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Which Gas Fireplace is Right for You?

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Congratulations! You’ve decided to install a gas fireplace as a consumer-conscious, energy-saving alternative to your central heating system or traditional wood-burning fireplace. At Croft Fireplace Center, we applaud this wise choice, and we’re here to help. But which fireplace will best suit your needs?

Let’s begin by eliminating what we consider the worst option — to install a gas log in your existing brick-and-mortar fireplace. That may be the least expensive choice, but that’s because a gas log is largely decorative; it is not a cost-effective heat source. A traditional brick-and-mortar fireplace actually removes more heat from your home than it supplies. The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that as much as 1,000 cubic feet of heated air is sucked up the chimney every minute the gas log is burning. A gas log may be cheaper and look nice, but it won’t do much to heat your home. Most of the warm air you pay for will go up the chimney within seconds. What you’re looking for is a gas fireplace designed with performance in mind. Sure, you want it to look nice, but you also want it to be effective in heating the primary living spaces of your home.

If you’re looking to transform a traditional wood-burning fireplace, you might consider a gas insert. It is engineered to be vented through your chimney, so it uses the outside air for combustion, but it expels relatively little of the heat it produces. Because of that, an insert is both energy-efficient and cost-effective. Similar to a gas log, the gas insert produces a steady flame over decorative logs or stones, but the flame is sealed behind a glass surface. Although it won’t give you the aroma of a “real fire,” it won’t give you the smoke, ashes, or safety hazards, either.

A gas insert is easy to use: Just flip a switch and you have a fire! It also requires minimal maintenance. Best of all, when installed in your primary living space, it allows for “zoned heating.” When you turn on the gas fireplace, you can turn down the thermostat in the rest of the house.

Like gas inserts, free-standing gas fireplaces are cost-effective and convenient. The primary difference is that an insert makes use of the existing exhaust (the chimney), while a free-standing gas fireplace is vented through a pipe connected to an outside wall. A free-standing gas fireplace often uses one of two types of direct venting: coaxial (a pipe within a pipe) or collinear (side-by-side pipes). Combustion is achieved using outside air, in a fashion similar to a chimney, and the flame is sealed behind a glass surface. Since none of the air from inside your home is sent outside, only 20 to 30 percent of the heat generated by the gas fireplace is lost through exhaust. That will give you a nice, warm living space that allows for zoned heating.

Another option for a home without an existing hearth is a zero-clearance fireplace, which can be safely installed near combustible materials, such as drywall or paneling. The firebox is built using materials that do not allow anything outside the fireplace to get hot enough to burn. Like an insert and a free-standing fireplace, a zero-clearance unit is significantly more efficient than a traditional brick-and-mortar fireplace. Because zero-clearance fireplaces are manufactured in so many shapes and sizes, it is easy to find one for most places in a given home. They are designed to fit tight spaces. In addition, a zero-clearance fireplace is easy to install; most units can be installed in a single day and require no additional foundation. They can be installed in basements, on second floors, and even in most mobile homes.

The primary criticism of glass-enclosed inserts and fireplaces in the past has been that reflections from the glass make it hard to see the fire itself. However, in recent years, manufacturers have addressed that concern using ceramic or tempered glass. Today, reflection is not an issue. You’ll be able to see your fire burn brightly.

Given the savings, the fuel-efficiency, and the overall aesthetics of gas fireplaces, you could not have made a better choice. At Croft Fireplace Center, we’re eager to help you pick out and install the right gas fireplace to fit your needs and budget. Let us help you get ready to relax in front of your cozy fire this winter.

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