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Ball, NC Enjoy the Beauty and Comfort of a Quality Fireplace

Ball, NC Home Improvement Guide

Fireplaces; Fireplace Equipment Retail

Many consider a dream home incomplete without the style and comfort provided by a fireplace. A fireplace is a symbol of security and warmth even when it is unlit. But when burning bright, fireplaces provide a soft glow that reflects off elements in the room creating a peaceful and cozy ambiance. Unique fireplace designs further increase the elegance of the room and create an inviting atmosphere for friends and family.

Beyond the warm feelings fireplaces provide, they also offer real warming benefits to the house. Fireplaces increase the value of a home by providing an additional heat source, cutting down on the usage of a conventional heating system. In milder climates, placing a fireplace in key heating zones serves as the exclusive heat source eliminating the need for conventional heating.

While the benefits of a fireplace are many, the efficiency of some types has placed them under scrutiny. Wood burning fireplaces naturally emit gases and particles which are be harmful to the environment. Open fireplaces found in many homes in the United States are these less efficient style fireplaces that in addition to emitting gases, often send more heat up the chimney than into the room. However, many prefer this type of fireplace because of the visual beauty and aroma of natural burning wood. Learn what options exist today and how adding a fireplace to your home can be both inviting and energy efficient.

Types of Fireplaces
Fireplaces; Fireplace Equipment Retail; Chimney & Fireplace Equipment & Supplies

There are a variety of fireplace options on the market designed to increase efficiency without losing any of the physical and emotional benefits. Each type offers a unique set of benefits which can be built around a variety of decorative materials such as marble, metal, and stone. As you contemplate the fireplace that is right for you, consider the level of heat it needs to provide, the desired size of the burn area, the safety it provides and what type of fuel it uses. Each of these considerations has a big impact on the final fireplace selection.

Electric Fireplace
For those who desire the warmth and elegance of a fireplace without a lot of clean-up, an electric fireplace is ideal. Electric fireplaces use light bulbs to provide the illusion of burning wood while still producing heat. Therefore, there is no ash or grate cleaning as required with wood or gas burning fireplaces. As no fire is actually created, electric fireplaces also provide greater safety than other fireplaces, eliminating the possibility of an accidental fire.

Installation is also easier as electric fireplaces come pre-built and can be placed in any room as no chimney is required. Since no wood is burned, no smoke is emitted eliminating the need for a vent as well. The fireplace is turned on by a simple flick of a switch or controlled by a wall thermostat providing further convenience. Glass doors stay cool to the touch increasing security and the flame can be adjusted to increase heat or brightness for added enjoyment. Heat levels are the same as gas or wood fireplaces and provide efficient usage for year round enjoyment.

The price to install and run an electric fireplace is relatively inexpensive. electric fireplaces emit enough heat to replace the need for a conventional heater while it is running. Using less energy than the furnace, electric fireplaces offer a fireplace option for homes that do not have a gas line. Based on the size, design, and interior capacity, electric fireplaces range from $500-$1,500.

Modern versions offer glass beads in various colors instead of logs. The flames can also be colored emitting a red, pink or blue hue adding elegance and beauty to the room.

Gas Fireplace
Gas fireplaces offer some of the same benefits as an electric fireplace using natural or propane gas as its fuel source. Inside a factory built firebox, a gas burner provides heat around simulated logs mimicking the look of a real wood fireplace. Simple ignition is done using a switch, avoiding the mess associated with a wood fireplace. Occasionally the gas valves and logs will need to be cleaned and maintained, typically just once a year. As no wood is actually burned, there is no need for cleaning or removing ashes.

Gas burns very efficiently and is less expensive than electricity, making gas fireplaces a popular option. They also provide a constant supply of fuel, keeping temperatures balanced and will continue running even during a power outage. Gas fireplaces are typically built to heat a room, eliminating the need for conventional heating while in use. The amount of heat generated can be controlled using a remote control and the flame itself can be changed to offer a yellow or orange hue.

Ventilation: A variety of ventilation options are available with gas fireplaces depending on your needs.

    Natural Vent: Using the chimney of a traditional fireplace or built specifically for the fireplace, a natural vent gas fireplace vents through the roof via a gas pipe.

    Direct Vent: Burning very efficiently, these gas fireplaces vent directly out of the wall behind the fireplace.

    Vent-Free: These models require no exhaust vent. An oxygen depletion sensor installed inside automatically shuts off the gas if it senses a dangerous lack of oxygen. While manufacturers claim these models run clean, they are not permitted in all states.

