What Size Fireplace Do I Need?

When it comes to selecting a fireplace, there are dozens of choices that homeowners are faced with.  It can be very confusing.  This article will take a practical look at several criteria that should be considered before making a final decision.

FIRST QUESTIONS TO ASK

When a customer talks about the “size” of a fireplace, they are usually referring to the physical dimensions of the unit.  Many of us in the hearth industry refer to “size” in terms of how much space a fireplace will heat, rather than the “size” of the glass or the dimensions of a certain model.

The amount of heat and the physical size of a fireplace are both important, but there are a few other questions that should be answered before a specific product is selected.

For example, what fuel do you plan to burn?  The options are:  wood, gas, electricity, or pellets.  There are pros’s and con’s associated with all four of these fuels.  Where is the fireplace going to be installed?  Do I want significant heat from the fireplace?  [SEE LINK:  WHERE DO I PUT A FIREPLACE IN MY HOUSE?]

FUEL QUESTIONS

If you know you’re going to burn wood, do you want to heat the entire house?  Maybe just take the chill off the family room.  Or, would you describe yourself as a “recreational user” who will only have a fire every other Sunday afternoon?

Not all wood burning fireplaces perform the same.  Some are rated by the EPA and have efficiency numbers in the mid-70’s.  The doors on these units are gasketed, air controls allow for long burn times and many are capable of heating 2000+ square feet of well insulated space.  These are normally rated by BTU/output.  Up to 70-80,000 BTU’s are large fireplaces that will provide long, overnight burn times.

Mid-size fireplaces are in the 30-60,000 BTU range and smaller dimensionally.  Your WE LOVE FIRE dealer can help determine what size and/or model would be a good choice for your home.  Or, see our BTU calculator to get a sense of how much heat you might want.

If heat is not essential, and you’re only going to have a fire during the holidays with family and friends, consider a less expensive fireplace.  These are often equipped with bi-fold doors that do not control the amount of combustion air to the same degree as their heating cousins.  The majority of the heat is lost up the chimney and not blown into the family room.  Efficiencies are not rated with this type of fireplace.

Our experience is that most people want to feel the heat throughout the house, that’s produced from the fireplace burning wood.

The size of the room will certainly make a difference when deciding on a certain model.  You’ll want the fireplace, mantle, and hearth to look proportionately correct for the space.  Keep in mind, your WE LOVE FIRE expert has lots of expertise in planning and designing.

THE CONVENIENCE OF GAS

Most people are aware that a gas fireplace is extremely convenient.  Many people are not aware of the huge selection of gas fireplaces.  There is equipment that can be ducted to an adjacent room.  Equipment with several log and “media” options.   There are traditional style fireplaces with large BTU outputs that are sixty inches wide and four feet high!  They’re perfect for a great room.

Portrait styles that fit nicely in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and foyers where space is at a premium and not a lot of heat is needed.  The linear gas models will give your home a contemporary feel.  How about a linear model that three, four, five or six feet wide and only twelve inches high?  They are way cool!

A COUPLE OF ARTICLES THAT MIGHT BE HELPFUL TO YOU ARE:

ELECTRIC MODELS ROCK!

You have to see today’s electric fireplaces.  The effects with LED lighting and mirrors are wonderful.  Similar to the wide selection of gas sizes, electric fireplaces come in traditional, portrait and linear offerings.  Unlike gas models though, do not expect an electric unit to heat the way a gas model does.  [SEE LINK:  WHICH ELECTRIC FIREPLACE IS THE BEST?]

The benefits of electric fireplaces include:  ease of installation.  Literally, anywhere there’s a wall, you can install an electric.  With the heating element on, electric heat is 100% efficient.  With the element off, you can enjoy the “flames” (some call it “moving wall art”) year-round.

Do not rule out an electric fireplace in a couple of areas in your home.  There are lots of different sizes and special effects that you and your family will enjoy.

