How to Find the Right Fireplace for Your Home

While the crackle and aroma of a wood-burning fireplace creates a relaxing environment, lighting fires and cleaning up ashes can be exhausting. Luckily, the traditional wood-burning unit is just one of many styles available for today’s homeowner.

“The majority of people want gas,” says Kevin Obee, general manager of Benson Stone Co., in Rockford. “Gas units have come a long way in the past 20 years.”

Most modern units are ultra-efficient and fit into most spaces – new or existing.
Before you go shopping, be sure to know your lingo.

Open Vent vs. Direct Vent: While both systems exhaust fumes outdoors, open-vent systems – like traditional fireplaces – draw in air from the room. They’re less efficient than a sealed direct-vent system, which pulls combustion air from outside your home.

Wood Burners: High-efficiency wood fireplaces and inserts offer the look of a traditional wood fire without as much heat loss. Modern models have fans that blow the heat back into the room. Sealed combustion systems also mean you’re not using indoor air to fuel the fire.

Gas Logs: They’re found in both open-vent fireplaces and direct-vent inserts. Most of today’s log units are made to radiate more heat than models made just a decade or two ago. Using his own fireplace as an example, Obee says he usually runs his gas log system on the high setting with the furnace set around 72.

“It actually saves me money every single time I use it, because I’m not using my furnace to heat the same space,” says Obee.

Electric: In situations where installing a gas line or proper venting would be impractical or expensive, some homeowners opt instead for electric fireplaces.

Obee estimates that direct-vent units put out anywhere from four to 10 times as much heat as an electric fireplace, so these models are best for ambiance alone.

Whatever system and style you choose, adding a functional hearth to your home is an investment that can pay off over time by reducing heating costs and increasing the value of your home – not to mention that warm and cozy feeling it provides on a chilly evening. ❚

Benson Stone Co. is located at 1100 11th St., Rockford, (815) 227-2000.