On cold winter nights, there’s nothing quite like curling up next to a crackling fireplace to keep you warm and cozy. In addition to warming your house, often cutting down on energy bills, a fireplace also creates a warm and inviting ambiance and a great place to gather when guests visit. If you are considering installing a new fireplace in your home or renovating an existing fireplace, here are some issues to keep in mind.
Heating Efficiency vs. Appearance
Whether the primary function of your fireplace is intended to heat your home or bring an aesthetic appeal, it is worth sitting down and deciding your priorities before you get too deep into the project. Knowing where you stand will help guide your decisions and help you to ask the right questions of fireplace installation contractors.
Contrary to popular belief, some fireplaces are very inefficient at heating your home: due to an effect known as the “stack effect,” much of the hot air produced by the fire is lost through the chimney or flue, and the air loss creates negative pressure in the home, which then causes cold air from outside to be sucked into the home faster. While sitting right in front of the fire may be cozy, it might make heating your home far more inefficient. To resolve the constant loss of warm air, a glass door can be positioned to retain heat. It is important to discuss the available options for heat retention with your contractor early in the planning process.
If your main priority is bringing a warm ambiance of your home, focus more of your time and energy to choosing a fireplace design that will best enhance your home’s overall aesthetic. A large, elaborate brick or stone fireplace complete with a mantelpiece and chimney will create a more classic, rustic atmosphere, while a smaller, less intrusive, inset fireplace with a glass front that is flush with the wall can enhance a contemporary home.
Wood or Gas: Which is Right for You?
Perhaps the most important decision to make regarding the construction of a new fireplace is whether you want it to be wood burning or gas. Wood burning fireplaces are the more traditional option and might be more cost-effective for households that have ready access to firewood. Check local regulations to ensure wood burning fireplaces are allowed. Many modern homeowners are favoring gas fireplaces for convenience, cleanliness, and ease of maintenance. A wood burning fireplace requires that you have access to firewood and build the fire to be enjoyed, while a gas fireplace can simply be activated with a switch or turn of a key.
Wood burning fireplaces are also dirtier, both for your home and for the environment. Carrying in and storing firewood tracks in dirt and debris, and the stacked wood provides a refuge for spiders and other unwelcome pests. Burning wood also releases polluting particles into the atmosphere. Depending on where you live, operating a wood burning fireplace may be illegal on certain days. If you have a wood burning fireplace but are ready to make the switch to gas, a gas insert can be an easy and cost-effective conversion.
Maintaining Your Fireplace
Fireplaces can make a warm and cozy addition to your home, but they also require regular cleaning and maintenance to be safe and function correctly. Before you enjoy your first fire of the season, it’s important to have your chimney and/or flue inspected every year. Soot and debris build up inside the chimney, and a bird, squirrel or bat could have made its home within the fireplace during the summer. Get your chimney inspected and cleaned every year to keep the air in your home clean and avoid any dangerous mishaps. Our team at COIT is happy to help with these important safety issues, and inspect your heating and cooling ventilation system so you and your family can breathe fresh, healthy air inside the home.