Q. I want to add a fireplace for supplemental heat and the ambiance, but I don't want the hassles of burning wood. Will a gas fireplace produce much heat, do the flames look real and can I install one myself?
A. There are many designs and styles of gas fireplaces available, but to meet your needs, a direct-vent design is your best choice. They operate very efficiently, produce as much heat as some gas furnaces and are simple to install. With direct venting, you will not have to build a chimney.
The new designs of gas logs produce realistic-looking flames. If it were not for the lack of crackling sounds, it would be difficult to distinguish the gas log flames from real log flames. Almost all gas fireplaces can be ordered to burn propane instead.
Special ceramic fiber multilog sets create the realistic flames.
Random flames: Multiple gas jet holes are precisely located to produce random flames plus a glowing ember area. Some logs are actually hand-painted for realism.
If you are concerned about electric power outages during the winter, select a gas fireplace with millivolt controls. The gas flame generates its own electricity. Even though an optional blower will stop, the flames will continue to heat your home if the electricity goes off.
A sealed direct-vent fireplace is most efficient because the gas combustion process is totally separated from the room air. A single concentric vent pipe draws fresh outdoor combustion air into the fire and exhausts the flue gases out through the center pipe. No room air is lost and there are no drafts.
With a single horizontal direct-vent pipe, you have to saw only one hole in an outside wall to install the fireplace. Other direct-vent models can be vented vertically up a chimney or from a basement installation.
There are safe zero-clearance designs, so the fireplace can be placed directly against a wall.
Remote control: Even if you are not a couch potato, consider a gas fireplace with a hand-held remote control. These allow you to control the heat output, flame size, room temperature, and optional blower speeds. For use in a bedroom, a model with a timed "sleep" setting shuts off automatically after an hour.
Some unique fireplace styles are corner, three-sided peninsula, see-through, arched, and bay fronts and have 24-karat gold trim. The newest model is an indoor/outdoor design. It is mounted in a wall and can be viewed from either side. For efficiency, the indoor and outdoor sections are separated.
To heat several rooms, choose a model with an extra warm air heat duct.
Another option is a positive-pressure design to force the heat throughout your house.
XWrite for Update Bulletin No. 912, which gives a buyer's guide of 16 high-efficiency, direct-vent gas fireplace manufacturers, listing styles, heat outputs, efficiencies, controls, features and a cost-to-operate chart. Please send $3 and a business-size SASE to James Dulley, The Vindicator, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. For an instant download, visit James Dulley online at www.dulley.com.