What’s the Best Type of Fireplace for You?

Posted: 02/03/2015

Winter days got you down? Struggling to get cozy under a pile of blankets with the heat turned up as high as your budget can bare, may still not be enough to get the chill out of your toes.  So, maybe you’re considering a fireplace. Or you already have one and just haven’t used it yet. There are a few options available to you.

The Real Deal
If you’re house already has a fireplace, with a functional chimney and flue, then a crackling, cozy fire may be a great option for you. Fires are beautiful and romantic. The sound and heat can be soothing. The smell nostalgic. It’s a really great touch to a cold winter’s day in.

However, there are some things you should be aware of if you plan to use a real fireplace on a regular basis. First, there’s the issue of having firewood on hand. If you don’t have the means to chop your own, then you’ll want to find someone that can provide you with adequately sized wood in abundance. Buying small bundles at a box store isn’t really economical.

You should know that a real fireplace is hard on your electric bill if used regularly. It robs your home of warm air through the chimney because you have to have it open to pull smoke out through the flue. While sitting next to the fire is nice and toasty, the rest of your home will get cooler, requiring you to turn up the thermostat.

And there’s also the costs of keeping your chimney clean. You should have it cleaned either at the end of the season or before the season starts. Failing to clean the chimney each year could increase the risk of a flue fire.

Wood Burning Stove
A wood burning stove is a way to enjoy the heat of a fire without dramatically increasing heating costs. Wood burning stoves are very efficient way to heat a home because heat radiates from all sides, bringing the whole fire into the home. Like any fire, it draws air from the home and up the chimney, but the heat from the stove is far greater than the warm air lost.

Frequently you’ll see a wood burning stove set in front of a fireplace opening, which is now closed off with the exception of where the stove pipe feeds into the chimney.  Or, if the stove is set in the room without a fireplace, the pipes feed out of the house through a flue that is not opening drawing heat from the room.

The down side to a wood burning stove is that there is no pretty fire to look at, because it’s in an enclosed space. Additionally, any firewood you have must be cut specifically to fit in the space of your wood stove, which can limit how easy it is to have wood on hand if your stove is small. You also still have to dispose of the ashes and have the chimney cleaned annually.

Gas Fireplace
This is your no mess, no heat-loss option. While the heat output of a gas fireplace isn’t as dramatic, it sort of balances out better than a conventional fireplace would. Most gas fireplaces pull oxygen for the fire from outside the home (through a vent system). It provides a nice ambiance for the room, though you won’t have the crackling sound or the wood burning smell (and it always looks the same as it did the time before).

This is the more realistic option too, if your house does not come equipped with a chimney. Because adding a chimney would be outrageously expensive compared to purchasing a gas fireplace that looks like a fireplace because it sits right against the wall, looking beautiful, without the expense of a home renovation. Heatilator has come out with some innovative gas fireplace designs that are beautiful and put out a lot of heat, so innovation is moving in the right direction.

Whichever route you chose, HA Construction recommends that you avoid a ventless/electric fireplace. The flame is so unimpressive that it doesn’t even need to vent out of the house. There is very little heat output and, if you’re looking for ambiance, you’ll likely be disappointed with this option.