Interior of living room with armchairs and fireplace 3D rendering

PELLETS

Compared to the other choices we’ve discussed; your pellet options are going to be limited primarily to fireplace inserts and free-standing stoves.  [SEE LINK:  SIX FACTS ABOUT PELLETS.]

SUMMARIZING THE KEY POINTS

When sizing any type of fireplace, keep in mind:

  • The shape and dimensions of the room.
  • The decor of your home.
  • If you’re looking for primary or supplemental heat.
  • The proportion of the fireplace, mantle, and hearth in the room.
  • To choose a fuel that you will be satisfied with.

Your WE LOVE FIRE expert is standing by to answer other questions you have.  Please, come see us soon.

How Gas Fireplaces Work

They have been around for many years. If you don’t have one in your home, you have friends and family members who do. Gas fireplaces are more popular than ever. And, they’re not just for the family room anymore. But how do they work? Are they complicated to operate? Do they use a lot of gas?

THE BURNER BASICS
Gas fireplaces operate on either natural gas (NG) or LP gas. The two gases operate on slightly different pressure; NG 6” water column pressure, LPG twice that. This means the burner regulator and orifice are different for the two gases. Other than that, the basics are very similar. Based on flame appearance, once a gas fireplace is warmed up, it’s nearly impossible to tell any difference between NG and LPG. That is, unless you look out the window and see an LP tank in the side yard!

Normally, either a half inch or 3/8” gas supply line is connected to a burner. Depending on the model, the burner will be a ceramic material or a tube style burner. The burner includes the gas valve, fittings, and the control board. When the thermostat calls for heat, or the wall switch is flipped on, or the remote control is pressed on, the valve opens allowing gas to flow into the burner. The gas is ignited with a pilot light. This pilot light can be an on-demand, intermittent light or a steady-on pilot light. There are small holes designed in the burner to allow gas to flow through, allowing the embers to glow and the flames to dance.

On initial start-up, it is not unusual for condensation to develop on the inside of the glass. Since, the inside of the glass is often rather cool, the heat from the burner igniting will cause some condensation. This will quickly dissipate as the unit heats up.

Napoleon Elevation Gas fireplace in modern decor and red brick. How gas fireplaces work?

LOGS OR OTHER MEDIA?
Today, many gas fireplaces have “media” options. Lots use realistic looking ceramic logs that glow when they’re heated. But different log species, driftwood logs, colored glass beads, pine cones and bamboo will add an individualized custom touch to many fireplaces.

FIREBOX BASICS
The firebox, built out of steel, is cut and fabricated by sophisticated equipment to exact specifications. Today, the size and dimensions of the firebox will vary tremendously. There are traditional looking fireplaces that are three, four or five feet wide. Linear styles for a contemporary look that might be 12” — 15” high, but five, six, or even eight feet long! Portrait styles are popular in tighter, smaller spaces.

A space, or convective air chamber is designed into the fireplace to allow warmed air to move into the room. Picture two metal walls with the air moving between them. After the burner ignites, the inner steel starts to heat. As air is circulated in this chamber, heat is transferred. A small fan, located beneath the burner at the bottom of the fireplace, moves this warm air into the room. Fans usually have several speeds or operate on a rheostat, a variable speed control. A heat sensitive switch turns them on/off.

GLASS, SEALED COMBUSTION & CO-AXIAL VENTING.
The glass on many gas fireplaces is a ceramic material. It’s similar to the glass on your electric range in the kitchen. Ceramic glass can withstand very high temperatures, higher than tempered glass. Depending on the BTU output and specs of the fireplace, it will have ceramic or tempered glass. Regardless of the type of glass, it will be sealed to the edge of the firebox with a rope gasket.

Direct vented gas fireplaces use a sealed combustion process. This means that the air for the combustion process comes from outside, via a special vent pipe. Inside room air is not used for combustion purposes. Only air from the outside is used for combustion in the firebox.

