Fireplaces have always been among the top amenities for homeowners looking to buy a new house. In fact, they rank just second behind outdoor patios, decks and porches, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). While the cost of adding a fireplace to an existing home used to be prohibitively expensive—requiring the creation of an exterior stone chimney, flue, firebox and, in many cases, floor supports to accommodate the weight of the hearth—today’s options are not only affordable, but a relatively easy home improvement.
What has made them so is the technology and installation flexibility of gas-fueled models. Since no actual combustion occurs in gas fireplaces, zero-clearance installation is possible, which, according to Monessen Hearth Systems, means that “these fireplaces can be installed in direct contact with combustible walls and floors. Their inner and outer shell construction allows for maximum heat insulation.” As long as you have a natural gas connection or propane availability, you can install a gas fireplace almost anywhere in your home—under a window, in either an outside or inside wall, at wainscot or floor level, in a corner or even in the center of a room. Shielded by tempered or ceramic glass, gas fireplaces can be exposed on three sides (a peninsula of glassed-in warmth) or four sides (a virtual see-through island).
Combine that flexibility, with a wide array of styles—from traditional to ultra-contemporary, a fire that looks and performs like real wood, and the benefit of improved energy efficiency, and it’s clear why gas fireplaces are one of the hottest hearth products on the market today, outselling wood and pellet varieties by more than half, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), the trade association representing makers of heating and outdoor cooking equipment.
BENEFITS OF GAS OVER WOOD
Comparing price lists from various manufacturers, you’ll find little significant difference between factory-made gas and wood units (from under $1, 000 to nearly $3, 000), and installation costs are about equal, no matter where you live. The main difference between gas and wood lies in venting and long-term performance.
Says Mike Ruppa, a veteran fireplace retailer and now president of Empire Distributing in upstate New York: “The nice thing about gas is that you have immediate ignition and complete control over the heat output of the appliance. With wood, a certain amount of time is required to light the fire, turn that energy into heat and then get that heat into a room.”
Ruppa points out that in contrast to a gas fireplace, whose warmth is thermostatically controlled, a wood-burning unit comes with only an air control—the damper. That, he says “allows you to control the amount of air going in, which consequently controls the combustion process and the heat output.”
As a bonus, high-end gas fireplaces are available with comfort control systems. “These are anticipators, ” Ruppa explains. “They monitor the temperature of a room and start ramping the burner down as the room approaches a desired temperature.”
UniFlame LP Gas Outdoor Table Top Fireplace
Lawn & Patio (UniFlame)
What is the number one direct vent gas fireplace?
Direct vent gas fireplaces are available from many different suppliers, though one of the most common suppliers is Continental.