Fireplace Buying Tips

What to look for when Buying a Fireplace for Supplementaly Heating Your Home

By Mark J. Donovan

Not much can beat a cozy fire burning in a fireplace on a cold winter evening. The traditional wood burning fireplace has been a focal point in homes since nearly the beginning of mankind. Besides providing heat, the traditional masonry or stone fireplace also served for cooking food and as a central gathering area.

Although traditional masonry and stone fireplaces served our ancestors very well, and to this day still provide a charm and ambiance that is hard to beat, they are notoriously inefficient.

Consequently when in the market for installing or buying a fireplace it is important to understand why you want the fireplace and how you expect to operate it.

If you’re solely looking for that ambiance feel and plan to use it infrequently then a standard masonry fireplace without bells and whistles may be all that you need. Just make sure to include a glass fireplace door on the outside of it to prevent heat loss from the home. If, however, you want to use the fireplace to supplementally heat your home, then you may want to look into buying a fireplace that is much more efficient and easier to operate than the traditional masonry wood burning fireplace.

There are a number of alternatives to the traditional masonry fireplace that you can consider buying. First on the list is a wood burning fireplace insert. A wood burning fireplace insert can easily be retrofitted into an existing masonry fireplace to convert an inefficient traditional fireplace into an extremely efficient one. A wood burning fireplace insert works like and looks very similar to a wood stove, except for the fact that it slides into the existing fireplace box.

Its fire box chamber is constructed out of cast iron or steel, and includes a front loading door for placing the wood. More often than not the front loading door has insulted glass on it to allow the fire to be viewed.

A good quality wood burning fireplace insert is typically around 50% efficient and can heat anywhere from 800 to 2,000 square feet of living space.

Another fireplace buying idea is a gas burning fireplace. Gas fireplaces operate off of propane or natural gas and are highly efficient and clean burning. Also lighting a gas fireplace simply involves flicking a switch. There’s no cutting down of trees, cutting and splitting the wood, drying the wood, and then eventually hauling it to the fireplace. In addition, there’s no mess with gas fireplaces. With wood burning fireplaces and wood burning fireplace inserts there is the constant mess of wood chips and dust, not to mention having to cart wood into the home.

Also, there are no ashes to have to periodically get rid of. Gas fireplaces are also cheaper to install. They do not require a masonry chimney. Attractive steel ductwork can easily be retrofitted into a home to vent the gas fireplace to the outside. Gas fireplaces themselves, are also extremely attractive and come in many different shapes and sizes. They also have a plethora of accessories that can be purchased with them, including thermostats, and remote control switches.

When buying a gas fireplace make sure to select one appropriate for the square area you’re intending to heat.

Direct vent gas stove fireplace

One final fireplace buying idea is to select an electric fireplace. They are ideal for small homes or a particular room within a home and are extremely affordable to install. Basically they can be located anywhere there is an electrical outlet within your home. They also include features that emulate an actual burning fire. In general, however, heating with electricity is an expensive endeavor. As a result, I would suggest buying an electric fireplace if you plan to only occasionally use it, and/or you live in a more temperate climate zone.

For information on how to maximize a wood stove’s heating efficiency, see’s Installation of Hood over Wood Stove eBook

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