It sounds like an impressive term, but all co-axial venting means is a pipe within another pipe. Your coax cable wire is a wire wrapped around another wire. A standard co-axial vent pipe uses a four-inch inner pipe that removes all the by-products from combustion out of the fireplace. The larger seven-inch outer pipe is the route the combustion air follows to the firebox. Direct vented gas fireplaces can be vented horizontally out a sidewall or vertically through the roof.

Ambiance Intrigue 42 gas fireplace with modern stone surround. How gas fireplaces work?

INSTALL NEARLY ANYWHERE.
As long as a gas supply line can be installed and venting requirements followed, a gas fireplace can be installed anywhere in the house. Bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, foyers, hallways and in-home offices are all great applications for a gas fireplace.

Heat only those areas of the house that you spend the majority of your time in. By reducing the temperature on the thermostat and “zone heating” those rooms, you will actually save money on your heating bills. Why run your furnace at 100,000 BTU when a couple of gas fireplaces will heat it by burning only 45,000 BTU’?

GAS USAGE.
The burner on most gas fireplaces is adjustable. The more gas that’s burned, the more heat you’ll get from the fireplace. To figure an approximate cost to run the fireplace, remember these key points:

Natural gas is measured in therms. One therm equals 100,000 BTU of heat.
LP gas is measured in gallons. One gallon equals 91,500 BTU of heat.
Burner size for example, is 30,000 BTU/hour.
For each hour of fireplace operation, figure a bit less than 1/3 of one therm of NG. And, about 1/3 of one gallon for LPG.
Apply your current fuel rate.
Adjust actual usage up or down, based on burner consumption.
Let’s take a quick example. Using the numbers above, my NG fireplace operates for two hours. My rate is $1.00/per therm. For each hour of operation, figure about 27ȼ. For LP, figure roughly 30ȼ/hour if I’m paying $1.00 per gallon.

MAINTENANCE.
Gas fireplaces don’t require much maintenance. Making sure that dust and pet hair is kept out of the fan compartment is important. Cleaning the inside of the glass once a year is always a good idea. And a small light or audible chirp will remind you when the batteries for the remote and/or ignition system need replacing.

Many WE LOVE FIRE dealers offer an annual service program to ensure your fireplace is tuned-up, cleaned-up and ready to provide that warm and relaxing area for you and your family.

Bring us your ideas, pictures, or sketches. Or call us for a tune-up. We’re glad to assist in any way we can.

Incidentally, one more thing… The sealed glass on a gas unit must stay in place during operation. No, you cannot roast marshmallows for s’mores on your gas fireplace. Head to your freezer instead. Go with chocolate brownie extreme ice cream instead!

Napoleon Luxuria Gas fireplace in dining room. How gas fireplaces work?

Are Electric Fireplaces Expensive to Run?

Their beautiful lighting effects, versatility and ease of installation make electric fireplaces more popular than ever.  With many styles and sizes to choose from and media options galore, there’s surely a spot or two in your home for an electric fireplace!  But are they expensive to operate?  How much heat can I expect?  Are they complicated to use?  These are just a few of the questions we’ll answer.

ELECTRIC RATES

So, you’re thinking about an electric fireplace for your home, but concerned about how much it will cost to run.  Don’t be!  With the heating element turned off, you can enjoy the effects of an electric fireplaces for literally a few pennies a day!  In fact, with the heat turned off on your fireplace, it’s unlikely you will notice a difference in your electric bill!

However, with the heating element on, it’s a different story.  We’ve all heard that heating with electricity can be rather expensive.  This can be the case, especially if the house was not designed to heat with electricity.  Most WE LOVE FIRE dealers will encourage you to think of electric heat as ‘supplemental’ to your primary heat source.

So, let’s get to the expense.  This will vary significantly in different areas of the country because of the difference in regional electric rates.  If you’re not sure what your current rates are, just pull out last month’s bill and check the kilowatt/hour charge.

Ambiance beautifull electric linear fireplace IW-50 in a bathroom! Are electric fireplaces expensive to run?

