By Ed Roskowinski, CR
This time of year, I can’t think of anything better than sitting beside the fireplace in my favorite overstuffed chair with hot-toddy in hand. There’s nothing like the radiant heat warming you and the enjoyment of watching “nature’s television” dance and flash in the hearth.
With a plethora of styles and options, fireplaces have come a long way since the cold drafty brick structures of our grandparents’ era. Modern wood burning units are still available, but likely not for too much longer as their environmental impact is beginning to overshadow their nostalgic appeal. The newer wood burning units include traditional looking fireplaces as well as high efficiency wood stoves. More recent additions have been wood pellet burning units, which also burn corn, wheat and sunflower pellets. Many of these solid-material burning units still provide the natural crackling fire look, feel and sound we all remember.
More popular in today’s homes are natural gas fireplace units. With an improved, “less blue” more “real” looking flame, these units provide much of the look and all of the warmth of the more traditional wood burners. They’re also much more efficient, being sealed off from the home’s interior and not drawing the air you’ve paid so dearly to heat, up and out the flue. With a multitude of traditional to contemporary designs, and virtually unlimited sizes, diversity is the cornerstone of these gas units. Adding to that diversity are the many additional options available, including a variety of colored glass media for their floor and LED lighting that can be changed to varying colors depending on your decor or mood. Also, these units typically feature handheld remotes to adjust the flame intensity, thermostat setting and fan speed for varying esthetic and heating needs. There’s no wonder gas fireplace units are the most popular type of fireplace installed today.
Other, lesser known fireplace units are beginning to hit the market hard. Electric fireplaces are making a comeback; no, this is not the 40-watt light bulb unit your dad installed in your 1970s basement. They’re versatile (much like a flat screen TV) and don’t require venting to the outdoors so they work well in condos and apartments. With the insurgence of the “outdoor living space”, outdoor fireplaces have also made a huge comeback in recent years as they extend our outdoor season.
So, as you’re pouring that glass of dark rich wine and grabbing your current novel of choice, think about how much more enjoyable those few moments of relaxation would be with a roaring fire at your side, and maybe a golden retriever at your feet.
Ed Roskowinski is General Manger and VP of Vujovich Design Build, Inc., a 35-year design build firm specializing in building and remodeling unique Twin Cities homes for unique homeowners.