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The Triad New Home Guide

Design Trends - Fireplaces

Triad New Home Guide - Fall 2014

Fireplaces Make a Statement
and Provide Warmth to New Homes

A fireplace, historically used for heating and cooking, has become a popular feature in today’s home design. As time has changed its purpose from one of necessity, homebuilders are adding elegance and efficiency, creating a whole new focal point in new homes.

Fireplaces Add Beauty to Utility

Homebuilders today have taken fireplaces to a whole new level, adding them in bathrooms, kitchens and outdoor entertainment centers as well as dens and family rooms.

Curling up with a book before a roaring fire on a wintry night or watching a licking fire as you baste the turkey in the kitchen are special pleasures, especially as gas fires today need no tending and require minimal cleanup. Long gone are the anemic blue flames and unconvincing “logs.” Modern versions burn much more realistically, with glowing red embers and tall orange-yellow flames that dance and flicker around ceramic logs that closely resemble the real thing.

Fireplace 1

There are three types of gas fireplaces from which to choose.

Inserts are for folks who want to retrofit a wood-burning firebox with something more convenient and efficient. They fill the air with a mix of warm air and radiant heat. Built-ins, for those who want to add a fireplace where there isn’t one, provide the same mix of warm air and heat. Vented log sets, which are basic burners sitting in existing, open fireplaces, are more for looks than warmth.

Vent-free versions are highly efficient (99.9%) and discharge all the heat into the living space.

A recent article in This Old House can help you pick the fireplace that’s right for you, walking you through the key features and explaining how to get a unit that generates enough heat for your particular space. When the first icy night of winter arrives, all it will take is a click of a remote control for you to cozy up in front of your blazing hearth.

Fireplace 2

How much do they cost?  From $1,000 to $7,000, (including installation, for a heat-producing insert or built-in fireplace. Decorative log sets run about $400 to $1,000.

Natural gas or propane?  Gas fireplaces can burn both. Natural gas is less expensive and produces about five percent more heat. Choose propane where it’s not available.

DIY or hire a pro?  For the safest, most efficient, and best-looking installation, employ a local National Fireplace Institute-certified technician.

How much care?  A certified technician can come once a year for about $150 to clean and adjust the burner , ensuring you have realistic, soot-free flames.

How many Btus?  A gas fireplace’s heat output, in Btus, should match your room size, climate, and the house’s insulation level.

Fireplace 3

Wood-burning fireplaces provide great ambience, but they can’t beat the easy, no-fuss efficiency of gas.

That’s because you don’t have to split, stack, season, haul logs or bag the ashes and there’s no smoky smells or chimney to clean. You can start, adjust, and snuff out fires with the touch of a remote control. The fire needs no tending and won’t die out from neglect. Best of all, you can get as much as 75 to 99 percent of a fuel’s energy back as heat, instead of the 10 to 30 percent for wood fires.

Upgrades which enhance a fireplace’s convenience, comfort, and good looks include variable-flame height adjustment, wall-thermostat control, electronic ignition. LED accent lighting, and battery backup. A built-in fan pulls indoor air into the space behind the firebox and pumps hot air out, heating a room in a hurry.

Gas fireplaces have a wide range of heat output, from about 7,000 to 60,000 Btus.

You'll want to consult a professional to properly size the gas fireplace to best suit your needs and provide the experience you expect.

Abraham Lincoln provided a final reason for a gas fireplace when he observed, “A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.”

Photos, including front cover image courtesy of Empire Comfort Systems