Fireplace technology has kept pace with the times, and modern fireplace models often feature electronic and remote controls, variable settings, and a wide range of decorative options.
But all those features and attractions can prove daunting for first-time buyers. If you’re fixing up a fireplace you’ve had for years, or purchased as part of a residence, the road to perfection can also seem confusing. Keep reading to discover the basics of modern fireplace shopping and buying.
Wood Burning Fireplaces: Ancient and Atmospheric
The classic fireplace image includes wooden logs aflame inside a generously sized fireplace. Yet the modern wood-burning fireplace, while retaining its traditional operation, also includes a variety of decorative and safety features meant to maximize its users’ warmth and safety.
Fireplaces’ great advantage lies in their elegance and charm; however, modern gas and electric fireplaces have largely outpaced them in regards to fuel economy, heat production, and convenience. Still, there’s no mistaking their traditional appeal, and for those with old-time decorative sensibilities their allure is probably irresistible.
Gas Logs, Natural Gas, and Propane Fireplaces Are Convenient, Economical
Gas logs are permanent fireplace installations that swap out an existing or new fireplace’s wood-burning capability for either natural gas or liquid propane. They are also available as part of specially-made fireplaces that are constructed to maximize their warming potential.
Natural gas fireplaces produce almost no exhaust, and can typically run from a house’s existing gas line. Liquid propane fireplaces burn hotter than natural gas, giving them greater heating capacity. However, operating a liquid propane fireplace often means switching out or refilling the propane supply tank. In addition, liquid propane supply service may not be readily available in all areas.
In either case, gas logs should be professionally installed by a licensed plumber or heating technician.
It’s also crucial to make sure your fireplace can accommodate the size gas log set you want. A helpful sizing and measurement guide is available here. Learn more about gas logs by reading our special guide.
The Special Class of Linear Gas Fireplaces
Linear fireplaces measure longer and narrower than conventional square-shaped fireplaces, allowing them to be installed inside walls and above existing structures. Also called panoramic or wide-view fireplaces, linear fireplaces’ viewing areas are usually four times wider than they are tall. Virtually all linear fireplaces will be gas-operated.
Direct Vent and Ventless Fireplaces: Which Is Right for Your Needs?
Choosing between direct vent (or vented) fireplace systems and ventless (or vent-free) fireplaces largely depends on your home or business’ exhaust capabilities. Vented gas logs use chimneys or stovepipe to expel smoke, ash, and other effluvia away from the fireplace’s surroundings. Vented gas log sets are typically less expensive, but also less productive – they emit less heat.
Ventless gas logs and fireplaces are more efficient than vented models, not least because they do not lose heat through their exhaust systems. They also create less pollution than vented models. Despite their advantages, ventless fireplace systems have their drawbacks: they tend to consume more of the oxygen in their surrounding area, and cost more than vented models.
Electric Fireplaces Offer Modern Sophistication, Decorative Elegance
The great advantages of electric fireplaces? They’re incredibly clean and require much less effort to operate and maintain than wood-burning fireplaces and gas logs. Electric fireplaces also require no venting, as they produce no exhaust.
Modern electric fireplaces use LED technology in conjunction with electronic controls to create electric “flames” that are often comparable from the real thing. They’re also available in a wide range of decorative styles, from traditional to ultra-contemporary. Wall-mounted and smaller-sized models also allow installation in many additional parts of the home – bathrooms, guest bedrooms, and others.
You can learn more about electric fireplaces by reading this helpful article.
The Fireplace Inserts Breathes Warm New Life Into Chimneys, Homes, Businesses
In many ways, the fireplace insert combines the best advantages of all other fireplace styles and models while possessing very few of the drawbacks. As the name implies, the fireplace insert is a self-contained fireplace unit that fits inside existing chimneys and exhaust systems.
Many models of fireplace are self-contained, or ventless. This allows them to be used inside the fireboxes (the open areas at the bottom of the fireplace’s chimney) of chimneys or exhaust columns that have become blocked or sealed off by damage.
Fireplace inserts are available in wood-burning, gas, and electric varieties. For a complete guide to their use and maintenance, read our Guide To Fireplace Inserts elsewhere on this blog.
A Glossary of Basic Fireplace Terminology
The firebox is the open area beneath the chimney shaft, or flue, and behind the hearth. The firebox houses the firewood, gas log and/or pipes, and other fireplace machinery or equipment.
The surround of a fireplace is the area immediately around the firebox edges, facing towards the surrounding room.
A fireplace’s flashing seals the open gap between the edge of the fireplace insert and the edge of a surround. Flashing units give a fireplace insert a seamless look that joins with their surround.
The mantel is typically made of wood, marble, or another highly durable material. It fits on the exterior of the fireplace, above and around the surround. By long-standing tradition, a mantel’s shelf is a display space for family awards, mementos, photographs, and keepsakes.
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