Highly variable cold temperatures, draping in woolen ensembles, rubbing hands, and traveling amidst shifty ice piles are all genuine winter symptoms. However, giving this chilliness a warm glow is a tempting contrast, which is in the form of a fireplace. Adequately warm giving flickering flames, tiny but powerful emission of harmless vapors, real fire, and sparkling embers – all these are the signs of a perfect fireplace found to be very handy on a chilled day. This guide will help you find the best fireplace for you. We have also provided short, fireplace reviews towards the end.
Who will blame a windy and chilly night when there are swaying flames of warmth and healthy wine glasses to enjoy? A fireplace is not only meant for igniting fire to deliver heat and light, but also for creating a cozy ambiance during cold nights. It is surely an ideal medium for augmenting the room temperature level as well as the looks. If used outside of home, a fireplace facilitates gathering with family and friends. This is why it is vital to keep the most suitable fireplace for the home.
A Word of Caution: Before Buying
Choosing and installing this ageless epitome of warmth and friendliness without a chimney or much fuss has become easier than ever. However, choosing it for the first time can be a stressful affair, although it is a critical job that no one will prefer to skip or delay.
Along with the design, fireplaces tend to vary significantly in terms of type, performance, and style. This creates confusion in choosing the right fireplace. However, it is possible to remove this confusion and narrow down the choices, by considering a few major factors at the time of picking your fireplace.
Most of us think that a fireplace is an aesthetic addition to home for improving the overall look and feel. However, one should not buy a fireplace only on the basis of attractive looks. In fact, one needs to consider several other critical things such as fuel type, installation cost, and potential for heat output.
This is because each fireplace has its own pros and cons, of which a few pros may be what you want regardless of the cons. For example, a chimney-based fireplace comes with an additional chimney installation cost, while a vent-free fireplace has its own drawbacks such as moisture accumulation and typical smell.
Let’s explore the factors to consider before you buy it !
Factor 1: The Place of Installation
Before you even look for the type of fireplaces, you need to consider where you would install it. In case of just an upgrade, choosing a location will not matter at all, as the location is already occupied by an existing one. With the vent-free models, the options for installation location can be multiple for you.
It might be that you would choose the location as an interior kitchen wall, master bathroom, or a living room corner. If these are your preferred places and you have no masonry fireplace or chimney, consider a vent-free and freestanding electric or gas stoves and fireplaces because you can install them almost anywhere.
Factor 2: Budget
If it is just an insert, the cost is not that much, as it is within a few hundred dollars. However, if you are thinking about a gas or wood-burning option, it can go above five thousand dollars that includes the chimney cost. Nevertheless, you should fix the budget as per your requirements. In case of tight income, you will have to control your requirements. However, this should not compromise efficiency in terms of performance as well as cost. In this way, you can choose the right model easily and with less stress.
Although installation can have hidden costs, the major ones are actual appliance cost and installation cost. If you purchase a cheap fireplace, it can end up costing you in thousands in the absence of correct planning for installation. Kindly note that each fireplace type has different installation needs and cost, but a smart choice is when the appliance costs more than installation.
Factor 3: Looks versus Performance
If you only wish for some extraordinary real flames, your search happily stops at gas and electric stoves and fireplaces. However, if you wish to move a step ahead with a desire to heat a specific home area or room, you then need to explore several cool options. You can explore fireplaces running on oil, propane, wood, natural gas, or electricity as an alternative fuel source. The latter can be a smart option against power outages in winter.
A brushed steel fireplace of modern touch will not suit a home in Craftsman style home, while an American style residence will welcome a freestanding cast iron stove. You need to strike a perfect balance between the home’s décor and fireplace’s performance. Therefore, you should consider the home’s style to shortlist your choices.
Factor 4: Heat Quantity
It is essential to know the amount of heat you will need. Leaving aside the imitation electric fires, all fireplaces feature a flame, which indicates that they can generate heat. Making the flame wider and/or larger produces more heat. For deciding the heat amount, you need to consider how frequently you will use the fireplace with or without the central heating system.
Choosing a big fireplace for a room that is not big is irrational because it will produce too much heat, which means that you will not turn it on. In short, it is essential to choose the right fireplace for reducing the central heating bills.
Factor 5: Chimney System
Also known as the flue system, the chimney system type is a critical factor to consider, as it is responsible for taking away the combustion products. In case you already have a brick chimney, it is fine if you retain it or replace it with the latest flue liner system. In case of no flue system, you can consider an electric, bio-ethanol, flueless, or balanced flue models.
If you are thinking to go with a wood burning fireplace, ensure that the chimney is in line. You will also have to look for the extra cost of cleaning the liner each year because of too much soot produced. However, there are no such costs for a gas fireplace.
