Finding the Perfect Fireplace for Your Home Finding the Perfect Fireplace for Your Home

A warm fireplace increases the appeal of any room. When designing your new home, use fireplaces as eye-catching and relaxing focal points.

Fireplaces serve as centerpieces of many restful retreats. Whether you kick back with the paper in front of a flickering fire, gather the family around a crackling blaze or celebrate the warming effects of a cozy fire with an intimate friend, few would deny that a fireplace increases the appeal of any home.

In the past few decades, the number of fireplace options available to consumers has increased dramatically. Technically, homeowners can choose from wood-burning and gas fireplaces, and some aesthetic choices include dramatic masonry, see-through, peninsula and oasis designs.

Additions to the traditional wood-burning unit and the development of gas fireplaces allow homeowners to enjoy the splendor of a fireplace and also conserve energy.

For the homeowner who yearns for the crackling and popping, the musky scent and the hearty glow of burning wood, today's "traditional" fireplace includes many options that were unheard of years ago.

Manufactured, as opposed to masonry, wood-burning fireplaces now include options like the outside air kit system from Heatilator® of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. The system reduces lost energy by using only outside air for combustion. Heatilator also produces a secondary burn system that cuts down on emissions.

Fireplaces from Heat-N-Glo of Savage, Minn., also offer a Clean Burn System that burns the wood and secondary gases to reduce emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency approved this unit for use in areas where wood burning is restricted.

Some homeowners dread the trip outside - dressed in a robe and untied boots - for another round of frost-encrusted logs. Those people will love a gas fireplace that lights up at the flick of a switch.

Because gas units do not include a chimney, they also allow the homeowner increased flexibility when choosing a spot for the new fireplace.

In 1987 Heat-N-Glo introduced and patented their direct-vent gas fireplaces. These fireplaces vent either out the back or the top of the unit. According to Heat-N-Glo, their units that vent out the back maintain a higher level of energy efficiency than those that vent out the top. A top-venting unit, however, allows for installation in a basement or other room that cannot accommodate a back-venting fireplace.

Because direct-vent gas fireplaces use only outside air for combustion, the warm air inside the home stays right there. Optional fans installed inside gas fireplaces push the hot air that usually collects at the back of the units out into the living areas.

Temco Products manufactures a vent-free fireplace line that, according to the Manchester, Tenn., company, operates at a higher level of energy effiicency than the direct-vent models.

For safety, the vent-free units include an Oxygen Depletion Sensor (ODS) that measures a room's oxygen level. The ODS shuts off the gas supply if the oxygen level drops dangerously low.

In the 1970s the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) considered a ban on vent-free fireplaces because of concerns about carbon monoxide poisoning. A CPSC study found the ODS to be a reliable safety measure, though.

Many gas fireplaces also include options that no doubt will impress visitors. At the flick of a wall switch or a emote control, you can have a toasty blaze. A couple more flicks of the switch will adjust the flame height.

A number of organizations-including the U.S. Department of Energy, the American Gas Association and Gas Technologies, Inc.-rate the efficiency of gas fireplaces. Contact the manufacturer or a distributor to get a good idea of a specific unit's energy efficiency.

Once you figure out the technicalities, the fun begins. A fireplace serves as the focal point of any room and adds enormous appeal. A quiet fire can make the master suite an inviting retreat, while a fireplace in the breakfast nook creates a cozy, country feel.

Just figure out the look and feel you want, and light up!

Photos by Mark Englund/ HomeStyles
Fireplaces by Heat-N-Glo Fireplace Products
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