When it’s cold outside, nothing beats the warmth, cosiness and romance of a fireplace.
With various options available and with the winter chill firmly in the air, what are the right fireplaces for your home? Whether you’re looking for gas, electric, wood or bioethanol, there are a range of options to choose from to suit almost any installation.
Fireplaces can make a room – acting as a focal point or gathering place, as-well-as providing heat and light; so it’s important to have the right fireplace design for your home. Designs vary widely, but no matter what your style or infrastructure limitations, there is a fireplace for you and your home.
When picking a fireplace, there are many considerations. You need to make decisions about the heating functionality (as some can be thermally inefficient) and the overall aesthetic of the fireplace. Consider:
- What type of fireplace is right for you and your family?
- Will the unit be a source of primary heat or will it be used for decorative purposes?
- Is ease of use and maintenance a priority?
- What kind of fuel do you prefer?
- Environmental considerations, and
- What style would fit with your overall décor?
There has been a strong trend toward gas and bioethanol fireplaces, because they are more affordable, come in modern designs and don’t require traditional fitting, flues or chimneys.
While there are a wide variety of styles and designs to choose from, gas fireplaces are either open (more decorative) or closed. The look is highly customisable using different media, fronts, fascias and mantels, and can be either contemporary or a more traditional look.
Closed gas, or balanced flue gas fireplaces, are efficient and clean burning options for your home. Air is drawn from outside, and any by-products from the unit are expelled externally, ensuring indoor air quality.
Again there are two highly customisable styles – open wood or slow combustion (closed i.e. wood burners). And if you already have an existing fireplace, it is simply a matter of inserting the appropriate size box into the brick fireplace and using the existing chimney.
Slow combustion units offer powerful performance as both freestanding and insert models. With long burn times and high heat output, they can be used as a primary heat source.
Whilst there’s nothing quite like the flickering flames of a real wood fire, the biggest downsides are carbon emissions, cleanliness and upkeep.
(Bio)Ethanol fireplaces, which are generally either wall mounted or freestanding, are a bit different from gas or wood burning units. They use bioethanol as a source of heat and flames. As a result, there’s no soot or ashes. The flames are clean, and the fireplaces require little, if any, venting and with no flue, the installation is simple. Although a safety distance is required.
All this combined, makes ethanol fireplaces one of the easiest and most popular choices for Australian homes and outdoor areas.
Electric fireplaces get a bad wrap but they offer the convenience of instant heat at the flick of a switch. They are versatile, can be installed in almost any home (including apartments or reception areas) and no longer look like your grandma fireplace (one bar or two?).
Electric fireplaces don’t require a flue so are easily wall mounted, and can heat small areas very effectively. Although there’s no flame many units simulate flames for aesthetics with light, vapour and other means.
Burning wood isn’t all that “green”, especially if it’s a primary heat source and thermally inefficient. So, make sure you consider how you’re using the fire.
One greener alternative to burning firewood is to burn wood pellets, which are made from sawdust and other lumber by-products that would have otherwise been waste. These burn efficiently – as there’s little moisture content—so there are fewer pollutants to escape into the air inside or out.
Of course, gas and ethanol are cleaner, although you should consider both the extraction and refinement process of the fuel. And that these inserts cannot heat large spaces as efficiently as free-standing wood, pellet or gas stoves.
With so many different options to choose from, selecting a fireplace can become a little overwhelming. Be sure to talk to a specialist to ensure you the get the right information and advice for your home.
And make sure to get a qualified professional fitter to do the work and any maintenance, as you and your loved ones cosy up around the fire – regardless of whether it for warmth or for aesthetics.
If you’ve already decided on a theme for your room, look for a fireplace with complimentary accents like stone, brick, tile and woodworking. If you choose a mantle, it’s a great way to match it to your room’s décor. Accent the mantle with decorative touches like mirrors, statues, flowers or artwork to complement your theme.
For more information on this or any other interior design topic, contact SmartSpace Interiors here.
NOTE: Images used under Fair Use, and were sourced from a variety of online sources and personal archives. The above commentary is a personal view and not commercial in nature.