The recent artic vortex phenomenon sent record cold all the way to Florida, and resulted in questions to us about the construction and use of fireplaces in custom homes in our area. At Carlton Construction, where we make a client’s dream home a reality, we’ve built fireplaces in almost every one of our luxury homes.
Usually the first question we’re asked is whether a fireplace should be wood burning or gas. Proponents of gas fireplaces say that they are more convenient, cleaner, less expensive to run and maintain, and just as realistic as wood-burning fireplaces. There is also more flexibility with location in the home, design, venting and materials. At the end of a long day, there’s a lot to be said for turning on, adjusting and turning off a fireplace with a few clicks of a remote.
With wood burning fireplaces, there are more considerations. The Brick Industry Association, in its Technical Notes 19 – Residential Fireplace Design (http://www.gobrick.com/Portals/25/docs/Technical%20Notes/TN19.pdf), sums it up nicely: “The performance of a (wood-burning) fireplace is primarily governed by three factors: fuel combustion, air pressure differential between the firebox and the top of the chimney and temperature differential between air in the room of the fire and that at the top of the chimney. All must be considered in order to achieve successful combustion and exhaust performance. All fireplaces include the same four basic components. These are the base, firebox, smoke chamber and the chimney.” Because of the venting/chimney needs, there could be fewer choices for the location of a wood-burning fireplace; and stone or brick masonry for the chimney and firebox could put a strain on the budgeted cost. Yet, even with all that, fans of traditional wood-burning fireplaces will say that there is nothing grander than the look, feel, sound and smell – the whole sensory experience – of walking into a room with a roaring, wood-burning fire!
Interestingly, with a greater emphasis on biomass/regenerative fuels, wood burning has increased in recent years. In an energy and fuels outlook statement (http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/archives/oct12.pdf) from 2012, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) stated: “Wood consumption in homes has risen during the past 10 years, reversing a trend seen in the last two decades of the 20th century. In 2009, U.S. households consumed about 0.5 quadrillion Btu (quads) of wood. Household fuel oil consumption, by comparison, was only slightly higher at 0.6 quads. In homes across the United States, wood is most commonly used as a secondary source of heat and is second only to electricity as a supplemental heating fuel.”
So, wood-burning or gas? Well, we’ve seen clients take the best from both sides: a wood-burning fireplace in the main living area, with gas fireplaces in bedrooms and studies. Decision problem solved!
Winter chills will come and go, but the fireplace in your dream home will last a lifetime. At Carlton Construction, we can discuss all the options and considerations with you, so you will make the best choice possible.