There is definitely something homey, comforting – and even primal – about a real wood fire burning in your hearth on a cold winter evening or a rainy autumn afternoon. Unfortunately, unless you own an older or a vintage home, this isn’t an option; environmental regulations in many parts of the country no longer allow for wood-burning fireplaces in new construction because of polluting emissions. (You think we’re kidding? Go read some accounts of life in Victorian England, where wood and coal were the primary fuels used for heating.)
The good news is there are many options for modern homes when it comes to fireplaces. The new, high-tech fireplaces provide the same charm, ambiance and comfort as their obsolete wood-burning ancestors, but with much greater efficiency and much less in the way of CO2 emissions. In fact, installing widescreen fireplaces that run on gas, electricity, or even alcohol is an excellent investment. These can be just the right finishing touch for a great room, a bedroom, a family den or other space in your contemporary home.
Fireplaces that run on gas have been around for several decades. These have several advantages over traditional wood-burning fireplaces, particularly when it comes to efficiency. Whereas a great amount of the heat produced by a wood fire goes up the chimney, virtually all the heat generated from a gas fireplace is forced into the room. In addition, it requires much less fuel to feed a gas fire – meaning both financial and environmental costs are low. (It’s also cleaner, in more ways than one: remember how messy real wood logs can be to haul in from outside?)
Electric fireplaces are gaining in popularity, particularly among apartment and condo dwellers. These have an added advantage over gas fireplaces in that they require no venting. Having an electric fireplace eliminates the need for cleaning and maintenance required for gas fireplaces, and can be controlled with a hand-held remote. Thanks to modern 3-D and video technology, it’s almost impossible to tell an electric fireplace in operation from the real thing – except that there is no smoke to deal with and fire danger is minimal.
Alcohol fireplaces that run on ethanol (like many automobile engines) are a relatively new innovation. These are the most modern and flexible designs available, and can be set up virtually anywhere in the home or outdoors.
By the way, even these modern, environmentally-friendly fireplaces come in very traditional designs. If you are thinking about retro-fitting your older or vintage home with a gas, electric or alcohol fireplace, you’ll find traditional and antique designs from top manufacturers such as Enviro, Jotul and Marquis when you shop at Home & Hearth Outfitters. Check out our selection online today!