Natural gas fireplace buying tips

September 7, 2008 by  
Filed under 01: Gas Fireplaces

Convenience is the big seller for natural gas: no ashes or wood to clean up, and you can light your fire with the flick of a switch. Gas models are also compact, requiring little space to install. And they can go virtually anywhere thanks to numerous venting options:

Direct vent: this type of natural gas fireplace is designed to vent directly out of the exterior house walls or through the roof, rather than a chimney. It has a sealed, double-pipe venting system which makes it an efficient heating appliance using the outside air. A direct vent fireplace is a good choice for homes without a chimney or that are well-insulated.

B vent (also know as natural draft): this is a more economical option than a direct vent. This system uses the room air for combustion, and is fairly easy to install. It’s a space saver too, but generally needs something to finish it off, such as a mantel.

Freestanding fireplaces are another option. These range from small hearth mounts that sit snugly in front of existing fireplaces to freestanding stoves. Again, venting comes into consideration because these fireplaces may be vented into chimneys, or through the roof with new venting, or out the wall in direct venting. Freestanding units are suitable for hard-to-heat locations such as the basement.

Inserts are something to consider if you have a traditional masonry fireplace and are looking for a more efficient heat source. Due to sizing, there may be a gap between the insert and the inside of a fireplace, but a faceplate can cover up the gap.

Energy-efficiency ratings: When shopping for a natural gas fireplace, the Office of Energy Efficiency (part of Natural Resources Canada) recommends that you ask for the CGA-P.4 Annual Fireplace Efficiency rating of the models you are interested in. This is the Canadian Gas Association standard for measuring fireplace energy efficiency. The most efficient units will operate in the 50% to 70% range. For more information »

Gas fireplaces give you instant warmth

September 6, 2008 by  
Filed under 01: Gas Fireplaces

Are natural gas fireplaces a better alternative to wood-burning fireplaces?

Yes! You’ll never have to worry about chimney fires or ashes and sparks, which can harm children, pets, or furnishings. Today’s gas logs and fireplace inserts are engineered to provide fuel-efficient, fuss-free flames at the flick of a switch. You can enjoy a cozy fire instantly, when you want it, and with a natural gas fireplace, there’s no wood to buy, haul, or store, which means less hassle for you, without the mess.

In addition to instant gratification, today’s natural gas fireplaces have no negative impact to air quality – both inside and out. With the increasing problems of wood-burning fireplaces, most people ask “What do I do with my fireplace now?” The answer is simple…convert it to natural gas. Natural gas fireplaces are the perfect solution during poor air quality restricted “no burn” days.

Many gas fireplaces are tested and certified to room heater or wall furnace standards, which ensure a higher level of efficiency and Btu output. In fact many are over 80 percent efficient, and can heat a sizable portion of your floor plan. Gas fireplaces also offer the benefits of both radiant and convective heat. Natural convection, often aided by blower systems, draws in, warms and returns room air, which circulates freely around corners and up stairwells. At the same time, radiant heat emanates from the fireplace’s surfaces and gently warms objects in its path. Many gas fireplaces feature heat exchangers that boost heat output considerably. You can get all the warmth and charm of a glowing fire, even if the electricity goes out!

Gas fireplaces give you instant warmth, at your fingertips! Guilt-free!

Selecting a Gas Fireplace

September 2, 2008 by  
Filed under 01: Gas Fireplaces

A new fireplace can improve your heating efficiency, and add warmth and charm to your home, without disrupting your floor plan, raising your roof, or running miles of flue pipe.

Installing a gas fireplace is a great way to increase your heating efficiency and enhance your décor without ruining your remodeling plans. Gone are the days when a new fireplace meant a masonry chimney rising feet above the nearest roof. Today, many fireplaces install with a simple cut in the exterior wall for venting.

Modern gas fireplaces are easy additions to most remodeling projects. Using only a fraction of the floor space need by a traditional masonry fireplace, their efficiency and heat output can rival a traditional furnace. 40,000 Btu units, for example, can heat a small home.

Efficiency Ratings

Fireplaces today are built for efficiency. Like a standard furnace, gas fireplaces have a Btu (British thermal unit) rating. Btu ratings measure the amount of heat produced by the fireplace. Models should also have an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. This system is used to determine the fireplace’s efficiency. AFUE ratings are similar to gas mileage figures for cars—the higher the rating, the more efficient the fireplace. An AFUE figure takes into account all of the energy used as the appliance cycles on and off, and gets up to a target temperature. Another efficiency measure is the steady state efficiency rating. The steady state figure rates efficiency while maintaining a constant temperature. Be sure when comparing fireplace ratings that the numbers are from the same scale. Typically, steady state rating will be higher than the AFUE rating, which takes into account the unit’s efficiency at startup and as it reaches the desired temperature.

