A classic fireplace features handsome masonry surrounding a brick firebox. It is capped with a mantel on which owners display mementos, artworks, trophies, or more.
They engage residents and guests with a warm and cozy touch. In contemporary homes, owners aren’t looking for their heat output, but fireplaces can add sale value to the house. Older homes and remote homes may also depend on the fireplace as their primary heat source.
And, as Scientific American says, “Burning wood may be humanity’s oldest way of generating heat—and in the home, it definitely creates a nice ambiance.”
But, new engineering and fabrication methods offer very attractive options to the traditional wood burning hearth.
6 fireplace options to consider for your home:
Contemporary homeowners value easy care and cost-efficiency. They are also looking for the cozy comfort of fireplaces in the apartment and condo configurations that once prohibited traditional fireboxes.
- Wood-Burning Insert: A wood-burning inset is an enclosed cabinet that fits easily into a classic firebox. A self-contained case surrounded by a steel shell, it has a glass window and air vents for intake and output. It does take some installation expertise, but qualified technicians can adjust the frame to integrate with most fireplace openings.
That outer shell directs the heat into the room instead of up the chimney. And, faceplates come in colors and designs to match or complement the masonry, brick, or stone of the fireplace. Technicians will install a new flue within the existing chimney accord to Australian Standards AS 2918. Homeowners fuel and fire the fireplace with wood as usual, but the triple burn system in an Ultimate Supreme 24 unit at UltimateFires.com.au, for example, warms the room with clean heat at low cost.
- Free-Standing Fireplaces: Free-standing wood-burning fireplaces are stand-alone setups often installed toward the room’s corner. They require heat-resistant bases under their pedestal and regulated distance from combustible walls. And, they come in a variety of formations and decorative designs.
Designs offer various cabinets that serve function, comfort, and ambiance. They mount on walls, sit on tabletops, and hang or place atop pedestals. Some people even like to move their fireplace from one place to another, from one room to another, or from indoors to outdoors.
The use and placement depend on whether the free-standing fireplace is vented or ventless:
- Vented fireplaces require chimneys and/or flues to pull the carbon monoxide, fumes, and smoke out of the house. A direct vent version uses two pipes; one pulls air from the outside to energize the fire while the other exhausts the fumes and smoke.
- Ventless freestanding fireplaces are perfectly portable because they do not need chimney or flue. The by-products of the gas burning vent-free fireplace return to the room, so no heat is lost up chimney or flue making the system highly efficient.
But, that same circulation system returns water vapor to raise the humidity in the room
and risk encouraging mold growth. If you notice condensation on your windows or mirrors, you may have a problem. And, people with respiratory conditions may notice irritation from the recycling of odors from soot and gasoline combustion.
If the free-standing fireplace is a new installation, the flue must be installed according to Australian Standards. If it is a replacement installation, the flue must still comply with current standards.
- Electric Fireplaces: These are not fireplaces because they do not produce a real flame. Rather, the electric fireplace is an electric heater that looks like a fireplace. The heat radiates, but the flames are created with electric lights or film.
There is a safety factor to electric fireplace because they do not emit carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide or other harmful pollutants. If the electric fireplace is an insert, it also prevents emery-sapping downdrafts from the chimney.
Electric fireplaces are adjustable. Homeowners are not subject to flames and heat. They can regulate the heat output, and in some units, that means regulating the appearance of the flames, too. And, they light up with the turn of a switch or push of a button.
They produce no ashes, require no maintenance, and simply plug in. However, using electricity to generate heat will impact the electric bill. And, the “flames” don’t fool anyone.
- Gas Fireplaces: Gas fireplaces offer cleaner, consistent, and more efficient heat than wood. They light easily with the turn of a switch, push of a button, or remote control app. They burn as you desire without tending or adding wood, and some feature timers to shut off after you fall asleep.
Gas fireplaces use natural gas or propane to create flames among artificial ceramic logs. They can be used as a direct heating source, but most people prefer their use as a decorative feature. Most new homes are built with fireplaces with gas lines due to their efficiency and easy maintenance. But, installing gas-fueled fireplaces in older homes can be complicated and expensive.
- Alcohol Fireplaces: Burning alcohol produces water vapor and carbon dioxide to make it a clean-burning fuel. Without smoke or other toxins, alcohol fireplaces use Isopropyl or Ethanol and do not require chimneys or flues in rooms with adequate ventilation.
The biggest advantage of a bio-ethanol fireplace is the lack of a chimney. Without a chimney, the fireplace can go anywhere. They move from house to house, room to room, and indoors or outdoors.
As magical as some designs appear, these are still fires that need some attention and cautions against spilling. They should not be used as a primary heat source because the fuel cost can add up. And, fires will consume the oxygen in a room without adequate ventilation.
- Pellet Stoves: Energy.gov says, “Today you can choose from a new generation of wood- and pellet-burning appliances that are cleaner burning, more efficient, and powerful enough to heat many average-sized, modern homes. Pellet fuel appliances burn small pellets that measure 3/8 to 1 inch in length.” And, many users see pellet fuel as a pioneering effort in recycling.
Pellet stoves stand-alone, and some models provide enough heat to warm an entire house using alternative fuels like processed corn cobs, peanut shells, and wood chips. These are fundamentally furnaces available in many sizes and designs.
You load a hopper with pellets, and an auger automatically feeds the pellets to the fire triggered by a manual or mechanical ignition. Controls manage the convection, the airflow, and the circulation.
Heating up your style
Our vote still goes to the ambiance and pleasure of wood-burning fireplaces. We like the aroma and crackle of good woods burning. We like the dancing flames and classic romance of a fireplace.
But, we are also looking for efficiency, control, and less work. There are stand-alone, enclosed, wood heaters, industrial brutes measuring 825 mm High X 630 mm Deep X 700 mm Wide metals finished in gunmetal, champagne, marcasite, and coachwood to match or complement your interior design.
And, then, there are insert wood burning fireboxes, some flat faced and others with protruding fronts. Available in colorful finishes or classic gunmetal, they fit into standard fireboxes and adjust to seal the front. These insert fireboxes measure 670 mm High (785 mm on the fascia) X 325 mm Deep X 325 mm (710 mm fascia) Wide.
But, all this happens while you enjoy the warmth expelled through vents below the door and the cozy comfort of the optimized view of flaming wood. Unwanted pollutants and irritating fumes are sealed in and expelled up the chimney.
You can heat up your style with any of these six fireplace options for your home. Old home, new home, studio apartment, beach house, or mountain retreat, you can find an option for any design need.