Gas Fireplaces - Fuel efficient, cleaner burning alternative
Features and options
Gas fireplaces have become increasingly popular over the last few years because they are a far more convenient option to burning wood. They are more fuel efficient, burn cleaner, create less mess and are easy to use so it's no wonder gas heaters have become a favored choice. This means they are cheaper to run while also producing a lot less pollution. Most wood burning fireplaces can easily be converted by installing a gas fireplace insert .
Arguable the most attractive element of a gas fireplace is the on/off switch. This mechanism creates instant fire at the flick of a switch and can extinguish the flames just as quickly, without having to be concerned with smoldering embers. Other devices, such as a thermostat and a blower, enable complete control over how much heat is generated and circulated throughout the room. Most of these features can also be controlled by remote.
Another big advantage to a gas fireplace is the fact that because they burn so efficiently, producing very little particulate pollution, they do not require a chimney. Most models use a smaller flue and others do not require a vent at all. This means less heat escapes up the flue leaving more to warm the house. Many homeowners opt for a direct vent which will release pollutants via the most direct route outside. This is usually a horizontal path through the wall but can also go up through the ceiling. Direct vent flues are easier to install than chimneys and are also less obtrusive. This lends a greater flexibility in terms of the fireplace's location in the room and will cost considerably less.
There are two types of gas fireplaces; decorative fireplaces and gas heaters. Decorative fireplaces are designed more for ambience and aesthetics than for heat while gas heaters, such as inserts and pre-fabricated fireplaces , are designed for providing supplemental heat. These also tend to be more efficient and cost effective.
There are three types of ignition mechanisms used in gas fireplaces. Some models have a pilot safety light that burns continuously so that when the gas is turned on the fire will light. Other models will have an electric spark ignition that uses electricity to ignite the burner. This is sometimes preferred as it saves on energy. There is also the piezoelectric ignition that can be used when there isn't an electrical connection to the fireplace. Many of these models will also have a millvolt generator that enables the fireplace to continue working in a power failure.
An important thing to look for when shopping for a gas fireplace is the Btu or British thermal unit. This is a measurement of the fireplaces heating capacity. The space that will be heated by the fireplace should be measured to determine the Btu requirements. Generally, 10,000 Btu's can heat a space of approximately 500 square feet. This will vary according to climate, insulation, number of windows, the height of the ceiling and a number of other factors.
Also be sure to look for fireplaces that have been certified by an organization, like the AGA , that is recognized by the local building department. Local codes should always be checked before buying a gas heater. If the fireplace is intended for a bedroom, mobile home or an area that is fairly elevated codes should be checked to ensure that the unit is suitable and approved for these areas.
Another important thing to look out for when buying a gas fireplace or insert is the input and output capacities. The output capacity is a calculation of the total amount of usable heat generated by the fireplace whereas the input capacity is how much heat is produced without taking into account the amount that is lost through the flue. Most manufacturers use the input capacity as the number is invariably higher. It is always best to look at the output capacity as this will reveal how well the unit will heat the room. To find out how fuel efficient a particular model is you can work out the steady state by dividing the output rate by the input rate.