When it comes right down to it, fireplaces are a matter of taste.
Homeowners now have options — and plenty of them — when it comes
to adding ambiance and warmth on a cold evening. Some want the
traditional wood burning kind while others prefer to flip a switch on
a gas unit. But now there is a whole new approach to fireplaces — a
bio fuel line that resembles art and efficiency rolled into one.
Smokeless fires, such as Planika fireplaces, are not only
aesthetically pleasing, but can be placed just about anywhere, from a
tabletop to hanging on a wall. "It’s a green fireplace that
omits no emissions whatsoever except carbon dioxide," says Kent
McKelvey of timothyj kitchen and bath in Milwaukee. The fireplaces are
run on Fanolo, a renewable green liquid based on ethanol that is safe
for indoor and outdoor use.
"They’re more about design than anything else,"
The units are made in Poland and come in sizes ranging from 14
inches to a full-size fireplace. McKelvey says the units are beautiful
in any residence, but are perfect for condos or smaller homes that don’t
have the room or are restricted on fireplace installations.
"I think it is a wonderful option. This way people are not so
limited," he says.
John Dunlevy, owner of American Heritage Fireplaces with locations
in Milwaukee and Chicago, agrees.
unique ambiance with a biofuel fireplace such as this model
"Fireplaces have always been the focal point of the
room," Dunlevy says. "People are stepping away from a log in
the firebox look. They are using things like glass and high-energy
New, contemporary fireplaces now run on biofuels that burn cleaner,
are more efficient and use less fuel than older gas fireplaces.
"People are looking to get more out of their fireplaces than they
used to," Dunlevy says.
Biofuel is somewhat limited on its flame size, so an average size
biofuel unit may run at 36 inches vs. a 42- to 46-inch unit, Dunlevy
But wood burning fireplaces certainly have not gone the way of the
cave man. Rob Diderrich, manager of Genesee Fireplace Company Inc. in
Wales, says that gel packs "are something pretty to look at"
but "to get heat out of it you want wood or gas."
If you have an existing fireplace there is a way to make it more
energy efficient without spending exorbitant amounts of money. Wood
inserts can be installed in existing fireplaces that could boost your
energy efficiency from 10 to 75 percent, according to Diderrich.
The insert is a completely sealed unit that is installed inside the
existing fireplace along with a stainless steel liner up the chimney.
The insert allows a fire to burn for eight to 10 hours. "The key
is burning good, dry wood," says Diderrich.
Inserts are also available for gas fireplaces and can make an older
gas fireplace up to 90 percent efficient. The bonus to making your
fireplace efficient right now is the $1,500 tax credit that will be
given through 2010. Homeowners will receive 30 percent or up to $1,500
for a new energy-efficient wood or gas insert.
Diderrich also says the "green smart system" gives customers a new
option on gas units. An electronic switch has been added so
homeowners can flip the switch, turning the pilot off when the
fireplace is not in use, or keeping the standing pilot left on.