Finding the perfect fireplace to suit the heating requirements and decor of your home is an important, and often painstaking, task. This article will provide you with specialist advice and information for the selection process, so you know exactly what you need when contacting a fireplace expert.
Home improvement articles, such as this one from Reader’s Digest, suggest that you first determine the main purpose of your fireplace: are you looking for a design with a high heat output, aesthetic appeal, or both? This will help refine the selection process, making it much easier to find the right design to suit your requirements.
If the functionality of a fireplace is an important factor in your decision-making, you must carefully consider your choice of fuel:
- Wood burning: Installed with a chimney or flue system, wood burners boast eco-friendly, self-sufficient qualities.
- Multi-fuel: From logs to smokeless fuels, multi-fuel stoves can burn a variety of fuels to suit your needs. Not only that, this type of fireplace can also provide a very high heat output for a long duration of time.
- Gas: As the most cost-effective option, a gas fire can heat an entire room using less energy than alternative designs, saving you money on your energy bills. Not only that, the flickering flame effect of a gas fire eliminates any mess during operation.
- Electric: According to the buyers guide from The Fireplace Studio, electric fires combine the high performance of wood-burners with a low maintenance, energy efficient design.
Homes with a chimney
The type of chimney or flue you have in your home typically determines which style of fireplace or stove you can have installed. You can refer to buyers guides, such as the one from The Fireplace Studio, to help you identify the chimney or flue in your home, how it works and the measurements involved, so you are fully informed when contacting a professional.
It’s also worth noting that thorough chimney maintenance – such as having your chimney swept – is recommended to ensure it is in good condition and remains fully functional.
Homes without a chimney
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a chimney in your home to have a fireplace. In actual fact, there are several options available if you are looking to create a fireplace feature in your home without a chimney:
- Electric fire: available in built-in, inset and freestanding models
- Powered flue: powered by a fan which transfers fumes from the fire and removes them through a rear vent
- Balanced gas flue fire: a flue system is installed which draws clean air through an outer pipe, whilst combustion gases are removed via an inner pipe to the exterior of your home
After considering the purpose of your fireplace, the type of fuel you would like to use and whether or not your home has a chimney, there are a plethora of styles available for you to choose from. Depending on your requirements, the selection includes:
- Gas Stoves
- Wood Burners
- Inset/Outset Gas Fires
- Balanced Flue Fires
- Electric Fires
- Open Fireplaces (Inglenook fires)
Whether your home has a chimney or not, the comprehensive range of fireplace styles available on today’s market means you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect design.
If you are torn between a gas or wood fireplace, here are some areas you might want to consider before making your purchase. Both have strong advantages, and when it comes to the costs, both are available in diverse budget parameters so you are likely to find a match on each side of the equation. When it comes to the practical matters though, here are the practicalities that matter…
Wood is so much more soothing and comforting to look at and many people respond positively to the sight of a naked flame. With the technological advances that we have today, however, gas fireplaces can also emulate the visual attributes in a realistic way, making it difficult to choose. If you want to go for something truly authentic stone fireplaces are the most traditional option available.
Wood burning fireplaces can be sustainable if local wood is used for burning and a tree is planted for everyone that is chopped down. If you live in a forested area then running wood fires in stone fireplaces makes more sense. Using a gas fireplace requires you to burn natural gas or propane, which are limited natural resources.
The technology behind gas fireplaces ensures that they heat a space really effectively and can maintain your desired temperature quickly and easily. Wood is more traditional but can be made more efficient if you use the right inserts.
Fires from a wood burning fireplace are very rare and are highly unlikely to occur, even without using an insert. When correctly installed and maintained gas fireplaces are also really safe and highly unlikely to cause any safety problems. The Health and Safety executive illustrates the risks from the installation of stone fireplaces which is certainly worth considering.
Gas is undoubtedly a lot easier to use and a lot less work to maintain than a wood fireplace which can be quite intensive to keep burning and clean up.
Before the cold weather comes, prep and clean the furnace as part of the fall home maintenance checklist. To complete this maintenance you’ll need the replacement filter, screwdriver (flat or Phillip’s head, depending on your filter’s access panel), hand brush, soap, towel and a hand held vacuum cleaner. These items will be used to replace the filter, clean the blower assembly and clean the inside of the unit.
