Fireplaces come in every shape, style and color . Who wouldn’t want that friendly and warm ambiance as their focal point in as many rooms as possible inside – possibly one outside?
Fireplace and woodstoves make up the heart of a home,” says John Crouch, director of public affairs at Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association in Arlington, Virginia. “ If you have a fireplace, chances are that is where the family gathers, whether it is for a celebration, playing cards, or reading. People are drawn to it.”
Take the nostalgia and good feelings, add to it the innovation and artistry of today’s fireplaces and you can find the right fireplace to work in any home, he adds.
You can buy a fireplace at any time and many local retailers may offer periodic specials or deals. So, it’s worth checking on that regularly. When it comes to installation, however, late fall is the busy season, and it may be a bit of a longer wait to get that new fireplace properly installed. Spring and summer would probably be the fastest time to get installed and you might find a good deal then, too, Crouch says.
Here are the ABCs of fireplaces:
The options break down into a four-way matrix, Crouch says.
A family can either go for a decorative fireplace or a heating fireplace, in either wood or gas.
- Open, wood burning fireplace: This is certainly the more traditional look, and great for occasional use at holidays or other special times. An open fireplace can be either wood, or, with the addition of a gas log set, appear to be gas.
- Fireplace insert: A family that buys a house that may be expensive to keep warm and already has an existing fireplace,may want to consider a fireplace insert. It’s a serious heating device, and will be more of an investment. An insert can be either wood (certified by USEPA), or gas.
- Direct vent: If the home does not have any fireplace, a direct vent gas fireplace may be just the thing. Most come with a remote control and can be either decorative or practical heaters.
- Electric: For an apartment, small home or single room, electric fireplaces have become very popular. While they all will add a lot of ambiance to the home, the units that provide heat and ambiance will cost more, Crouch adds.
Picking the right fireplace
The right fireplace depends on the family and the look or function they are seeking, Crouch says. If it is in a very traditional room, then an open fireplace with polished brass and irons and a cast iron fire back is always in style. If the look is to be very contemporary and the house is going to undergo some remodeling, then a long, linear gas fireplace, with colored glass will look great.
Most economical type of fireplace
For a few short, interesting fires a year, then an open wood fireplace is the best pick, money-wise. For a family with a cold house or cold family room, an insert will be worth the cost, he explains.
“If the house comes with a lot with some trees and firewood, then wood certainly wood would be the choice. If in a very urban setting, then a gas heating insert will be best,” he says.
Most fireplaces today are built in a factory, and then installed in the home, Crouch says. You can then dress them up with mantels and surrounds. The choices of materials can add to your bill. The cost also might not be as much as you think it is.
According to Home Advisor, the national average for gas fireplace installation is $2,113. A wood-burning fireplace installation costs between $867 and $3,487, on average. However, these numbers can vary greatly depending on the style of fireplace and installation situations.
Save energy, and possibly money, with a fireplace
Wood-burning fireplaces can have a 58 to 85 percent efficiency rating, which can save your electric bills by an average of $64 to $255 yearly, says Home Advisor. A 40,000 BTU unit working at 50 percent capacity only costs $1 per hour to operate. But you do have to buy your wood or find a friend with a forest.
If you install an energy-efficient fireplace, you could be getting back money with rebates from energy utility providers. Just check in with your own utility provider, and sometimes, there are federal tax credits available for those who install energy-saving fireplaces or wood stoves, according to Home Advisor.
Some of the recent changes in fireplaces include the increased use of remote controls and modulating flames, so that a heating gas fireplace can be turned on high to warm up the room, and then modulated down to provide ambiance without overheating the room, Crouch states.
“In wood, we continue to see incremental changes in the efficiency of EPA wood burning products, both certified and qualified,” he says.
Also, one key trend in last few years has been the rise of really big gas fireplaces. The key to a stunning looking flame is, or course, the amount of gas you can safely use.
“Very large fireplaces, great for great rooms or other large spaces, are now much more common in certain homes,” he adds. “The same holds true outside, although there it is very important that folks not be able to get to close to these really large units, as they will get hot.
Variety of outdoor fireplaces
While the fire pit is very popular, in either wood or gas, Western communities are starting to limit the installation of wood burning fire pits. A fast-growing segment is the fire table, almost always gas, to combine a table with an ambience, as folks instinctively cluster around the fire.
“People are beginning to see their backyard as an extension of their living space. They want to use it, even in the cold weather,” he adds. “Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits open up that possibility later into the year, if not year-round.”
The only thing limited the placement of a fireplace is someone’s imagination.
“We see them in kitchens, dens, living rooms and even bathrooms,” Crouch says. “With the different technologies and advancements, a fireplace can go in just about any room in the house.”