Factor 6: Efficiency
Depending upon the fuel being burnt, each fireplace is likely to have different levels of heat output. This helps somewhat in determining their level of efficiency as well as can be affected by heat moving out from wrongly or bad insulation in the home, chimney, and windows. In short, it is essential to have an energy-efficient fireplace as well as its environment to save money later.
Moreover, fireplaces have varying ratings of efficiency, as per their type. This type helps in determining whether you will save power and money while using the appliance. However, efficiency is more applicable to fireplaces, working on a low cost fuel type such as gas.
Factor 7: Ventilation
A few fireplace models are such that they demand room ventilation via an air vent. Therefore, if you are choosing one such model, you need consider whether your home can welcome an air vent or not. Furthermore, its positioning is critical for proper functioning. In case your house is an older one with a coal fire, an air vent may already be fitted.
Nevertheless, you should upgrade this to the latest vent that do not permit drafts. Remember, vent cannot lead to draft that is created with a hole in the wall. However, this issue of the hole goes away if you have a high quality modern vent.
Factor 8: Fuel Type/Energy Sources
Choosing the right source of energy for flaming the fireplace is closely connected to efficiency, the desired heat output, and maintenance. Therefore, you need to choose the right energy source of fuel type. Each fuel type has its cost as per the heat or energy they generate (Kw of heat).
Of all the fuel options available, natural gas is the most economical one in terms of per Kw of heat. If you wish to go with this fuel, then you need an energy efficient gas fireplace. Here are fuel or source options to consider as per your requirements.
- Electric: Generates warmth or heat by heating coils. Most models have internal fans for dispersing heat and style features to make the flame appear realistic. The benefits of electric source are no real flame, safe for pets and kids as there are no harmful emissions, only portable option, more affordable than wood and gas, efficient in terms of energy and cost, no need of vents, and easy to maintain and install. Electric models however can boost up your power bills.
- Gas: Needs an installation of line attached to an external source. You can either choose liquid propane or natural gas the source, wherein the former uses a fuel tank and the latter uses a gas line. You should also consider models with vent and without vent. While vented ones need a chimney for taking fumes away, the ventless ones burn harmful fumes by burning at a higher temperature. Ventless inserts come with greater efficiency rate but emit an alarming amount of exhaust into your home. Therefore, direct-vent models are safe, as they expel the harmful exhaust outside. The gas models come with benefits such as low cost, heat control via on and off, and efficiency. Consider surrounding it with tiles of granite, marble, or slate for giving a luxurious look. A flueless gas option is more eco-friendly due to less emissions. It is highly efficient, needs no chimney, and requires less installation cost, although air vent and window are essential.
- Gel/Bioethanol: Does not need venting, as it burns cleanly. However, it can be an expensive fuel. Nevertheless, the fireplaces with this fuel do not need much installation and do not link themselves to a power or gas bill. Due to these benefits, such models are ideal for use inside the home. They are eco-friendly fireplaces with fuel extracted from fermentation of carbohydrates. They are easy to clean, have a striking design even for a backyard, and do not release ash, smoke, exhaust, or soot. However, the heat is less than gas and there is minimal heat protection. The fuel is available in gel and liquid form but the latter lasts longer.
- Wood: Demands much maintenance and investment money for generating a rustic touch to your place. This traditional fuel source also demand frequent and professional cleaning of your fireplace along with removal of any ash before the appliance is used the next time. It is also not efficient because all the heat goes back up to the chimney. However, you enjoy critical benefits such as lower heat bills, crackling experience with those real red flames from logs, and that typical smoky scent loved by all. Consider a wood-burning model having doors of cast iron, which helps in strengthening the overall heat impact as well as in doubling the protection from those hovering embers.
- Wood Pellets: Burns clearly as well as efficiently. Reflecting an old-fashioned look, wood pellets fireplace flicker strong flames via the glass. Consider pellets in dried form, as they are a good alternative in the form of a renewable energy source as well as lower maintenance option than a wood-burning one. Just 50 pounds of pellets can keep you warm for up to 48 hours. These models provide good warmth and ash pans for easy cleaning, have a charming look, and are flexible enough to be installed on a majority of exposed walls. However, pellets need much storage space and are costlier than wood logs.
Factor 9: Mounting Options
Fireplaces can be classified as per the fuel in use and as per the mounting option they support. So, here are the mounting options for you to consider for selecting the best type of fireplace.
- Freestanding: Do not need any kind of extra construction and looks somewhat like a built-in mantel. You can choose from several styles, sizes, and shapes. As per the material, you can affix a free-standing fireplace to a wall or ceiling, but you can even leave it fully freestanding. You can also have a fireplace that supports a TV on its top shelf or mantel.