Three Types of Fireplaces

There are three options to consider when installing a gas fireplace. Depending on your space and existing home, inserts, direct-vent, and vent-free models are available. Most gas models can be converted to use propane, and many wood burning models can have gas jets added for heat-boosting potential on extra chilly days and nights.

Fireplace Inserts

Inserts are designed to fit in an existing wood burning fireplace and be vented through an existing chimney via a special vent pipe that carries the fumes to the outside. Inserts are comprised of a metal firebox that contains the decorative logs and gas jets. The inner firebox is surrounded by a layer of air and a second metal layer to contain the air that is warmed by the inner firebox. When ignited, the fireplace insert draws in fresh air, warms it between the two boxes, and sends it up through the top of the box and into a room. Air for combustion air is drawn in from a second vent pipe (sealed combustion) or, in some cases, from the room itself. Outside air vents may also be installed to provide combustible air from outside. Many models offer a fan or blower to boost the delivery of warm air to the room and encourage a more even distribution of heat.

An insert can be made to look like the masonry around it. “We also make fireplaces out of ceramic fiber, which we market as ‘Firebrick,'” says Ross Morrison of Heat-N-Glo. “These fireplaces and inserts are produced from a mold that can be done to any shape and resemble real brick, giving the consumer a true masonry appearance. It’s also extremely good insulating material. So rather than heating air behind the firebox, it pushes that heat out the glass front in the form of a much-improved radiant heat.” One of the greatest features of any glass-front fireplace is the radiant heat with which it warms the room. Radiant sources provide steady, continuous heat by transferring that heat to other objects in the room. Many gas fireplaces provide both warm air and a radiant heat surface to warm the space around them.

Direct Vent Fireplaces

Direct vent fireplaces do not require masonry chimney on the home’s exterior. They can be safely vented directly through an exterior wall.

Direct vent fireplaces have revolutionized fireplace placement in homes. Since they are vented directly to the outside through a hole in an exterior wall, there is no need to construct a chimney or run a freestanding flue above the roofline. Like firebox inserts, direct vent fireplaces are available in sealed combustion direct-vent models. When the fireplace is sealed, the air that is used to generate the flame (combustion air) is drawn from outside. The fumes that are a byproduct of the combustion are also vented to the outside. In this way, air contaminated with combustion byproducts and unused fuel does not circulate in the home, and household air is not used to fuel the combustion process.

A sealed-combustion direct-vent fireplace is by far the most efficient fireplace option. Since the entire operation is independent of the household air, with sealed combustion direct vent fireplaces there are no drafts and no heat loss. In fact, these fireplaces operate at a near 90 percent efficiency rate. AFUE-rated fireplaces can generate as much heat as a furnace—upwards of 40,000 Btu in some cases—and should be taken into account in any heating and cooling calculations for your home. Manufacturers offer heat calculation charts to help determine the number of Btu required to adequately heat the space in question. Armed with this knowledge, homeowners can shop for the right match in terms of capacity and aesthetics.

Vent-Free Fireplaces

As the name implies, these fireplaces are designed to operate without venting to the outside. They can be installed against a wall with access to a gas line, or may even be fitted into a wall recess. Vent-free models draw room air for combustion and convert it to warm air that is delivered to the room. Since there are no drafts, these models are considered highly efficient, burning at an efficiency rate of more than 90 percent.

There are debates, however, as to the air quality generated by vent-free fireplaces. While their literature states that these fireplaces meet or exceed all guidelines for indoor air quality, there are those who insist that fresh air must be exchanged to compensate for the room air used in combustion. Exterior ducts and improved ventilation may be required in some cases.

Ease and Comfort

Most gas fireplaces are paired with automatic controls that make enjoying a dancing flame as easy as a flick of the switch. Handheld remotes allow homeowners to control the heat. Some even offer automatic shutoffs. One key feature is the electricity-free ignition offered by some manufacturers. With this homeowners need never worry about heat in times of power outages. More than a selling feature, electricity-free ignition ensures heat throughout the winter season, no matter what storms or winds may blow.