Start by shutting down power to the furnace for safety. Locate and remove the access panel using the screwdriver if the furnace has an in unit filter. Other systems will have the filters located at the intakes of the central air system. Write down the size of the air filter(s) that need to be replaced if you don’t have replacements readily available. Check the owner’s manual to see if a fiberglass or pleated filter is recommended. The fiber glass filters have to be changed every 1-2 months and pleated filters every 3 months, depending on pets, smoking, etc. Be sure to install the filter in the correction direction. There are little arrows on the side of the filter to indicate airflow direction.
A dirty or torn filter will not prevent the furnace from getting dirty and can shorten it’s life. Also, making sure the filter is the right type allows the right CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) to blow through the furnace. A filter that restricts the flow too much isn’t conducive for good air circulation. On the other hand a filter that allows too high of a flow won’t give the furnace enough time to transfer heat to the air.
Clean the Blower Unit
The next step is to clean the blower assembly. It is vitally important for safety that all power sources have been removed, including battery back-ups, before working on the blower. After verifying all power sources have been cut off, remove the access panel to the blower, if you didn’t have to when replacing the filters. Slide the fan out of the unit. If the fan has cables that need to be disconnected in order to remove it, mark each cable so you know how to hook it back up. Use the soap and water to brush off the blades of the fan. Then dry off the parts with a towel. Next, using the hand vacuum, clean off the belts and pulleys of the motor housing.
Flue and Combustion
The flue is the vent that expels the exhaust gases from the house. It is easy to visually inspect for any corrosion or cracks. Foil tape can be used to seal up small leaks. However, corroded flues should be replaced. This is very important because the gases that are handled by the flue can be deadly if not vented.
These gases are a byproduct of the combustion process utilized to create the heat. The burner will ignite the incoming gas and air before entering the heat exchanger. In the heat exchanger the air will soak up energy through a metal medium. A furnace professional will first clean the burner from any buildup. Then they will use a special meter to measure the exhaust from the combustion process. From this data they will make adjustments to optimize your unit. If your unit is an oil furnace then the oil filter will be replaced, too.
Have you got a fireplace in your living room, but you dislike the time and hassle of burning wood? All that soot, ash and smoke – not only is it messy, but it also poses a potential health risk. Wood smoke carries particles and gases that can pose a serious health threat, especially to anyone with respiratory illnesses like allergies and asthma.
Many homeowners these days are discovering that electric fireplaces are a safe, clean and convenient alternative to wood fires. Modern electric fires use patented technology to create realistic flames, enhancing the ambiance of your living space while acting as a powerful supplemental heat source. With an electric fireplace, you can control the size of the flame and the heat output with a simple push of a button – no more constant fire tending and inconsistent performance. And electric fireplaces can even be cheaper to use (depending on local electricity rates) with no need to purchase wood to fuel your fire throughout the winter.
Electric fireplace inserts are designed to fit into an existing fireplace in your home. You can install one yourself, quickly and easily. Just follow these steps:
- Read the instruction manual that came with your product. Though most of the installations steps will be the same regardless of model, there might be particular specifications you need to familiarize yourself with.
- Close the chimney damper. This will prevent drafts and keep the heat from your electric fireplace from seeping outdoors. For extra protection, you can install fiber-free insulation around the interior of the firebox.
- Take out the grate and thoroughly clean the firebox. Get rid of all that soot and ash.
- Check to make sure that the nearest outlet matches the electrical requirements for your fireplace insert. Most commercial models require 120v/15 amps/60 Hz connections. You should plug your electric fireplace into a dedicated circuit, and if you have to use an extension cord make sure it has the proper rating.
- Unpack the fireplace and remove any packing materials from inside the unit.
- If the fireplace has a glass front, carefully slide it into place according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure it is secure before proceeding.
- Insert the unit into the fireplace opening, tilting it slightly if necessary. It should rest evenly on the bottom of the firebox.
- Pull the cord under or around the insert and across the hearth, making sure it doesn’t get pinched or rub against any sharp edges that might damage it. Plug it in.
If you dislike the look of a cord across the hearth, a licensed electrician can either install an outlet inside your fireplace or hardwire the unit into your home electricity. Keep in mind that either option will permanently disable your fireplace for burning wood!
If you like the idea of an electric fireplace, but you don’t have a built-in fireplace in your home, then look for a self-contained unit that includes a decorative mantel and can be placed against any available wall. There are even media consoles available that allow you to enjoy your fireplace and television at the same time. Electric fireplaces are a great, economical way to add comfort and ambiance to your home.
Rae Eriksen is a writer who specializes in home improvement and energy efficiency for http://www.heater-home.com.