The Allure of Fire

There is something distinctive about the allure of a flame; its ability to warm us on a cold winter’s eve or to cheer us on a late summer night.  Just like the campfire lyrics “Fire’s Burning, fire’s burning, draw nearer, draw nearer” we are drawn to a fire as it creates a special ambiance for any occasion.  It is no surprise that fireplaces are a popular feature in all areas of our homes: Great Rooms, Dining Rooms, Kitchens, Studies, Bathrooms, Bedrooms, Basements, Porches, Patios and Poolside; literally anywhere and everywhere inside and out! 

There are a myriad of styles to fit any décor as well as types: wood, gas electric and ethanol being the most popular.  Woods appeal is the natural flame, the sound, the aroma, the warmth; truly an experience for all our senses.  However, wood fireplaces are costly to build, the most difficult to install and the messiest to operate and maintain.  Many people are opting for wood as an exterior fireplace where the mess is not such a concern and they can enjoy the full aesthetic of the wood experience.

Natural gas fireplaces have been a common choice and continue to be best sellers.  The major attraction is they are easy to operate with a flip of a switch, remote control or by thermostat!  Cleaning of the glass is typically all that is required for maintenance.   Gas fireplaces require proper venting and a gas line so are somewhat complicated to install.   The inserts (log sets, stones and crystals) offer choice of style.  There is a large range in the cost to install but operating costs are modest based on your current gas rates.

Ethanol fireplaces are one of the latest additions to fireplace options and have a growing following.  The flame burns clean and requires no venting so the fireplace can be used almost anywhere in the house and many are designed to be portable allowing you to take your fire with you!  The clean burn means there is nothing to clean after operation. Ethanol fireplaces provide less heat than gas and require refilling of the fuel which requires safe storage and handling. Because there is no venting ethanol fireplaces burn the oxygen in the room so ensuring fresh air is brought into the room every once and awhile is important for indoor use beyond one hour.  Outdoor use does not have this concern.

Electric fireplaces are easy to incorporate into any space and only require an outlet for the plug.  Electric fireplaces have the least realistic flame but are the most cost efficient to install and operate.  Electric fireplaces are also portable.

The chart below summarizes the primary considerations for wood, gas, ethanol and electric fireplaces:

 

Wood

Gas

Ethanol

Electric

Installation Cost

High

Moderate to High

Moderate

Low

Operating Cost

Low to High

Moderate

Low to Moderate

Low

Ambience

High

Moderate to High

Moderate

Low

Convenience

Low

High

Moderate

High

Safety

Low

Moderate

Moderate

High

Heating Efficiency

Moderate

High

Low

High

Environment

High

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

Creating a special ambiance in your home can be achieved with the installation of a fireplace and it adds value to your home.