New Fireplace Inserts Are More Efficient, Carbon Friendly and Make a Fashion Statement

One of the things that I miss the most about my twelve years living out in the country is my fireplace. There’s really nothing to compare to a warm and cozy fire on a cold and snowy night. I did have a couple of mishaps though. Being a city fella growing up, I knew next to nothing about making a fire or maintaining a fireplace. I knew that you had to open the damper and clean them out every so often, but that was about it. The old Civil War era house in the city that I grew up in actually had a fireplace in every room of the house (except the bathroom) but they had long been bricked over.

The first house in the country had one of those free standing metal fireplaces, the ones that were popular way back in the fifties. It was triangular in shape and had a thin piece of metal stovepipe that ran straight up through the ceiling. For the first few weeks everything went fine. The only problem that I had was the wood was a little green and the fire was hard to start using just newspapers. So I would go to the store and buy charcoal lighter, give the logs a good dousing and it would light without any problem. It was getting a little bit expensive using all of that lighter fluid so I got the bright idea of buying a gallon of kerosene and using that because it was a lot cheaper. The only problem was I didn’t know that kerosene had a lot more “firepower” than the charcoal lighter fluid.

After giving the logs a good dousing, I threw a match in there and “Whooosh.” It was something just short of a major explosion. Suddenly I had more fire than I had bargained for, though luckily it stayed in the firebox. After a few minutes the room became unbearably warm and the ceiling started to smoke. I had one hand on the fire extinguisher and another on the phone before it finally died down. After that I still used the kerosene but in much smaller amounts.

Fireplaces have come a long way from when I tried to incinerate myself. According to an story in the St. Louis Post Dispatch (www.stltoday.com) wood burning fireplaces are being replaced by more efficient gas inserts that go into your existing fireplace and act like a mini furnace, much more efficient in reducing your heating bills. The only problem with these is that they are pretty expensive. Some can cost nearly $4,000 with installation.

The inserts of today are different from the old traditional gas logs that really don’t look real. One has a single swirling flame that rises up in a clear glass column. Pellet stoves are also a “hot” item this year. Pellet stoves burn small compressed wood pellets that are about $3-$5 for a 40-pound bag that will burn for about 24 hours. Many of the more expensive ones are made from soapstone, which really holds in the heat and makes them one of the most efficient and carbon-friendly stoves on the market.

With all fireplaces be sure to practice safety. Have them cleaned and inspected once a year and make sure you have a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector in proper working order. And throw away the kerosene.

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