Using a direct vent or vent-free model, gas fireplaces can be installed in any room in the house. Some models also offer ducting that pushes heat to other zones in the house.

A variety of sizes and decorative styles are available to match any décor. Whether installing it new or converting an existing open fireplace, gas fireplaces provide an efficient heat source at an affordable price. Gas fireplaces start at $500 and increase depending on size and decorative design.

Wood Fireplaces
If installing a fireplace for the first time due to a new build or remodel, today’s wood burning fireplaces offer more efficiency than those in the past. As the fireplace of choice, nothing matches the look, smell or sound of actual burning wood. Some people also prefer building and lighting the fire, finding it just as enjoyable as the fire itself.

Wood fireplaces are now built with insulated fireboxes to keep cold air outside and pushing more warm air inside the room. Models that include blower systems provide the increased efficiency of redirecting heated air throughout the house. A quality blower often provides enough warmth to heat several rooms. Increased heat lowers energy bills and cuts down the amount of time needed to run conventional heating systems. Using the right type of wood also increases efficiency. Some wood burns hotter than others and ensuring the wood is dry and seasoned ensures the fireplace burns cleaner. Different types of wood also provide unique fragrances and create stronger crackling sounds making the fire more enjoyable.

Additional maintenance is required with wood fireplaces. It is critical that prior to burning, the chimney is inspected to ensure it is functioning properly and free of debris. Creosote, an ash or tar like build-up increases over time or when there is a combination of excessive smoke and a colder chimney. Removing creosote annually is required to keep the fireplace working optimally and avoiding the potential of a harmful ignition. Make sure your new fireplace is EPA-certified to ensure maximum safety.

For existing open wood burning fireplaces, due to their inefficiency, it is critical to have an annual check-up by a professional chimney sweep. This keeps the fireplace running efficiently and saves you potential problems with creosote or inadequate drafting. If inefficiencies are significant, consider installing a wood stove or insert.

Stoves and Inserts
Available for the use of a variety of fuels, stoves and inserts provide efficient alternatives to traditional fireplaces.

Stoves: Stoves are typically free standing units available in fuel options of gas, wood, pellet, and electric. Offered in a variety of shapes and sizes, stoves provide an alternative heat source for any room and are designed to match any décor. Sleeker and smaller in size, stoves radiate heat from all sides providing warmth to the room. Glass doors and blowers trap heat and push it out into the room, eliminating some of the inefficiencies of larger chimneys.

Pellet Stove: Burning cleanly and highly efficiently, pellet stoves use pellets made from compacted sawdust, wood chips, bark, waste paper, crop waste and other organic materials as its fuel source. These pellets look similar to rabbit feed and burn very cleanly at a higher combustion rate and more efficiently than natural wood. In fact, they burn so cleanly that EPA has made them exempt from smoke-emissions testing.

Pellet stoves are available either as a freestanding stove or as an insert. Freestanding stoves are ideal for heating a single room and with a fan or blower installed they can heat more than one room. Inserts fit directly into an open fireplace turning a once inefficient fireplace into a clean and efficient heat source.

Inserts: Inserts are basically stoves designed to fit directly into an existing open fireplace increasing efficiencies by using the fuel options of gas, wood and pellet. Made from either plate steel or cast iron, inserts typically have glass doors and blowers to increase heat efficiency.

Determine the installation of an insert upfront to ensure easier cleaning. Without the proper linings or chimney pipe configuration, inserts will need to be removed in order to be cleaned. Work with the contractor or fireplace installer to set the insert so it does not need to be removed for cleaning. As they are heavy and difficult to remove, chimney sweeps charge more if they have to remove the insert.

Fireplace Equipment Retail; Chimney & Fireplace Cleaning & Repairing

To fully enjoy the fireplace, make sure it is properly maintained. This will keep it running safely and efficiently. The amount and degree of maintenance depends on the type of fireplace you own as each one is different.

Regardless of fuel source, it is a good plan to have your fireplace inspected annually. A professional chimney sweep checks the chimney, blowers, burners, ventilation, dampers, pilot lights, etc., to make sure everything is running properly. Checking the chimney for debris and homes made by animals is critical. Igniting a fire in a chimney that is not fully clean could result in an excessive back fill of smoke or a potential house fire. Therefore, it may be necessary to check more than once a year, depending on the number of months between each use. A knowledgeable do-it-yourselfer can perform the inspection but unless you have a good understanding of what to look for, leave this to the professionals.

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