With thousands of fireplaces products and countless variations of those products, choosing the correct gas fireplace for your needs can seem like an overwhelming task. The following information, albeit general is intended to help you, the gas fireplace buyer, narrow down the type and style of fireplace product best suited to meet your needs. The questions that are outlined below will help you to determine not only what type of fireplace it is you may need but also the style, size and in the end look that is desired.
What type of fireplace product will be best suited for me?
This should be the initial decision made in order to determine the type of fireplace product needed. There are four basic fireplace types to choose from:
1. Vent Free or Ventless Gas Fireplaces:
Vent Free or ventless fireplaces do not require any type of venting product to bring in air for combustion or to exhaust any air after combustion. Without any venting these products are much easier to install then their vented counterparts. These units are ideal for installation in areas where placing a vented unit would be impractical, physically impossible or excessively expensive .
Vent free or Ventless products are also the most efficient in terms of the amount of heat energy put out in comparison the the amount of fuel energy put in to the unit. All vent free or ventless fireplace products when correctly installed and operated burn at 99.9% efficiency.
All Vent Free or Ventless fireplace products come standard with a built in ODS (oxygen depletion sensor). This sensor reads the amount of oxygen in the air within the fireplace. Since vent free or ventless fireplaces use air from the interior space in which they are installed this safety device is required on all of these units. This sensor will always fail into the safe position turning the gas off to the unit.
Be sure to check your local codes for regulations regarding the installation and use of vent free or ventless fireplace products.
2. Direct Vent Gas Fireplaces:
Direct Vent fireplaces will require venting products in order to bring outside air in for combustion and exhausts some heated air and combustion by-products to the outside of the home. This type of fireplace is a completely closed system. The chamber in which the fire takes place is sealed behind a pane of tempered or ceramic glass. The air inside the the fireplace never mixes with the air inside the home. This eliminates any and all environmental factors of having a gas fireplace product.
Direct Vent products are second in efficiency after vent free fireplaces in terms of the amount of heat energy put out in comparison the the amount of fuel energy put in to the unit. Most direct vent fireplace products when correctly installed and operated burn between 75% - 85% efficiency as some of the heat energy will be exhausted to the outside.
Each direct vent installation will require a potentially unique venting solution. For this reason no direct vent fireplaces come with any venting products included. In order to determine how to vent a direct vent fireplace and what type of venting products will be needed the best reference is the owners/installation manual for the direct vent fireplace you are considering.
Because direct vent fireplaces are a sealed system there are little to no regulations regarding where within a home these units can be installed. As it is still a gas product it is always a good idea to first check local codes to see if there are any regulations that pertain to direct vent fireplaces.
3. B Vent Gas Fireplaces:
B Vent fireplaces are generally considered to be a cosmetic appliance. This means that the fireplaces do not put out enough heat to be classified as a heater rated appliance. Most B vent vent units are installed in areas of the country where the supplemental heat generated from another type of fireplace is unnecessary and in some cases unwanted. B vent fireplaces are a vented style of fireplace that requires the correct venting be vented vertically through the roof of the structure.
B Vent products are low in efficiency in terms of the amount of heat energy put out in comparison the the amount of fuel energy put in to the unit. Most B vent fireplace products when correctly installed and operated burn at around 30% efficiency as most of the heat energy will be exhausted to the outside.
The venting for B vent products can generally be found locally in the areas where these units are most heavily installed.
4. Wood Burning Fireplaces:
Wood burning fireplaces are exactly what the name implies. These units will give you a manufacturer option to building a masonry wood burning fireplace. All wood burning fireplaces require the appropriate venting for the specific units chosen. Wood burning is becoming more and more heavily regulated in areas. Be sure to check your local codes in regard to no burn days, burn times and types of wood that can be burnt. As wood burning fireplaces release a great deal of particulates into the atmosphere these types of regulations will become more common.
Wood burning fireplaces can range greatly in efficiency. The type of wood used and the way in which the fire burns can vary the overall efficiency of a wood burning fireplace. Generally a wood burning fireplace burns at approximately 30% efficiency.
What style of gas fireplace will work best for the type of installation I would like to do?
Now that you have hopefully narrowed down the type of gas fireplace product you are installing the next step would be to determine the style of that fireplace. Most of the styles listed below are available in all of the fireplace types Vent free, Direct vent, B vent and Wood burning. Finding the style that fits the type of installation that you would like is the next step.
1. Traditional / One Sided Fireplaces:
These are the type of fireplaces that we are all familiar with. The fireplace has a single side that is open for viewing the fire. This style of fireplace is the most commonly installed and one of the most flexible in terms on installation. These units may be recessed into a wall, built in to a mantel that is a full cabinet, partial cabinet or even a corner mantel. The majority of these units are used in new construction or renovations. This is the style of unit you are looking for if you want to have a corner installation where the face of the fireplace is at a 45˚ angle from the walls.
