We finished 2016 off right with the installation of a gas fireplace, and celebrated by blazing our great wall of fire on max heat right into the New Year; considering how much time we actually spend in our living room playing and working from home, I feel pretty foolish for not having had this installed 3 years ago. A functional fireplace is something that we’ve been desiring every winter, but we spent a lot of time overthinking whether or not we would repair the chimney so that it could be wood burning, or make the conversion and go with a gas insert.
I grew up in a home with a wood burning fireplace, and my parents still use it all of the time, but while I’m trying to simplify my life and lessen the chore load, dealing with ashes seems like an unnecessary pain in the ass. Plus, the idea of a live fire near young kids is terrifying, so the cost and benefits of upgrading to the gas insert that could flip on and off with the push of a childproof button was fairly worthwhile for us. I also considered that the wood burning fireplace is a nice option in cool weather, but during cold weather (freezing and sub-zero, a.k.a. December – March) open wood burning fireplaces are less efficient, like an open window letting the warm air out and cold air in. We want to make this little house as efficient as humanly possible, so gas won fair and square, and we can use it every day of the winter without question. It’s here! It’s here!
After 8 years of owning homes with non-functioning fireplaces, it was pretty amazing to see the installers light our new insert for the first time. I didn’t realize exactly how much warmth and life would be brought to that end of the living room, and how quickly I couldn’t imagine the living room without it.
A few years ago I removed the brass encasement that surrounded the old wood burning fireplace and that made a big difference visually (it’s super easy to do, and if you’re living with an ugly fireplace surround I suggest you relieve yourself of it pronto). I staged the empty cavernous fireplace with some pieces of cut white birch sourced from our own yard, and left it as-is in a pile on the iron grate to collect dust for a few more years. It was fine enough but paled in comparison to the movement and warmth of the flames within the gas insert.
There were lots of different models and finishes at Fireplace Fashions, the fireplace store we were referred to in Rochester, NY. We went into the purchasing process not having done any research or planning on the options available, knowing only that we wanted a few things – matte gray or black, and as with a face as clean-lined as possible.
The discovery process presented lots of options that were clean-lined for sure, designs that were considered modern and contemporary but were still not the right fit for our home (read: rainbow LEDs and flames shooting from a nest of crushed glass). We landed happily upon a product by Heat & Glo that included logs and embers that looked incredibly authentic compared to most of the options we perused in the showroom (if you’re shopping, I’m talking about the Escape Gas Firebrick Insert). Had I taken a moment to do more research, I’d have seen that there was a $100 coupon available on the manufacturer’s website; be aware, people!
The heat put off by the fireplace is simply awesome, whether or not the fan is on. We reworked our heating zones a few years ago and actually now find that we can keep the thermostats much cooler, and instead enjoy the warmth of the fireplace throughout the adjacent living and dining rooms.
If you’re shopping around, check back soon. I’m preparing a guide for DIY Network on how to shop for and select a gas fireplace, so I’ll be sure to link to it here when it’s live.