November 23, 2015 in Heating
It’s getting cooler in Dallas, especially at night. People are dreaming of fireplaces. But is it really the right choice for you? Ask yourself these seven questions.
Will I really use it?
People often dream of sitting in front of a cozy fire without considering the time or cost of maintenance and acquiring fuel. Many homebuyers consider a fireplace a desirable attribute, or even a must. But they often wind up building a fire or two and then lapsing into fireplace indifference. Sometimes the mantel is the main attraction as a handy place for seasonal decorations and family portraits.
There’s also the TV question. The hearth was a traditional focal point for the home until the 1950s, when most families realized they’d rather watch television than flames. This brings up the awkward design question of splitting a focal point between a TV and a fireplace, an especially vexing problem if it turns out you don’t even light many fires.
Am I more about aesthetics or efficiency?
If you are still thinking yes on the fireplace question, what kind of fireplace will you choose? When visualizing a dream fireplace, most people imagine the traditional wood-burning type, complete with hot coals, dancing flames and sparks flying, just like our cavemen forebears enjoyed. Delightful as a wood-burning stove is, this is not the most efficient heat source. Much of the warmth is sucked right out the chimney—plus it pulls warmth out of your other rooms. And the heat loss continues even after the fire is out, because you have to leave the damper open to prevent the embers from depleting your home’s oxygen.
Flipping a switch and having a gas fire isn’t nearly as romantic as burning wood. But it sure is easier and more energy-efficient. Gas inserts can work in most fireplaces and are capable of heating up to 3,000 square feet of your house. This is a suitable option for people with natural gas lines running to their houses. Otherwise, you have to use propane, which means storing a big, unsightly tank of expensive fuel in your yard.
Do I have central heat?
If you live in one of Dallas’ older homes that has no central heating system, using a fireplace in conjunction with individual heating units might be a viable heating option, especially if you seal off the other rooms and heat one at a time. Again, a gas fireplace will be more efficient than a wood-burning one.
Do I have a good source of wood?
Okay, you really want that wood fireplace. But you live in Dallas, not out in the country. You can’t just go chop a cord of wood whenever you need one. Before you spend all that money on installing your dream fireplace, check out local wood sources. Does your grocery store sell wood? How much is it? For safe and efficient burning, you’ll need softwoods that have dried out for at least a year, or hardwoods seasoned for even longer. And remember, you’ll need to regularly clean your wood-burning fireplace and get annual safety inspections.
Am I concerned about the environment?
Wood is natural because it comes from trees. So it must be fine to burn it, right? Actually, creosote, a by-product of burning wood, is a nasty, highly flammable goo that will quickly coat the inside of your chimney. If you don’t have your chimney cleaned regularly, you’re upping your chances of a deadly house fire. Wood fires also create indoor and outdoor air pollution. Children, elderly people and those with existing respiratory problems are especially susceptible to breathing difficulties caused by wood fires. The gas fire is a more environmentally friendly choice.
Do I like to entertain outside?
A backyard fireplace is another warm and festive option for Dallas residents. If you like to entertain at your house, the warmth and leaping flames of an outdoor fireplace will draw your guests like moths. It also considerably lengthens your backyard entertaining season.
Would I rather let somebody else deal with the fireplace?
After looking into cost, health, safety, maintenance and environmental concerns, you may feel yourself cooling to the idea of a fireplace. That’s okay. Dallas has lots of places you can warm yourself by someone else’s fire. Have a drink at the Kennedy Room, the Loon, the Mansion Bar, Three Sheets or the Veritas Wine Bar and let somebody else clean out the chimney.