The example below assumes 1525 watts with the heat on and 25 watts with the heat off.  If your electric fireplace is on for 12 hours a day, this chart should give you an idea of the approximate cost at different electric rates.

Cost per KwH .04⊄ .08⊄ .12⊄
With Heat Element On .75⊄ per day $1.50 per day $2.25 per day
With Heat Off .01⊄ per day .02⊄ per day .03⊄ per day

Or, try to extrapolate your estimated cost per KWH or the length of time the fireplace is on each day.  For instance, if you’re using your electric fireplace for only 6 hours/day and your electric rate is about 10ȼ/KWH, you’d be spending about $.93 per day to operate the unit.

LOTS OF ADVANTAGES!

The aesthetics and ambiance, the ease of installation and versatility and the convenience of operating an electric fireplace are just a few reasons why they are so popular today.

Since there’s no vent pipe or chimney pipe to deal with, an electric fireplace can literally be installed anywhere in your home.  They can be hung on a wall or recessed into a wall.  Bedrooms, bathrooms, hallways, open stairways, foyers, dining rooms are all great locations for an electric unit.

Most customers enjoy their electric fireplace all year long, even during the warm weather!  Just turn off the heating element and enjoy the light show!  Many customers think the blue lighting effects and sparkling diamond chips give a subliminal cooling effect!  And for pennies a day, why not enjoy it?

Interior of living room with armchairs and fireplace 3D rendering

And if you looking for a little supplemental warmth in a room and wondering Do Electric Fireplaces Heat, you’ll definitely be able to make an area in your home more comfortable.

One last point; no more embarrassing fake flames on today’s electric fireplaces.  The lighting effects are combined with many optional log styles, pebbles, clear and colored fire glass, rocks and glowing embers for the “media” inside your fireplace.  It’s a truly memorable look that you’ll be proud to show family and friends.

Make plans to stop at your WE LOVE FIRE expert and be prepared to be amazed!

Can my fireplace flue be angled?

LET’S START WITH SOME DEFINITIONS.

A “flue” is the lining of a chimney. It can be ceramic clay tile, a poured or pumped cast-in-place liner or a stainless steel conduit that’s installed inside a chimney. Its purpose is to contain all the by-products from combustion, direct them to the outside atmosphere and protect the walls of the chimney from excessive heat and corrosion.

Chimney flues are normally associated with a masonry fireplace.

An “insulated” stainless steel or an “air cooled” stainless steel chimney is always used with zero clearance or factory built fireplace.

Although safety codes have required a flue liner in masonry chimneys for several dozen years, there are many masonry chimneys still being built improperly or without any type of flue liner at all. Additionally, there are many flue liners in dire need of repair.
Clay and brick old chimney Can my flue be angled? Can my chimney be angled?

THREE TYPES OF MASONRY CHIMNEY LINERS:

The most common type of masonry chimney liner are ceramic clay tiles. A clay tile is considered “bare minimum code” and is the least expensive type of chimney liner. Clay tiles are readily available at brick yards, most lumber yards and DIY centers. Clay tile chimneys are typically installed at the time the house was originally built.

Fireplaces that are properly operated and maintained perform quite well with a ceramic clay tile liner. However, there are several disadvantages, including thermal shocking; that is, a fast, sudden rise of temperature. Ceramic clay tiles cannot rapidly absorb and evenly distribute heat. Temperature in this type of chimney need to be brought up slowly to prevent the tiles from cracking. Ceramic tile also can have a difficult time containing the liquid by-products of combustion, especially from gas appliances.

A third problem that’s quite common with a clay tile liner is during its initial installation. Often, tiles are simply stacked on top of one another or mortared into place with standard brick mortar. This type of mortar will quickly deteriorate. The bonding material that’s used to join tiles together needs to contain the flue gases, help minimize condensation and be able to withstand extremely high temperatures.

