If you're considering installing a fireplace in your home, the first thing that you picture is likely to be a traditional wood-burning fireplace, with all the sights, sounds, and smells that accompany a wood fire. That might be the right fireplace for you, but before you decide for certain, you need to consider that there are several other types of fireplaces that may fit better into your home or suit your needs better. Take a close look at the pros and cons of several different types of fireplaces to find out which one is the right choice for you.
The aesthetics of a wood-burning fireplace are its biggest assets. Properly seasoned wood not only generates heat when burned, it also smells good and creates a pleasing visual picture. Wood is also comparatively cheap compared to other fuels—if necessary, you can even go cut it yourself instead of buying it. If ongoing costs are a concern, you may prefer wood over other types of fuel.
However, the wood-burning fireplace has a few significant downsides. While the ongoing cost of fuel may be less expensive, a wood-burning fireplace won't be cheap to install: the cost of installing a chimney alone can be prohibitive, not to mention the logistics of this installation. Additionally, a wood-burning fireplace can be expensive and time-consuming to maintain. Your chimney will need to be inspected and cleaned out at least once a year, and possibly more often depending on how much you use it. You'll need to clean the ash out of the fireplace on a regular basis as well.
On top of all that, you'll need to worry about your air quality. The smoke should go up and out of a well-maintained chimney, but enough of it may enter the house to irritate your lungs, especially if you have allergies or asthma.
If your interest in a fireplace is mainly decorative and you want some flexibility in placement and design, an electric fireplace may be the perfect choice for you. They come in styles that can suit almost any type of home, they're space savers, and they don't require any major home renovations to install. They're also very safe, since there are no real flames inside an electric fireplace.
However, if you intend to use the fireplace as a primary heat source, or even as a strong secondary heat source, then an electric fireplace is probably not the best choice for you. They don't put off much more heat than the average space heater, and you won't be able to use it as backup heat during a power outage. If you want more than a pretty fireplace and a little bit of extra warmth, you need something more powerful.
Ethanol fireplaces are one of the newer options, and there are a few reasons to like them. They're about as portable and easy to install as an electric fireplace, and they can be used almost anywhere you want. They're not quite as hot as a gas stove, but they definitely put off more heat than an electric stove and can be a reasonable supplementary heat source.
The news is not all good, however, and the downsides of ethanol fireplaces should be taken very seriously. Ethanol is a highly flammable substance, which can lead to serious accidents when refilling ethanol stoves. The stoves themselves are also very combustible. And while ethanol fireplaces are sometimes touted as the solution to the air quality problem posed by wood-burning fireplaces, studies show that they pollute the indoor air with chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene. If you choose to use ethanol, use great caution and only place the fireplace in a very well-ventilated area.
Natural Gas Fireplaces
If you want the power and aesthetics of a wood-burning fireplace but without the hassle of sweeping up ashes and storing wood, a natural gas fireplace is probably the way to go. These fireplaces can heat up to 1000 feet of space, and turning the fire on is as easy as pushing a button. Ceramic logs can give your fireplace the look of a wood fire without all of the smoke and ash.
The biggest downside to natural gas fireplaces has to do with the fluctuating costs of fuel. The price of gas depends on many factors, and depending on where you live and what the market forces are, you may pay more than you like. You don't have the option to go out and collect free fuel the way that you can with a wood-burning stove.
To choose the right fireplace for you, you need to look at both your short- and long-term heating budget as well as the layout of your home and your own personal heating needs and preferences. If you consider all your possible fireplaces options, you'll be more able to choose the one that's right for you. Visit a website like http://www.alpinefireplaces.com to learn more.