There’s little doubt why fireplaces are such a popular feature in homes. They conjure up thoughts of a warm and cozy home on a chilly night. But what is the best choice of fireplace? Should you go with a classic wood-burning hearth? Or do you prefer the cleaner, more modern gas logs? What about ethanol or electric fire sources? Let’s take a look at the choices.
Wood-burning fireplaces. In many people’s minds, there’s nothing like the allure of crackling flames, snapping embers and that unmistakable smell of a wood-burning fireplace. Consider purchasing a glass front to prevent the warm room air from being drawn up the chimney. A wood fire requires physical labor. Be prepared to cut your own wood or buy it and haul it home. You’ll also need a place on your property to store the wood. And don’t forget about the inevitable mess of ashes.
Gas and gas-log fireplaces. Gas can be used as the starter fuel in wood-burning fireplaces, or realistic-looking ceramic logs can be installed in a fireplace. Gas burns cleaner than wood and is almost maintenance free. Once the pilot light is lit, most gas logs turn on with the flip of a nearby switch. Gas fireplaces should be serviced annually by a professional to make sure there are no issues with the gas connection and to clean out any dust or debris buildup inside the unit.
Ethanol fireplaces. One of the newest types of fireplaces is the ethanol-burning fireplace. It burns with a blue flame, which is a sign of its efficiency. However, ethanol doesn’t put out as much heat as other fuels.
Electric fireplaces. Technically, this is not a fireplace since no fire is produced. An electric coil is heated for warmth, and simulated flames are displayed. This is an alternative in a home where no venting from burning fuel is possible.
A wood or pellet stove. A less costly alternative to fireplaces is a wood- or pellet-burning stove. The pellets are compressed wood or biomass products. These stoves come in beautiful styles and colors, many of which have a glass front so the fire is visible. They generate a lot of heat, requiring a masonry base and a heat shield for the nearest wall. It also needs a vent pipe to exit through the wall or ceiling to the outside.
Regardless of the type of fire source you choose, safety should be paramount. Keep in mind that fuel burning gases must be vented to the outside. Also be mindful when young children are in the home.