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Fireplace buying tips

There are thousands of gas fireplaces available today, offering infinite designs and styles from high-heat functional to low-heat decorative models. Before choosing your gas fireplace, consider these points:

Location – Where is the fireplace going to go?

  • If it’s going in an existing fireplace, you should limit your search to an insert model fireplace.
  • If the fireplace is to be vented up an existing chimney, ask your contractor about a suitable approved gravity-venting chimney liner.
  • If it’s a direct vent, make sure there is adequate clearance on the exterior wall.

Size – How much heat output do you need?

  • You may not need a powerful gas fireplace if you also have natural gas space heating. A contractor can advise you on the Btu needed to complement your current heating equipment.
  • Consider whether looks are more important than heating performance.
  • Measure the space you’re filling and decide what physical dimensions will be right for the room size and layout.

Style – What will complement the space?

  • Consider what kind of style, colour and trim will work best with the room décor.
  • If there’s no existing fireplace to fill, you can choose any wall or corner you like to install your new gas fireplace.
  • Look at all the available styles and consider what works best – classical, traditional, rustic, grand or modern.
  • With so much choice available, you should be able to get the exact combination of style, performance, energy efficiency and price to suit your design and budget.

Features – What’s important to you?

  • Clear face glass panels have become popular, and look more like a real log fire.
  • Consider how much heat you need to circulate. If you’re leaning toward a model with a fan or blower, note that a built-in fan can sometimes be noisy. A ceiling fan may work better for improving heat distribution in your particular room.
  • Ceramic glass is usual on higher-end models. Tougher than tempered glass, ceramic withstands higher temperatures and radiates more heat.

Controls – What will work best for you?

  • Many high-end models have remote controlled on/off, timer settings and temperature settings.
  • Automatic “set and forget” thermostat temperature control helps ensure the room never gets too hot or uncomfortable.
  • With a wide variable-setting “turndown” range you have more control over heat levels; you can moderate your gas usage and improve energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency – What will be better long term?

  • EnerChoice ratings are relative to the gas fireplace – meaning that you can still get a high-efficiency gas fireplace that is not huge, or hugely expensive.
  • A direct vented unit is always going to be more energy efficient than a gravity-vented insert. Ask your contractor for guidance. Biggest is not always best.
  • When considering the energy cost of your unit, an old rule of thumb was that it cost approximately 1 cent per 1,000 Btu per hour. Realistically, the Btu input of the unit and current gas cost will influence actual cost. Your gas fireplace retailer may be able to help you estimate energy consumption and operating costs.

Installation – Who will install it?

  • A gas fireplace must be installed by a qualified professional. Ask your fireplace retailer or look in the Yellow Pages or online under “Heating Contractors.”
  • Most fireplace retailers will have a dedicated installer who can install your fireplace, or work with your builder to install it during new construction.
  • Make sure the manufacturer’s warranty is to your liking and that the installer fulfills the terms and conditions and obtains the requisite permits.

Safety and maintenance – What else do you need?