Choosing an electric or gas fireplace

You no longer need a chimney or firewood to have a fireplace in your home. In fact, there are various sizes, designs and fuel types to suit any living space, whether you own a house or rent an apartment. If you want to create a charming focal point while providing warmth to your rooms, then it's time to throw out the old space heater and install a fireplace.

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Choosing a Fireplace Design

Depending on where you intend to install it, an indoor fireplace can be compact, wall-mounted, fitted to a corner or inserted into a traditional wall unit. Unlike outdoor fireplaces, most indoor models are no longer wood-fired. Some people do use wood stoves or traditional chimney fireplaces, but they require cleaning, ventilation and a continual supply of firewood. If classic fireplaces aren't appropriate for your lifestyle, you might want to consider one of the following alternatives:

  • Gas fireplaces. With a propane or natural gas line, these fireplaces use a switch to provide instant heat and can sometimes be connected to existing ductwork to create a central heating system. Gas appliances burn cleaner than wood, but they still produce emissions, so proper ventilation is key. A gas fireplace is also handy for warming the house during power outages.
  • Electric fireplaces. Electric heat eliminates many major concerns — such as emissions, portability and messy cleanup — and these units rarely expend more energy than a standard space heater. Fuel costs in relation to gas will vary regionally, but the initial costs are typically lower. Many electric fireplaces include features like filtration devices, built-in thermostats to maintain an even temperature and a heatless option (so flames can be displayed decoratively without wasting energy).
  • Gel-fueled fireplaces. These ventless, wireless, smokeless appliances rely on an alcohol-based gel housed in a canister. Commercial gel fuel can be expensive, but like electric fireplaces, these units are portable and easy to maintain.
  • Fireplace inserts. If you have a chimney fireplace but don't like the hassle of using it, electric fireplace inserts and electric logs can be placed in the existing opening, allowing you to enjoy a fire without the hassle.

Accommodating Your Fireplace

After you've chosen a fireplace design, you still need to decide exactly how it will be incorporated into the room. The desired style and location will influence your choice of finishes and fireplace accessories. The color and exterior design should reflect the surrounding decor and your personal taste, ranging from natural, rugged looks to ultra-refined contemporary materials.

For traditional-style wall units, fireplace screens provide practical coverage and a decorative finish. They can be purchased fairly cheaply from an astonishing variety that includes simple wire screens and more decorative stained glass. And, of course, no fireplace is complete without a mantel. Choose from a range of fireplace mantels to enhance and customize your appliance, as well as provide additional display space for photos and knick-knacks. Be sure to measure the fireplace precisely before picking out a mantel to ensure a secure fit.

When you're done selecting a fireplace design and customizing it with additional features, you can sit back and enjoy the relaxing ambiance a new fireplace brings to the room.