It’s hard not to love having a fireplace in your home, especially this time of year. They warm your house up from the inside out and give your family a great place to gather on these cold winter nights.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good. Not only do fireplaces rely on chopping down trees for firewood, but they also are relatively dirty burning. They put off black smoke that deposits on the inside of your chimney and they put out greenhouse gasses that ultimately end up in the atmosphere.
Luckily, these days that are a couple of nice alternatives that will still serve many of the benefits of a traditional fireplace, but will also be less harmful to the environment by consuming less wood and by reducing the amount of smog emitted into the air.
The first alternative style is the gas fireplace. These are usually powered by either propane or natural gas, whichever is more readily available in your home. They are usually inserted directly into your existing hearth and use the chimney as the primary exhaust. This doesn’t mean that you need a chimney to use one, though. You can also have a custom install where venting can be designed as needed to suit your home.
The upsides of gas fireplaces are that they are incredibly warm and they still have a bonafide flame. You may not even realize that you have a faux fireplace alternative, except for the fact that you’ll never have to get up to feed it another log.
The downsides of gas fireplaces are that they still do burn fuel, however clean burning this may be. This means that not only will you have to pay for fossil fuels but you are still consuming them. If reducing your fossil fuel use is one of your life goals, this might not be the way to go for you. Also, by burning natural gas or propane there are a few inherent safety hazards. Gas leaks can be incredibly dangerous, and though they are no more dangerous than having a gas stove, a gas fireplace is one more place where things can go wrong. Additionally, simply having a real flame is a potential fire hazard. Granted this is a risk you can mitigate, but it is something to keep in mind.
The second alternative to traditional fireplaces that is becoming increasingly popular in the last several years is the electric fireplace. The beauty of electric fireplaces is that they don’t have any combustion whatsoever. No flames or exhaust are created as a result of their use at all. This means that they are likely safer and likely less of a load on the environment, depending on how your electricity is produced. If you get your electricity from solar then you’re pretty much in the clear in this regard.
Other benefits of electric fireplaces include ease of installation and ease of use. When it comes to installation, there are indeed some more luxurious models that require a bit more advanced installation. You might need an electrician to help with the wiring and a contractor to help installing it into the wall. However, there are a ton of different styles to choose from, and you can get units that stand alone and also function as furniture that you can use for other purposes. This helpful page from BEFR goes over some electric fireplace units that fit snugly in the corner of your room.
When it comes to ease of use, you really can’t find more control than you get with an electric fireplace. Most models come with various heat settings, ranging from high to low to no heat at all. That’s right, you can even run the fireplace in the summer months without causing your home’s temperature to skyrocket. Some of the nicer models even have control over the color of the flames. While orange will reminisce of the traditional feeling of a fireplace, you can also get blue or purple flames to spice things up a bit.
Whichever style you choose, you can be sure that it will be an improvement over your traditional fireplace in terms of the impact on the environment and the atmosphere. Once upon a time in history, fire was something we as humans needed to survive. We’ve come a long way, and our technology has come with us. It’s time that we take advantage of it for the sake of our planet.