As winter approaches, the weather gets colder, the days get shorter, and we spend more time cozied up in our homes. In central Illinois a fireplace may be a welcome addition to your home. So, whether you are looking to add a fireplace or your current fireplace needs a face lift, here is information about three common types of fireplaces that may help you decide which one is best for you.
The most traditional fireplace is wood burning. A wood burning fireplace will give you the classic “crackle and pop” sound and, perhaps, even a sense of nostalgia with the slightly smoky smell of burning wood. Wood burning fireplaces tend to require more planning and upkeep, such as stocking dry, ready-to-burn wood and stoking the fire to keep it from going out. It is recommended to have your chimney inspected annually to determine if it needs to be cleaned. Also, since the fire is vented out through the chimney, much of the heat is lost in the process, leaving the house not as warm as expected.
However, high-efficiency wood burning fireplaces are also available. A high-efficiency wood burning fireplace is essentially the same thing as a free-standing wood stove, except it is built into the wall. These high-efficiency fireplaces are designed to pull in the cold air of the room and then circulate hot air back into the room, creating a perfectly efficient heat source with the ambiance of real wood burning. This type of fireplace allows you to control the burn rate of the wood. As a result, you can load the fireplace with wood before you go to bed, and still have a hot enough ember bed to easily stoke the fire back up by adding more wood in the morning. They also make high-efficiency wood burning inserts that, in some cases, will fit inside of an existing wood-burning fireplace. Because of the heating capacity of high-efficiency wood burning fireplaces, stoves, and inserts, it is sometimes possible to heat an entire house with one of these products.
A gas fireplace produces real flames and heat without the actual burning of wood, and may operate even during a power outage. Gas fireplaces are divided into two categories: vented and non-vented. A vented gas fireplace will produce the most visually authentic looking flames. However, much of the heat is lost through the vent. A non-vented gas fireplace, on the other hand, uses less gas and, therefore, does not require an external vent. While the flame is smaller, it is more efficient as all the heat it produces stays in the room.
If you are interested in converting your wood burning fireplace into gas, there are three different options available: 1) a vented gas log, 2) a vent-free gas log, or 3) a direct-vent gas insert.
1) A vented gas log produces a flame and ember bed that is the most realistic looking. However, you have to have your damper completely open, resulting in the heat from your room being drawn into the fireplace and up through the chimney or vent.
2) Vent-free gas logs can be used, in many cases, with the damper closed, keeping all the heat put off by the flame in the room, making it 99 percent efficient. Vent-free logs may not look as realistic as vented logs because they have a smaller flame and ember bed.
3) A direct-vent gas insert combines the best characteristics of a vented gas log and vent-free log. It efficiently produces maximum heat, while having a realistic flame and ember bed.
While both wood burning and gas fireplaces create real flames, an electric fireplace creates only the illusion of a flame. Through the use of special LED lights and perfectly placed reflective mirrors, a “flame” is produced. Electric fireplaces do not produce any gas emissions and don’t require venting. They have the ability to produce heat and can be quite effective in heating the room in which they are located. Most electric fireplaces also allow you to turn off the heating component when desired, in order to have the visual ambience of a fire without the heat. The heat from an electric fireplace is produced by a small electric heater and blower. As a result, most electric fireplaces will only provide around 5,000 BTUs. Conversely, a gas burning product will provide anywhere from 10,000 BTUs all the way up to 60,000 BTUs.
So, choose the fireplace that’s right for your home, grab a book, a blanket and settle in by the fire for another Illinois winter.
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