Fireplaces / October 14, 2018 / Aitana Hsu.
Imagine the romance and warmth of a fireplace, the crackling wood and flickering light evoking a sense of comfort during cold, dark winter nights. You’d love the ambiance of a fire, but you don’t have one, and it’s not possible to put one. You might consider a fireplace log heater instead.
A fireplace log heater gives you the feeling and look of a fireplace, but with added benefits.
Traditional fireplaces are more decorative than functional. Most of the heat goes up the chimney, and that chimney can also allow cold air to come down into the room, especially if you don’t have insulated fireplace doors.
Fireplaces are messy. You have wood chips and ash to contend. The inside of the fire gets black with soot, and the inside of the chimney acquires a dangerous layer of soot and creosote. If the damper doesn’t work right and the fire doesn’t draw well, smoke and soot fill the room, as well.
Traditional fireplaces can be dangerous, too. First of all, there’s the fire. Embers can fall onto the floor in front of the fireplace and catch it on fire. Fireplace doors help prevent that problem, but they get hot enough to burn children who get too near. If the chimney a cleaned regularly, the creosote that builds up on the inside can catch fire. A chimney fire is very hot and endangers the roof and the house. Carbon monoxide can build up to toxic levels in an unventilated room with a fireplace in it, too, as the blaze consumes the oxygen in the place. Several people die each year of carbon monoxide poisoning from inadequately ventilated fires.
There are three main types of fireplace log heaters and all offer advantages over traditional fireplaces. The first type, a great heater, is a warming tube that goes under the fireplace logs and may also go behind and above them, coupled with a fan. A great heater draws fresh air in from the room, heats it by capturing fireplace heat that would otherwise go up the chimney, and blows it back into the room. A great heater improves the efficiency of a fireplace because less heat a lost up the chimney. All of the other problems with fireplaces remain, however.
Gas fireplace log heaters
Gas fireplace log heaters will work with either natural gas or propane, and can easily a converted from one to the other. They don’t burn wood at all but burn gas to heat your home. Their artificial ceramic logs look realistic, with fake burning embers and a flame. They do not produce soot or ash and can be vented horizontally (through a wall) instead of vertically (through the roof).
Gas fireplace log heaters are very attractive and very efficient. They are clean and will function if the electricity fails (although, if they have a fan to help circulate the air, the fan won’t work).
Any flame-based heating system can produce excess amounts of carbon monoxide if the ventilation is inadequate, and that is a hazard with gas fireplace log heaters. They are hot to touch and can burn you, too.
Electric fireplace log heaters
Electric fireplace log heaters are relative newcomers to the market but are increasingly popular. The newer ones produce realistic fireplace effects, but with far fewer disadvantages.
Electric fireplaces are clean and inexpensive to operate and do not require venting. They don’t burn anything, so they don’t need to be vented, and carbon monoxide is not a big issue with them. The fireworks without the heater, so you can get the ambiance of a fire without cooking everybody in the room.
Electric fireplace log heaters are beautiful, portable and don’t require installation. Although larger units may need a 240-watt outlet, most can a plugged into any wall outlet. They can a moved from room to room, and you can take it with you when you run. Electric fireplace log heaters are ideal for renters and apartment dwellers.
Electric fireplaces don’t produce as much heat like gas or wood fireplaces, but they will heat an average sized room. The other significant disadvantage of electric fireplaces is that they cannot be used as an emergency heat source because they don’t work without power.
Gel fireplaces aren’t heaters; they are purely ornamental. They look like a fireplace and have ceramic logs, and the flame comes from a can of alcohol-based gel (like Sterno). They aren’t intended to produce heat.
If you love the romance of a fireplace, you can have it today, no matter where you live. There’s a fireplace log heater that will work for every home, whether you are an urban apartment dweller or a backcountry wilderness dweller. Evaluate the differences between them, and decide which kind of fireplace is right for you.