Selecting the Perfect Fireplace or Stove Feature for Your Home

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Homeowners have many options when it comes to choosing alternative heat for their home. Many factors should be considered when making this important decision. You must consider what best fits your lifestyle long term.  Do you want the heat source in a living area, a bedroom, or outdoors? Gas, electric, wood burning?  Also, certain regions may also dictate what you can and cannot have. For example, buildings within Routt County are limited to one EPA approved solid fuel burning device. If a homeowner is wanting a non EPA approved device, it would require “wood burning rights;” which you must purchase. You can reference the county website to read resolution # 91-032.

So where do you begin?  I would first suggest educating yourself on all of the different options and then deciding what best fits what you are trying to accomplish.

GAS: Gas heat sources come in many different forms.

Gas remains one of the most economical fuels available. It is efficient, convenient & clean burning. Gas is also the healthiest choice of all burning fuels in terms of emissions in and outside of the home. You also have the options of remote controls and thermostats which give you the luxury of controlling your heat source even when you are not home. Blowers are also another option to help distribute the heat. There is more flexibility for placement within the home and many do not require hearths. Most people say that they use their gas-burning fireplaces much more often than they ever used their former wood-burning fireplace. While gas fireplaces are more expensive to install, they add a 12% per fireplace value to your home.

Gas inserts are made of cast iron or steel. Each manufacturer offers many options from traditional to modern and offers you the opportunity to change the look of your room. They are installed in an existing wood burning fireplace, which does not allow you to change the location.  Most vent to the existing flue and use Direct Vent. Direct Vent is a more efficient pipe system. It refers to a sealed combustion system, in which air for combustion is piped from the outdoors, and the vent products are vented to the outdoors. A gas insert can be considered one of the safest because they do not need to vent gases through the roof, eliminating any backdraft.

Gas log sets can also transform your existing wood burning fireplace for realistic, room-enhancing fire. It allows for a clean and convenient way to enjoy the ambiance of a fireplace. This is an easy option, not requiring any change in the appearance or structure of your fireplace. Instead, it delivers fire with the flip of a switch. This option must be burned with the doors open, posing a safety hazard with small children in the home or causing damage from guests who do not know to run it with open doors.

Stoves

 Freestanding stoves are among the most versatile hearth product with some owners even opting to insert them into existing masonry fireplace openings. These stoves are offered in a variety of fuel options: gas, wood and pellet. They come in steel, cast iron and stone. Finishes include a variety of colors in porcelain enamel or matte color options. Size of your freestanding stove will be based on the area you are trying to heat. You can press a button for gas, use your own wood, or purchase bags of pellets to feed your stove.

A pellet stove is a stove that burns compressed wood or biomass pellets.  A 40 lb. bag of pellets can provide up to 24 hours of heat. A winter’s supply of pellets is 100-150 bags, dependent on climate and lifestyle. They require loading pellets and igniting the flame. Depending on what size hopper your stove has, it may need to be loaded only once a day. Today’s central heating systems operated with wood pellets as a renewable energy source can reach an efficiency factor of more than 90%. Because the fire is contained in a heat box inside the unit, there is a minimum of smoke, which lessens the smell in your home and prevents the outside of the unit from heating up. Pellets create considerably less ash than firewood, giving off less creosote, a flammable byproduct of combustion that can build up and cause chimney fires. Pellet stoves require regular maintenance and cleaning to keep all the moving parts in good condition. 

Wood burning fans are attracted to the smell and reality of a burning fire. Some however may not have considered the chopping, hauling and storing portion of this commitment. Even though wood burners get really hot, they create a negative efficiency by draft sucking heat from other areas of the house. Due to combustion, wood burning fireplaces produce soot, ash and gases. Each year have your wood heating system inspected by a National Fireplace Institute (NFI)certified professional or by a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified chimney sweep for proper installation, safety and efficient operation.  Hazards to consider would be flying sparks or logs rolling out. Be sure to only burn well-seasoned wood. To properly season wood, split the logs as soon as possible and stack them in a dry spot for 6–18 months. Never burn garbage, plastic, foil or any kind of chemically treated or painted wood. They all produce noxious fumes that are dangerous and highly polluting. Visit EPA’s Burn Wise for more resources.

Electric

An electric fireplace is a less expensive option and plug and play. It is portable and can easily be hung on a wall. They have a 99% heat efficiency because heat is dissipated directly into the room versus being lost through a chimney or venting. Electric power is clean with no gas, smoke or particles being emitted. It is also cool to the touch and kid friendly. It is however not intended to be used as a primary heat source and provides as much heat as a small electric space heater. It does not offer the same setting of a real fire, but  they look beautiful and add to the ambiance of any room.

Outdoor Heat

Summer is just around the corner and heating up the outdoors has never been more popular.  Patios are being treated as their own living area, transformed into a space for cooking, eating, hanging out, entertaining and more. Outdoor living spaces are now becoming like common indoor living areas where outdoor fire features are becoming as important as the furniture, and  contribute to the ambiance, while bringing warmth as temperatures drop.

Maintenance is important on all gas, wood burning , and pellet units.  Having your fireplace cleaned and tested annually is very important and  extends the life of your fireplace, but most importantly, keeps you and your family safe.

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