If you plan to add a hearth to your home, remember that today's fireplace is a quantum
leap ahead of the standard stonework of years past. Our benchmarks are much higher
from a design perspective and as a result of air pollution and energy efficiency
rules. Manufacturers now offer new, easily-installed units that burn alternative
fuels to provide substantial heat, says Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. It's
not necessarily made of brick, nor does it have to burn wood.
Still, if you're looking for a traditional, wood-burning fireplace, don't despair, you'll
just have to pay more--to the tune of $6,500 to $8,000 installed. Although wood
is cheaper than fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), the new units must be
designed to meet stiff anti-pollution standards. To do so, they must burn cleanly
which means achieving operating temperatures up to 2,000 degrees fahrenheit. The
advantage of a super-heated fireplace? All that heat is stored in the brick, stone
or tile. Crank the thermostat down and enjoy the radiant warmth for hours after
the fire burns out.
At the lower end of the price scale are the popular gas
fireplaces--$1,200 to $1,500 installed. As the cleanest, most energy-efficient
fuel, gas has several advantages in the fireplace marketplace. First, gas units
are easy to install because no chimney is required. Since gas produces no soot
or smoke, unlike wood, the most you'll need is a direct-vent to the outside air.
Some units require no vent at all because they are exhaust-free. Gas fireplaces
also have controls for adjusting heat output which is substantial enough for most
rooms. And if you're looking for authenticity, manufacturers have developed sophisticated
designs that mimic wood-burning fireplaces or Ben Franklin stoves.
stove is a compromise for the wood purist who can't quite picture gas as a fuel.
Pellets are processed from wood byproducts such as sawdust and mill shavings.
These compressed pellets store easily and provide enough energy to burn longer
than raw wood. You just scoop a load into the hopper on the side of the stove,
and the stove feeds the fire for you--at the rate you choose. Some even come with
thermostats. These are powerful little heaters--one model generates up to 30,000
Btus of heat per hour, enough to heat a 1,800 square-foot house. It costs $2,100
and comes with a 45-pound hopper, a durable aluminum heat exchanger, wall-mounted
thermostat, and automatic electronic ignition. As a fuel, pellets vary in price
depending on the proximity of mills or manufacturers who generate the waste materials
used to make them. Check into local fireplace stores for prices in your area.