Now is the Time to Update an Old Fireplace

No cozy home is truly complete without a fireplace to warm things up. And there’s no better time than now to update your fireplace, says Kevin Sandell, sales associate at House of Fireplaces, in Elgin. The firm specializes in fireplaces and accessories, and its showroom contains 50 burning models.

Determining what’s right for your home often comes down to the look and the location.

Advancements in fireplace systems leave many more options beyond the traditional wood-burning or gas-burning unit. Those tend to warm a room but suck a lot of hot air up the chimney. Sealed-combustion units, by contrast, look like traditional fireplaces and burn like traditional gas units, but their design allows them to quickly radiate heat.

“It’s still nice aesthetics, but you won’t get the same big flames you’ll get with a traditional unit where you have about 100,000 BTUs of flame rolling around,” says Sandell. “These units are 80 percent efficient, so if you had 100,000 BTUs going, you’d have it on for 20 minutes before you’re cooked.”

Compared with their traditional counterparts, these units are optimal for finished basements. Their design allows them to easily ventilate through the side of the house, rather than running through the floors above.

Electric fireplaces are growing in popularity, too, and they can vary widely in their ability to give heat and create visual warmth. They can look very traditional, ultra-modern or somewhere in between, and they can mount just about anyplace there’s an electrical connection.

“There are units that use light and shadow or reflection to simulate flames,” says Sandell. “There are others using ultrasonic water vapor and steam to give a flame effect, because there are no flames in an electrical unit.”

Traditional fireplaces can be easily retrofitted with newer, more efficient units, and installation typically requires few modifications, says Sandell. These inserts, which are typically sealed-combustion units, fit right into an existing unit and existing gas line. ❚

House of Fireplaces is located at 1255 Bowes Road, Elgin, (847) 741-5903.