The second type of lining system is a stainless steel chimney liner. These are frequently used to repair or upgrade an existing chimney. They are also needed for wood burning inserts. A stainless steel liner is very safe and is extremely durable. Stainless steel can be used for wood, gas and fuel oil. Don’t get a stainless steel liner confused with an aluminum liner. Aluminum is only used for natural or LP gas.

The third type of liner, a cast-in-place chimney liner is either poured or pumped into place. It’s a cement-like mixture that resembles mortar but has a very high insulative value. It’s a smooth and seamless liner, suitable for wood, gas and fuel oil. The main application for this type of liner is for improving the structural integrity of an older, aging chimney.

OFFSET OR NOT?

So back to the question at hand: Can we install an angle, or offset, a chimney? The answer is “yes”! It’s done every day and is perfectly safe to do so, provided codes are followed and equipment is properly maintained. NFPA 211 (US regulations) states that chimneys can be offset 15° or 30° while CSA B365 (Canadian regulations) states it can be offset at a 30° to 45° angle. Proper clearances must be maintained and the correct materials must be used.

Chimneys with a too severe angle or offset can interfere with the flow of oxygen to the fire and the velocity of the outflow of the combustion by-products.

Another point worth mentioning; it’s always best to keep the chimney as straight as you can and inside the house for as long as you can. Chimneys built on an outside wall, especially masonry chimneys, can cool off too quickly leading to creosote forming.

Note that if you’re using an insulated, stainless steel chimney pipe for a wood burning stove or EPA certified fireplace, all components must be from the same manufacturer. A pipe length from Brand A cannot be used with an offset from Brand B. A cap or roof flashing from Brand X cannot be used with a pipe from Brand Z. All components of the chimney system must be from the same manufacturer. This requirement has to do with the testing and listing procedures and how the components twist lock and fit together.

Yes you can angle your chimney flue, Fireplace icon, chimney flue icon and check mark, Can my flue be angled? Can my chimney be angled?

WOOD BURNINGS STOVES:

Many people get the term “connector pipe” and “chimney pipe” mixed up. They are not synonymous terms.

A connector pipe on a free-standing wood burning stove is the black pipe that comes out the top (sometimes out the back) of the stove and “connects” the appliance to the chimney system. This black pipe can be a single wall pipe or a double wall pipe, depending on the clearance requirements for the stove. The primary function of the connector pipe is to connect the stove to the chimney. That being said, a single wall connector pipe can be offset at any angle, up to and including 90°. This is accomplished through adjustable elbows. Double wall connector pipe can be offset at either 45° or 90°.

A single wall connector pipe is used when clearances are not particularly critical. Double wall connector pipe has a stainless inner pipe with a black heat shield as the outer pipe. The two-wall connector is used when reducing the stoves clearance requirements to a combustible wall.

People often refer to an insulated chimney pipe and a double wall connector pipe as the same: “double wall pipe”. It’s true that both have two walls and the inner walls on both pipes are stainless steel. However, their applications are different. The easiest way to avoid any confusion: the connector pipe is the black stove pipe that connects the stove to the chimney system.
Ambiance wood fireplace Elegance 36 with stone surround, nice new chimney, Can my flue be angled? Can my chimney be angled?

BUILDING PLANS?

If you are building an addition or a new home and need a chimney for your fireplace or stove, your WE LOVE FIRE expert would recommend an insulated stainless steel chimney system. This type of chimney comes with all the components you might need: various pipe lengths, offsets, firestops, support brackets, anchor plates, roof flashings, storm collars and caps. This type of chimney can normally be installed within a few inches of combustible framing components. It can easily be offset, or angled, around rafters, trusses or other framing to maintain those clearance requirements. It’s a tested and listed pipe that comes with a warranty from the manufacturer.

We highly recommend hiring an expert for your chimney installation. However, if you decide to do it yourself, your insurance company might require your work to be inspected and approved by a certified professional.

Don’t even consider a masonry fireplace and chimney. There’s no testing procedure and the warranty expires when the mason pulls out of your driveway!