Winter will soon be here, and many of us will find ourselves looking to the fireplace for added warmth in our homes. According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, 60 percent of single-family homes feature at least one fireplace. The HPBA also finds that homeowners list fireplaces as one of the top three most wanted features in a home.
With a highly desired feature such as a fireplace, homeowners are asking for important design elements. Manufacturers agree that the trend is toward more realistic recreations of traditional masonry fireplaces that are also environmentally friendly.
Homeowners are requesting traditional and European styles for their homes, and especially for their fireplaces. They want taller and wider fireplaces that are flush to the floor. And with this traditional design, technology and environmental sensitivity are not lost. Homeowners want classic, realistic designs from the past with cleaner-burning technology of today, whether it is a wood, gas or electric fireplace.
In the past, gas and electric fireplaces were obvious choices for those who wanted cleaner-burning appliances, but most times they didn't offer the traditional look that's desired today. Thankfully for homeowners, the designs of these fireplaces are evolving as is the clean-burning technology in wood-burning units. Manufacturers are competing to be industry front-runners by providing gas and electric fireplaces that offer realistic, traditional design and wood-burning fireplaces that incorporate clean-burning technology.
Despite technological advances, manufacturers are facing challenges that may affect their product. A major factor is the stricter emission regulations found across the United States. Depending on the city, county or state, different emission codes exist. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certifies wood-burning fireplaces based on the amount of emissions they release into the air. EPA-certified wood fireplaces produce 2 to 5 grams of smoke per hour whereas noncertified wood fireplaces can produce 40 to 60 grams of smoke per hour. To see a complete list of EPA-certified wood-burning fireplaces visit www.epa.gov/woodstoves.
"There is popularity in gas fireplaces because in some parts of the country wood burning is restricted because of air-quality concerns," says Bob Dischner, director of marketing, Lennox Hearth Products. "We offer the Villa Vista wood-burning fireplace that doesn't affect air quality."
The Villa Vista fireplace is an EPA-approved clean-burning fireplace that can heat up to 2,500 sq. ft. with a 70,000-Btu catalytic combustion burner. It offers 72 percent heating efficiency and includes a flush-face front and masonry design.
Another factor manufacturers keep in mind when producing fireplaces is the growing number of Americans that live in urban areas and don't have access to wood, or the lifestyle that allows them to maintain a wood-burning fireplace. These homeowners are most likely to purchase a gas or electric fireplace that gives them the same look and benefits of a wood fireplace without the maintenance, venting or fuel requirements. "Gas fireplaces are growing (more popular) because of the urbanization of Americans and their limited access to wood," says Walter Moberg, president, Moberg Fireplaces.
Originally designed for a home on Fifth Avenue in New York, Moberg Fireplaces introduced the Georgian series gas-fired grating. It is similar to a gas log set except it includes a triple-burner system that maintains any of three levels of flame and heat: progressive flame, slowly growing flame or slowly dimming flame to replicate a real fire.
Flexibility of Design