Maybe it’s time to step on the gas

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A few weeks ago, I discussed wood-burning fireplaces, which are lovely on a cold winter’s day. However, gas fireplaces are a great new alternative as they burn with fewer emissions, are convenient, low maintenance, and energy-efficient. They also come in a wide variety of sizes and styles to suit any home decor.

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Most homes that we renovate on our show that have a wood-burning fireplace, we end up replacing it with a gas insert. Why? Mainly because they are so energy efficient and great for retrofitting a wood-burning firebox.

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Switching to a gas fireplace allows for a safer, cleaner, and more effective way to heat your home. It provides a similar atmosphere to wood-burning fireplaces, without the upkeep. When switching, there are three options to choose from — you can use gas logs with your current fireplace, vented gas fireplace inserts, or vent-free inserts.

Fireplace inserts (both vented and vent-free), easily fit into your existing wood-burning fireplace while maintaining the appearance and decor of your house. A gas insert is a large metal box containing a ceramic log set and burner in a smaller metal box. Inserts have decorative metal trim and glass fronts to view the flames. Existing chimneys must be relined with a vent for the exhaust. But remember, this is not a DIY job, it’s important to hire a heating and cooling professional.

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Direct-vented gas inserts keep you warm, maintain indoor air quality, and save you money. They’re also a great solution for stopping cold drafts from entering your home and prevent warmed air from escaping. Unlike traditional open flue or natural draft gas fireplaces that use air from inside your home for combustion, direct vent gas fireplace inserts use air from outside your home.

However, in order to maintain optimal combustion, guarantee efficiency, and ensure good interior air quality, direct-vent units must have a sealed glass door. Both tempered glass and ceramic glass are used for the glass fronts of inserts and zero-clearance gas fireplaces. Ceramic glass can withstand higher temperatures and distribute heat more steadily throughout an area, so something to consider.

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What I also love is that gas fireplaces release no ash, soot, or debris. There will be little to no chance of indoor air pollution, and both your home and the air you breathe will be cleaner. After putting out the fire, there aren’t any ash piles to clear away, and you won’t need to clean the chimney regularly.

Before purchasing, find out about the gas fireplace’s energy efficiency and do some comparison shopping. For information on the model’s energy efficiency, consult the EnerGuide label. This government-sponsored marking includes a rating for Fireplace Efficiency (FE), such as 65 per cent, and ensures the product meets the CSA regulations.

Gas fireplaces are energy efficient, and can range anywhere from 75 per cent to 98 per cent of the fuel’s energy as heat. Contrast this to wood fireplaces, which only run at about 30 per cent efficiency because they lose about two-thirds of their heat through the chimney.

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Like everything, regular upkeep is crucial since any unvented fireplace poses a risk. Gas fireplaces include a safety shutdown system that stops leaks, especially while the fireplace is not in use. When in use, the gas level remains consistent, preventing the flames from getting out of control. To make sure everything operates at its best, you should always schedule an annual inspection.

Built-ins or zero-clearance fireplaces are frequently installed during new house building or remodelling projects. Zero clearance means that the fireplace has insulation and requires no space (clearance), from combustibles inside the house. A self-contained firebox known as a zero-clearance fireplace can be built practically any place in your house without the need for a traditional masonry chimney and can be vented via the ceiling or through an exterior wall.

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The nice thing about gas fireplaces is that you have immediate ignition and complete control over the heat output of the appliance. A wall thermostat or remote control is included with modern gas fireplaces, allowing you to manage the flame height (and heat), change the room’s temperature, and have the fireplace automatically adjust its heat output to maintain the specified temperature. Fireplace models with built-in fans quickly warm an area by drawing in cold air from the inside and blowing hot air into the space.

Gas fireplace inserts are not only efficient and enclosed, but they’re also cleaner and safer than traditional wood fireplaces. Easy to control and maintain, gas fireplace inserts can quickly heat a space especially during the cold Canadian winter months. Unlike electric fireplaces, they can often still function when the power goes out and are an excellent addition to any home. Not to mention they look good, too.

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