No other feature provides as strong an image of home as a fireplace does. When they think of holidays and family gatherings, many people picture people sitting around a hearth. For centuries, a fireplace was the sole source of heat in a home; today, it’s used only occasionally.
Be sure to close the chimney flue of your fireplace when not in use. If you don’t, valuable (and expensive) heated or cooled air will fly right up and out of your home, wasting money.
Wood-burning fireplaces have long been a sentimental vision of home. The sounds of the crackling fire and the warmth of the hearth are comforting and romantic notions. But in recent years, local building codes have banned their use, in favor of cleaner-burning gas fireplaces.
Warning: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wood-burning fireplaces emit nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, organic gases, and particulate matter. These pollutants can cause serious health problems for children, pregnant women, and people with respiratory problems. Some of these are even known carcinogens.
If you have an existing wood-burning fireplace, an EPA-certified clean-burning fireplace insert and a glass screen will protect your family from the gases entering the room. Instead of using petroleum-based premanufactured logs, look for eco-friendly versions, like a fire log made from recycled, dried coffee grounds (http://www.java-log.com
Gas fireplaces are cleaner burning, and do not require cleaning up ash from the bottom of the fireplace. The burners can be set into sand, stones, or glass for a modern, high-tech look. Most models are even available with remote controls. However, gas fireplaces still use a fossil fuel as their energy source, making them less than ideal.Pellet Stoves
The most efficient fireplace available is a pellet stove, which uses small cylinders of compressed sawdust as a fuel. The combustion chamber is sealed, so instead of a crackling fire, you see a flame behind glass. Though not as romantic as a wood fireplace, pellet stoves provide the most heat with the least amount of fuel.Open Fireplaces
If you don’t like the sterile flame or fake wood inserts of gas fireplaces, EcoSmart Fire (http://www.ecosmartfire.com
) has introduced an environmentally friendly open fireplace. Fueled by renewable methylated spirits (fermented sugar cane), the EcoSmart burns and does not require a flue. Imagine having a fireplace in the center of your dining room table.