Fires Contained

Perhaps the oldest of features you can have in your home is a fireplace. Up to a few hundred years ago, they were the source of heat for interiors and cooking. Now they’re mostly a visual reminder of our connection with nature. And for many home buyers searching for their dream property, they’re still an object of great desire.

In most new homes the fireplace is being replaced with the TV as the central gathering point. Fireplaces aren’t disappearing though. Rather they’re being relocated to bathrooms and bedrooms (and occasionally back into the kitchen) as it becomes a more personalized and intimate design element.

In more recent construction and renovation, what you typically find is an insert or wall unit rather than a full masonry entity. Inserts in particular can increase your heating efficiency while keeping your original hearth intact. Shown above is a wall unit example from Heat & Glo that retails for about $2800 (plus install). These are often more efficient, safer and more architecturally appealing than their brick cousins in contemporary settings. Here are some basics on Fireplace Inserts:

Fuel Options: natural gas, propane, wood, pellets, gels and coal

Venting: through existing chimney with new liner, direct vented or vent-free depending on fuel

Options: thermostatic and remote controls, self-cleaning features, built-in fans to distribute heat into room

Visual: Linear flames, ceramic artificial logs, infinity mirrors, colored glass chips through which flames emanate

Installation-wise, it’s easiest to put an insert into an existing masonry fireplace (particularly if electrical and gas are nearby). Finding a unit that will fit properly and that is esthetically pleasing is straight forward with the numerous options on the market. When installing a wall unit in a new or existing wall, the vent (exhaust) will be the primary concern with clearance in front of the unit the other main consideration (again, electrical and fuel will need to be brought to the unit if not close by).

A competent contractor should be able to help you with installation and location advice, with your local building inspector providing confirmation. Your designer can advise you on the best design, brand and benefits for your particular home. It will not only give you a feature that is practical but it can create an inviting and more luxurious space. And since many are sealed, you can use them year-round for display and turn on the fan when heat is needed.

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