2. See-thru Fireplaces:
See-thru fireplaces are installed in a wall that allows both sides to open into opposing rooms. This style of fireplace requires that there be the appropriate space (depth) in the wall in order to accommodate the installation. Some of this style of unit are now available for installation with one side being outside and the opposite being indoors.
3. Peninsula Fireplaces:
A peninsula fireplace has three sides that are open for viewing. While these units are not as frequently installed as other multi sided fireplaces they can create a wonderful focal point within a room.
4. Fireplace Inserts:
This style of fireplace product is built for a very specific installation. the fireplace insert is manufactured to slide into and existing masonry fireplace thus creating a gas fireplace option without removing the existing masonry one. These units will also have large surrounds or facings that are designed to cover the gaps between the fireplace insert and the actual opening of the masonry fireplace.
Stoves are an excellent choice for a stand alone installation. Because a stove is designed to require no mantel, framing and limited construction (venting) they are the easiest to deal with in terms of the installation. These fireplaces make a great option for sun rooms, basements and all season rooms. Stoves also offer a traditional look that can not always be found with other fireplace products.
What size fireplace will be best for my installation?
There are two sizes to take into consideration when answering this question. First is the actual physical size of the unit. Second is the BTU output of the unit. While not always directly correlated generally as the physical size of a fireplace increases so does the BTU output.
1. Physical Size of the Fireplace:
Fireplaces are broken down into sizes in order to make them easy to compare. Fireplaces from 20 inches up to 60 inches and all sizes in-between are available. The size you choose should be determined by the space you have. As an example most people who have a 8 foot wall would probably not choose to put a 60 inch unit on that wall as the fireplace would take up all most all of it. As these are personal design choices we recommend taking some blue painters tape and with the measurements of a specific unit masking out the size where you intend to install the fireplace. It can be quite enlightening to see just how large a 42 inch fireplace will actually look in given space.
2. BTU Output of the Fireplace:
The BTU output of a unit can be just as important as the overall physical size of the unit. If you are trying to provide supplemental heat to a large room more BTU's may be what you are looking for. Keep in mind that the higher the BTU output the more fuel is being consumed and that the majority of that heat is concentrated at the fireplace. Many fireplaces offer an adjustable BTU output. This will allow for the flame to be adjusted to more accurately heat the space. As an example if having a group of friends over, a lower setting might be optimal as the bodies in the room are producing heat and not as much heat would be necessary from the fireplace.
Keep in mind that there may be regulations regarding the BTU output of a given fireplace product depending on where it is installed within a home. Please be sure to consult your local regulations and codes prior to installation.
What should my fireplace look like?
Unfortunately this is one question that we cannot answer for you. Everyone has different needs and wants for their fireplace installation. Some people may be looking for a very modern look that includes glass beads and geometric shape as opposed to logs. Others may be installing the fireplace in a den which has dark woods and brass accents and what to carry that theme over to the fireplace installation. While all of these things and many more are possible they may not be available on every fireplace. The following are some common accessories that can be added to your fireplace. While most are purely decorative some are functional.
The mantels offered with each fireplace are prefabricated to fit a specific fireplace. Mantels are available in multiple different finishes and can be purchase as a standard wall mantel or a corner mantel. If the fireplace you are looking at does not have a link to any mantels it just means that there are none that were manufactured specifically for that fireplace. These units can generally still be placed in a custom mantel built on site.
2. Decorative Accessories:
Not every fireplace will have the same decorative accessories available. These accessories include louvers, exterior frames, window trim, facings, and doors. Many of these are available in different designs and can vary in finishes such as brass, stainless steel, pewter or black. All of these options are purely cosmetic and most can be added after installation if a fresh or different look was wanted.
3. Firebrick Liners:
Some fireplaces come standard with a firebrick liner all ready installed (this will be listed in the fireplace products title). While most come with the standard matte black metal interior that the rest of the box is made with. The firebrick liners are purely decretive and serve no functional purpose in regards to fireplace longevity or efficiency.
Blowers do actually serve a functional purpose within the fireplace. Having a blower installed and running will force the heated air from around the fireplace further out into the room, providing a bit more even distribution of the heat. These blowers do require electricity to operate which is something to consider depending on the location you intend to install the fireplace. Also keep in mind that while the blower is not as loud as a vacuum cleaner it is audible.
5. Remote Controls:
Most fireplaces will have the option to add a remote control. When we refer to a remote control we are referring to anything that allows for the operation, however limited, of the fireplace without bending down and using the controls located on the fireplace itself. These remotes can be as simple as on on off switch or as complex as a hand held programable thermostatic touch screen remote.
Hopefully these four basic questions will help to guide you to the area of fireplace products that best fit the needs of your specific installation.