- Wall-mounted: Are popular for use in both outdoor and indoor spaces where additional heat or extra warmth is essential. You can affix such a fireplace to a chimney, as per the fuel type it burns. These fireplaces may also come with mantels affixed or remain bare for you to make your own design.
- Built-In Insert: Allow having electric in-wall installations in existing fireplaces or in cabinets. You can find inserts in plug-in or hardwired style. Consider an insert if you wish to convert a wood fireplace into a gas one.
- Tabletop: Are usually designed for outdoor use. These fireplaces are kept on a table for keeping those around it warm. They also offer a focal point.
Factor 10: Units of Measurement
You are actually required to know the units of measurement, which is essential for a thorough understanding of heat output and how to use the appliance. First is a British Thermal Unit (BTU) rating that helps you in comparing the energy output. When the BTU rating is higher, it indicates better heating performance. Apart from this rating, the heating performance is affected by other factors such as the room size, current temperature, and room dimensions.
Volts is the standard measurement for standard power outlets in America. Most of them are 120 volts, are rated for 15 amps, and possess holes for two plugs. Another measurement for you to know is Watts, power unit being equivalent to a joule per second (energy). For residences, the ratio of watts to area heated is 10 watts to 1 sq. foot.
Factor 11: Flueless versus Flue
Regardless of the fuel in use, a fireplace can be with flue pipes or chimneys or without them. The ones without them are called flueless wherein all emissions pass through a fire vent. The emissions go away from the front or top of the fire. A chimney or flue is not required because of the clean burn. The major benefits of flueless models are 100% efficiency, fully safe, easy to install and use, and lower running cost than wood, electric, and bioethanol. Consider it ideal for quick secondary heat for a lounge or living room. However, if you still like to have a chimney or flue pipe, be ready for that extra installation cost.
7 Best Fireplaces of 216 Reviewed
Keeping the aforementioned factors in mind, you need to map your requirements with them. Once this is done, you can easily narrow down the number of shortlisted fireplaces. To simplify your search work, here are top 7 fireplaces shortlisted, and short review on each.
This one offers infrared warmth in a large room. It features a stylish oak stain mantle, two heat settings, adjustable realistic fire display that you can use without or with heat, and E-Z glide casters along with digital thermostat with remote. Yes, you can control the heat with the remote, which is circulated by a quiet scroll fan. Right now, it is the best seller in the category of smokeless fireplaces.
This one is like a combo that makes up for a warm, entertaining space with its electric fireplace topped with wooden media stand. Boasting a lasting laminate finish, this product is made using MDF of high grade to encompass the flattest panel TVs. The model comes with flexible shelving to accommodate cable parts and components. And yes, there is no need of any technician to install it. It can be your affordable insert if you are looking for one such option in your home.
With 750/1500 watts of power, this one features a log burning flame animation that can add a classic touch to a portable construction. The animation has variable flame brightness, which you can enjoy independently for visual moments or with heat. The product comes with a freestanding, but striking design augment with the typical black finish, rendering itself ideal for even garage and office use. It also has two heat settings as well as a flexible thermostat control so that you can enjoy optimal comfort. Another best aspect of this portable fireplace is that there is thermal cut off for safety, which prevents over-heating.
This is the latest electric fireplace reflecting elegance and good heat at 750/1500 Watts (Low and High heat settings). It features the latest 3D flame technology that you can regulate through a remote control. Interestingly, this fireplace is 2 in 1 model, as it is both freestanding and wall-mounted one with striking heater paneled with tempered glass due to which it is ideal for office, bedroom, and living room. With no emissions, the model is also an energy-efficient one.
This one also has realistic looking flames but makes a strong statement with its contemporary black frame. It features high and low heat settings for heating a 400 sq. ft. room sufficiently. You can also use the flame without the heating beauty, which is enjoyable during cool summer and cold winter. The fireplaces also have five settings, right from full fire to a subtle ember glow, all of which are controllable via a remote. It is quite handy to use the timer for shutting off the fireplace in any time from half an hour to eight hours.
This is a unique and portable fireplace using gel fuel to generate heat. The floating glass panels holding the fuel are in a brushed nickel base accommodating not more than three FireGlo gel fuel cans for generating 3000 BTU heat per can. The panels give an open view of the striking flame, but you can turn off the heat by replacing cans with embellishing pillar candles. You will have to assemble the parts before the piece starts working to give the desired level of warmth.
This one is designed to add character to any room or patio with its bold black finish against any kind of wall, light texture to the finish, and copper edges for highlighting the striking arch design. It has the capability of holding three gel cans for ensuring a fiery glow whether inside or outside the house or office. Although it is gel fuel, you will see the crackles analogous to a real fire but without odor or smoke. Each can remain in action until three hours in one round and gives away almost up to 3,000 BTUs. Above all, there is no need of installation, as the piece is compact enough to be carried and placed almost anywhere.