How to

11 November 2016

A Guide to the Different Fireplace Options

There’s nothing better than snuggling up next to a cosy hearth in the heart of winter. A roaring fire appeals to our most basic instincts, keeping us warm and providing safety, although that safety is now from the winter chill rather than from hungry predators. However, there are a whole host of options for what form this fire can take, and in this article we’ll guide you through the positives and negatives of each so that you can find the fire for you.

Open Log Fires

The most traditional option, open wood fires have been burnt almost as far back as human history stretches. Their aesthetic is unparalleled for authenticity, as they look, smell, and sound amazing.

However, though logs look great to burn, they do require purchase and storage, as well as carrying them inside when you need them. Open log fires demand the most care and attention, too, as you have to clean all of the ash out of the fireplace and chimney. Proper chimney cleaning usually requires professional help, unless you’re really dedicated and buy your own equipment.

Open log fires also pose the greatest safety hazard due to their exposed nature, and can spit out burning embers that can damage carpets, or worse; start a fire. They can also lose a lot of heat up the open chimney, so you may not get as much bang for your buck in fuel terms.

Of course, this kind of fire requires a chimney, which are rather expensive to build if you don’t already have one, so that could be the main deciding factor as to whether you go for one or not.

Yet despite all these potential drawbacks, many would argue that all of this effort is well worth it to hear the crackle of logs in the depth of winter.

Woodburning Stove

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Woodburning stoves can be a great compromise between the raw openness of a log fire and the more artificial nature of some of the other options. They still provide the rippling flames and smell of burning logs, but share some of the drawbacks with the open log fire.

Woodburners still need a chimney, they still need cleaning, and you still have to buy and bring in plenty of logs. They can also be quite expensive to purchase in the first place.

On the plus side, woodburners can retain and radiate more heat from their metal bodies, and they are safer, too. You can even buy cute little fans that sit on top of the stove blowing warm air across the room, powered by the hot air itself rising.

Gas Fireplaces

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If you’re determined to avoid having to lug logs in and out to keep your fire going, or you don’t have a chimney, there are some other options for fire fixtures. Gas fireplaces are one of the most common alternatives, and offer a nice balance between authenticity and convenience.

Instead of wood, gas fireplaces burn, unsurprisingly, gas. This makes them much simpler to run, with no preparation and little cleaning, just an on/off switch. There are different varieties, however, that differ slightly by their construction.

Vented gas fireplaces are the most similar to open fireplaces, and they are built with a chimney as well. This allows an open fire with proper flames, and they can incorporate ceramic logs that imitate the glowing embers of the real thing. If you prefer a less traditional approach, there are plenty of other fixtures, even brightly coloured glass ones.

Direct-vented gas fireplaces are enclosed behind glass, with a circulation system that draws in air from and expels gas directly to the outside. They give off a large amount of heat, as none is lost up the flume, but they cannot be open for obvious reasons.

The final type of gas fireplace is the ventless type. These are completely self -contained, which means that they can be put pretty much anywhere, even on an interior wall, as long as you can pipe gas to the location. They work by burning extremely cleanly, so no carbon monoxide is given off, and they don’t lose any heat to the outside.

Electric Fireplaces

Electric fireplaces are the easiest to fit into any part of your home, as they can be connected to your existing electrical system, don’t need a chimney, and come in a variety of forms. This means the ultimate convenience, and many are even portable.

However, the main drawback of the electric fireplace is its lack of realistic ambience. Though there are electric flame effects, they are nowhere near the same as the real thing. Some modern electric fireplaces get around this by using video screens with looping HD video to simulate a real fire, but obviously this is not the same as the crackle of real logs.

Biofuel / Ethanol Fireplaces

The most innovative modern type of fireplace is the biofuel fireplace. As its name suggests, it runs on a refillable tank of biofuel or ethanol, a more sustainable fuel source than gas, coal, or non-renewable electricity. However, it retains, and even at times improves on, the convenience of the gas or electric fireplaces. It can be placed anywhere in the home, without needing a chimney, therefore you can avoid expensive DIY projects. The burning fuel produces a real flame, and you can even get small tabletop ones as decorations. Definitely a new challenger to consider.

That sums up the main types of fireplace furnishings that you could install in your home. Open fires can even save you heating bills if you buy fuel for them economically and use them to heat your main living area, and there’s nothing that compares to their cosiness levels, so they’re definitely worth considering. Fire at will.

Sam Franklin

With a master’s in Literature, Sam inhales books and anything readable, spending his working hours reformulating the info he gathers into digestible articles. When not reading or writing, he likes to put his camera to work around the world, snapping street photography from Stockholm to Tokyo. Too much of this time spent in Japan teaching English has nurtured a weakness for sashimi, Japanese whisky, and robot caf├ęs.