Looking for a hearth of gold?

Dan Falloon

Plenty of
options with
gas, electric
In the advancing realm of fireplace technology, consumers of all stripes have numerous options. Whether looking for a secondary heat source or an addition to a room’s ambiance, customers are in control.
The first choice that must be made is between gas and electric units.
Electric models are portable and less expensive than their gas counterparts, although the latter have more custom options and are more useful in the event of a power outage.
The electric option tends to range from $299-$1,800, according to Travis Green of Green’s Countrywide Home Furnishings in Fort Frances, but the majority of units purchased tend to fall in the $800-$1,200 ballpark.
Electric fireplaces can be plugged in to a regular outlet, so installation costs aren’t a consideration.
Gas options, meanwhile, start around $3,000 (including installation), said Dave Petsnick, owner of Revco Carpet here, which sells Lennox and Kingsman models.
Several venting options also are available for gas units, although Petsnick recommends the direct vent fireplace, which operates as a double-pipe system. An inner pipe vents smoke outside while the outer pipe draws in fresh air.
“The best units on the market are all direct vent,” he remarked. “The hood has a special feature on it so that it allows fresh air to come in and feed the burner, but then the hot air comes out the centre one.
“It allows for a cooler operating temperature,” he noted. “There’s no mixing between the exhaust air and the supply air.”
With homes becoming more air-tight in the name of being energy-efficient, Petsnick said the two-way flow of direct vent units are a safer choice than one-way ones such as wood stoves.
Problems arise when wood stoves are left to smoulder, and the exhaust doesn’t leave the house as quickly as during when the fire is crackling.
If a fan—perhaps from a range or in the bathroom—is left on, then it may draw that exhaust back into the house.
“Because the house is so air-tight, it’s got to pull air from somewhere,” Petsnick warned.
“It can’t get it from around the windows any more. It can’t get it from around the door because they put weather-stripping on there.
“That flue right there, that’s a natural spot for it to come down, so all of a sudden it starts sucking air back down,” he explained.
As well, direct vent units offer more placement options than one-way units given a direct vent unit can be placed along most outside walls that are connected to a gas line.
There also are a plethora of custom elements to consider. Revco’s staff is able to help customers design the fireplace of their dreams.
“The nice thing about fireplaces is that you can customize them,” Petsnick enthused.
“You can get just about any colour trim you wanted, if you wanted trim,” he added, citing gold, silver, and titanium as examples.
Customers also have choices when it comes to what goes inside the fireplace since the flames can burn through river stones, crushed glass (with multiple colour options available) and, of course, the classic log.
As well, numerous options for mantles are available, ranging from wood to slate and tile.
Petsnick said with Revco’s vast array of flooring options, customers are able to easily fit a fireplace into a whole room renovation.
Customers are able to come into Revco for one-stop shopping since the staff is able to install fireplaces, and can help customers plan their dream space.
“We have a tile setter and a carpenter on staff,” Petsnick noted. “I’m a gas fitter, so I’m licensed to hook up all the natural gas and propane.
“It’s nice that people can come in here and we’ll give them a price to do the whole package.
“They don’t have the hassle of running around trying to find someone to come and do it,” he added. “We’ll just show up and do everything.”
Petsnick recommended customers visit Revco at 950 Fifth St. W. to hammer out a plan before setting anything in stone.
“You go home and look at these ideas, and then give us a call,” he suggested. “We’ll come over to your place and find out if it’s even going to happen.
“There’s no sense getting your hopes up if there’s really no way to do it,” he reasoned.
Petsnick suggested gas fireplaces to those living in the country, where power outages happen on occasion. In the event of an outage, a gas fireplace can keep a home’s occupants reasonably comfortable until power is restored.
One of Petsnick’s customers was in such a predicament a couple of winters ago.
“That little fireplace was heating his whole house,” he noted. “It was a little chilly down in the basement, but the upstairs was fine.
“If it was down in the rec room in your basement, and the power was out, you just fire that up on full flame and you’d get enough radiant heat off there, you’d keep comfortable,” Petsnick added.
Electric options are up to the heating challenge, as well, given the units have the equivalent of a 1,500-watt space heater inside, and put out about as much heat as a baseboard heater, according to Green.
Electric fireplaces come more “as is” than the gas options, but there still are choices for a customer to make.
Styling ranges from modern to a wood stove motif to classic European, and can add to any room in a house since they require just one electrical outlet.
“There’s no fancy hook-ups. It just plugs into your regular plug-in,” stressed Green.
“You can put them pretty much anywhere. That’s the nice thing about them.
“Back in the old days, you had a big brick fireplace in your living room and that was it,” he continued. “Now, you can have one in your bedroom. You can have one in your bedroom.
“You can have one in your kitchen if you wanted it.”
Additionally, electric options open up the fireplace market to those who may have not been able to acquire one before.
“They’re great for people in condos and apartments,” Green remarked. “You can take it with you.
“The gas one, if you install it, it stays with the house,” he reasoned. “This one, if you get bored of it in one room, you can move it to another room.
“If you have a basement, it’ll help heat that room as a secondary heat source,” he added.
Because of this portability, Green thinks electric fireplaces are the way of the future.
“It’s definitely been a growing market,” he enthused.
“The gas ones were big a few years ago. These ones are much less expensive.
“You can get the look and feel of the gas fireplace without the expense.”
For the environmentally-conscience, some electric models claim to be up to 90 percent more efficient than gas models, and also don’t give off direct emissions.
Lastly, both gas and electric fireplaces come with remote control options, and both can be used for ambiance without having much affect on a room’s temperature.