Benefits of eco-friendly fireplaces (Video)
During the winter season, there is nothing like a fireplace if you want to add warmth, style and distinction to any room inside your home. For the eco conscious, the market is flooded with eco-friendly fireplaces to warm up those chilly winter nights without any negative environmental impact. It’s the ultimate way to take your green home a notch higher.
Fireplaces that run on clean-burning alternative fuels are the most popular option, and the best thing is that there are a number of interesting designs to choose from. Many of the fireplaces will complement any contemporary or traditional décor with some designs as compact as iPods or others with amazing architectural components.
The Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) has tips on how to choose the best eco-friendly fireplace for your home:
There are typically two types of wood-burning fireplaces according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website — masonry and the “low-mass” fireplaces. The first one is more expensive because of the way they are built — usually using stone bricks and EPA-approved pipes. You will spend roughly $7,000 for having this type installed in a new home, depending on how tall the chimney should be. On the other hand, the “low-mass” fireplaces are pre-fabricated prior to installation and cost less than the masonry type. You can get one for around $2,000 to $6,000 depending on the brand and model.
One advantage of wood-burning fireplaces is that they use wood logs, a renewable fuel. Firewood can also cost nothing if you are living in an area where you can cut your own wood. Also, there are low-mass fireplaces with EPA certification for being cleaner than other models.
The cons — you will need to gather or buy firewood regularly. Wood-burning fireplaces can also be messy and a portion of the heat usually escapes through the chimney. You need to regularly clean the ashes produced by the burning of woods.
If you hate the smell of burning wood or just can’t afford the cost of installing a wood-burning fireplace, then a pellet stove fireplace is your next best option. This type of fireplace is very eco-friendly because it uses renewable fuel. The pellets can be made from wood, corn, paper and grass — which are mostly waste materials. With these pellets, the fireplace is virtually emitting no smoke. These types of fuel, according to HPBA, emit the lowest emission among solid-fuel burning fireplaces.
You will need to spend at least $1,700 to $3,000 when purchasing a unit. You will also need to install special venting although you will not need a chimney.
There are disadvantages in using pellet stove fireplaces, however. First, they are electrically powered so you can’t expect to use them when utilities go out, such as during a storm. You also need to purchase the pellets. Also, they are not viable for those living in a mobile home.
Quickly growing in popularity is the electric fireplace. This is usually an appliance-type fireplace which you can easily install anywhere in your house. With easy installation and maintenance, the HPBA consider this type the most inexpensive choice. You will only spend around $500 to $3,000.
There are basically two types of electrical fireplace — the plug-and-play type and the hard-wired type. The latter, you will need to have them installed by an electrician or you can ask for installation help from the retailer. On the other hand, the plug-and-play device can be bought anytime and be used right away. Maintenance is also really easy and cheaper — you just need to replace the bulb when necessary.
On the negative side, this type of fireplace uses electricity and therefore can add up to your monthly consumption; thereby, jacking up your bills. You can’t also use it when utilities are out, unless you have a generator. Plus, you don’t get to hear the pop and crackle of the flames as they dance on the wood logs.
Gas fireplaces are a common type of fireplace. They are factory-built and consist of a firebox with a glass for viewing the fire. Just like an electric fireplace, the gas counterpart offers mobility and flexibility in installation. You can have it installed in the middle of a room or outside wall.
There are three venting options for gas fireplaces – natural vent, direct vent or vent-free. According to HPBA’s fact sheet, the heat efficiency of a direct vent gas fireplace is 58 to 80 percent while a vent-free version is 92-99 percent efficient, and a natural vented one is 82-94 percent efficient.
You will need to spend about $3,000 to $5,000 when purchasing and installing a gas fireplace for your house.
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Teena Hammond Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.