It’s an iconic visual: gathering around the fireplace to tell stories while enjoying the warmth and glow of its rippling flames. Thanks to a new generation of electric and gas fireplaces, any family in any home can partake in this winter tradition — without chopping wood or cleaning out the chimney.
This new smokeless fireplace generation includes units that are inserted into existing fireplaces, or as free standing models that mimic a fireplace — mantle and all. Each has its own unique benefits, and with a huge selection of styles and colors to choose from, these fireplace alternatives can blend into the design of any home.
Electric fireplaces can mimic a traditional fireplace, complete with hearth, logs and flames. Except in this case, the logs don’t burn and the flames aren’t real.
A major benefit in choosing electric is that it does not require professional installation. In fact, the main power source is a standard three-prong electrical outlet. Electric models are lightweight as well, allowing you to bring the warmth and ambience of a fireplace to any room in your home or apartment. The ways to mount your fireplace are limited only by your imagination — and the availability of an electrical outlet.
There are hundreds of designs and options to choose from to suit your décor and lifestyle. You can choose an insert if you already have a fireplace (keep in mind you will probably need to seal your chimney), or buy one made with a mantel already attached, in materials like wood, marble and cast-iron. If logs aren’t your thing, you can choose the look of glowing coals — or metal pipes for a modern aesthetic.
Vent-free Gas Fireplaces
There are two kinds of gas fireplaces: vent-free and direct-vent. There has been much controversy over the safety and air quality of the vent-free option. Below, we’ll describe both options. Be sure to carefully research each to be sure you are making the right choice for your home.
Vent-free fireplaces are designed to work without a chimney or flue, and are fueled by propane or natural gas. These draw from air in the room and convert it into warm air. They also come in a multitude of styles and options, and though the logs may be fake, the flames are real.
To install a vent-free fireplace, place it along a wall or wall recess where a professional can attach a gas line. Most vent-free fireplaces are designed as inserts, or with a wood mantel around them, though there are some stark modern designs in which the units are installed into walls in the picture frame style.
Direct Vent Gas Fireplaces
A direct vent fireplace is a fireplace vented to the outdoors. Direct vent fireplaces are “closed combustion” units, and are sealed with a glass panel along the front. This improves efficiency and allows the glass to transfer the heat. These fireplaces do not require a chimney — just a vent through a sidewall or roof.
Again, you’ll need a
professional to install the gas line. As with all fireplace alternatives, you
can choose a traditional look, install it in an existing hearth, or purchase a
free-standing unit. The traditional designs of direct vent fireplaces —
complete with intricately carved wood mantels — are dead-ringers for the real