Whether it’s coming inside after hitting the slopes, playing ice-hockey, or walking the dog on a brisk night: there’s nothing better than curling up to a nice, warm fire. A fireplace will keep you cozy on cold winter nights, but it should also be safe and energy efficient. If you’re looking to add a new fireplace to your home or upgrade an existing one this season, make sure you know all the options available.
Wood-burning fireplaces are great for those who love the majesty of an open fire, the smell of burning wood, and the sound of crackling logs. However, you may not know that older wood-burning fireplaces are not very energy efficient and can actually pollute the environment. The good news is that there are newer, safer, and more advanced wood-burning fireplaces available. Look for models that are certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)*, as they emit 90% less smoke than traditional wood-burning fireplaces and distribute heat better in your home.
Electric fireplaces are the perfect way to set the mood, and temperature, at the flick of a switch. They are safe, convenient, low-maintenance, and cost little to install. Although electric fireplaces probably won’t add to the value of your home like other types might, they are great for small spaces and don’t require a chimney or outdoor venting. Most models also come with the option of having the decorative fire turned on while the heating element is off: a great feature if all you’re looking for is a little ambiance.
Gas fireplaces are popular options because they are clean burning, efficient, and don’t even require a chimney. Although they may not offer the same flame sensation as real wood-burning fireplaces, gas is more energy efficient and you won’t need to worry about cleaning up woodchips or ashes. They also distribute heat better and provide a constant supply of fuel, even if the power fails. Look for models that have an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating; the higher the rating, the higher the efficiency.
If you already own a fairly old or outdated fireplace, there are still options available. Electric and gas models, for example, are easy to upgrade or replace entirely if you’re looking to make your fireplace more energy efficient. Similarly, you can purchase inserts for traditional wood-burning fireplaces that cause less harm to the environment and improve heating efficiency. And if you want to experience an open fire a little closer to nature, consider buying an outdoor fireplace. Outdoor fireplaces come in many shapes and sizes; just make sure to check your local municipality’s by-laws for safety regulations.
*Note: The standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are also applicable in Canada.