
Another reason for a fireplace might be an emergency, back-up heat source. As municipalities are being pushed harder toward electric heat, I worry that the grid can handle the load. All the above fireplaces can be operated in the event of a power outage. Keep in mind that we did not mention Pellet fireplaces. We had one on display years ago and we found it to be high-maintenance (augers/fans/clinkers/etc.) and inoperable during power outages.
Any of these above options are great solutions to knock the chill off the room on the slightly cooler evenings or early mornings that we have during the fall. Often, I just open the blinds in the rooms I want to warm up but sometimes that just isn’t enough. I tend to be reluctant this time of year to turn the gas on because my thermostat is still set to “cool”. IF I forget to turn the gas fireplace off, I might end up heating and cooling at the same time! An option for this “in between” time that we haven’t talked about are the electric fireplaces.
I do have an electric fireplace in our basement, mainly to keep the kids’ toes warm when the play their video games. Electric is not a bad option as an interim, but I haven’t found the heating ability to be worth the cost of electricity during the colder months. Another reason why electric might be an attractive option, is that they pose no burn risk. Most electric fireplaces are using internal LED strips to emulate the flame. Kids can get as close to “fire” as they want and not burn themselves.
Heating abilities are the main reasons I always think about when I envision a fireplace in a room. I must admit that as much as I get caught up in the BTUs, efficiency ratings, fan speeds, and framing dimensions, some people just want the look. More often than not, looks might be the MOST important thing. If your fireplace is going to be more art than heat…you really want to spend some time researching the looks. Quite often homeowners come into our shop and want us to make their existing fireplace look better. Unfortunately, the only remedy to a “builder grade” fireplace is to remove it from the wall and replace it with a better-looking unit. If you are looking for a visual upgrade to your fireplace, PLEASE spend time looking at the new unit either on the showroom floor or YouTube videos from other dealers. I would caution you against relying solely on one source. Gas fireplaces can be “tweaked” to look a certain way OR (depending on showroom limitations) not look as good on a showroom floor. Comparing multiple images and our videos is the best way to get the true feel of what your fireplace will look like before it’s too late.
We hope you find the above information helpful. Our team at Fireplace & BarBQ Center would love to share their experiences and preferences for various fireplace options with you. Our non-commissioned (harder to find these days) employees are happy to answer all questions you might have.