by Lauren Busser, Direct from the Designers™' Editorial Director
Winter is here and whether you live in a northern zone with really cold weather or you just get a little bit chilly now and then, here are some fireplaces that can keep your home feeling warm and cozy. A fireplace is not just a beautiful centerpiece to any living space, but it is also perfect for zone heating. For that highly practical reason, you can also find fireplaces in outdoor living spaces or even in some master suites. As you you start the search for your perfect fireplace, consider all the options to find which type is best for you.
Wood fireplaces add a lot of traditional character to your home, because you get the crackle of the fire and a nostalgic ambiance with a bit of smoky smell mixed in. In addition to this, wood fireplaces are fueled by a renewable resource. The one drawback to the traditional wood fireplace is that it can be an energy hog, because they use room air for combustion and thus waste some of the heated air they've just created.
Today, manufacturers have raised the bar by designing wood fireplaces and stoves that are more energy efficient. Modern sealed units have clever venting systems that use outside air for combustion, drastically reducing thermal losses to create an effective supplement to your home’s primary heating system.
Wood fireplaces do, of course, require that you consider where you will source and store wood. You will also have to do some maintenance since ashes will need to be periodically cleaned from the fireplace.
If you'd rather not deal with the wood deliveries and maintenance that a wood-burning fireplace requires, you may want to consider one fueled by gas instead. When purchasing a gas unit, you can choose everything from exterior finish and design to how the flames are presented—from a traditional-looking 'log set' to an über-modern, infinity-mirrored 'flame blade.'
With a gas flame comes clean, simple operation. Units require nothing but pressing a remote control button to start, adjust, and extinguish the flames. They also require little maintenance and eliminate the mess of traditional wood burning fireplaces, while still providing a similar ambiance.
Gas fireplaces burn so cleanly that they often have the option to be installed as completely ventless systems. These units are equipped with catalyst 'logs' that burn very hot, resulting in near-zero carbon monoxide and soot emissions. With no chimney required, ventless gas systems can be safely installed almost anywhere.
If you want the ultimate in maintenance- and hassle-free living but still want the ambiance that a fireplace can provide, a high-tech electric system might be the perfect option for you. A modern alternative to gas or wood fireplaces, electric fireplaces require no chimney and are often portable as well. Electric fireplaces can be rolled into a room, plugged into an ordinary 120v outlet, and they will start heating immediately.
Electric fireplaces are much less expensive than either wood or gas fireplaces, making them ideal for heating smaller rooms in a home, and they consume roughly the same amount of electricity as a conventional, stand-alone electric room heater.
If you want a fireplace, there's never been a better time to shop for one. Choose your energy source of wood, gas, or electricity and a new, energy-efficient fireplace will surprise you with its ability to transform any room in your home into one you'll enjoy spending more quality time in.