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Fireplaces changing to cleaner fuel

Several years ago the trend in fireplaces began to move away from wood-burning to natural gas. Today, says Shane Carter, manager of Fireplaces, Inc., that trend continues.

"Most of the sales today are for high-efficiency gas fireplaces and stoves, and aesthetic gas logs. Also, most of the stoves and fireplaces we sell today are direct vent. In fact, I'd say 75 percent of all of our sales are direct vent," he says."The main reasons are the conveniences of both the direct vent and natural gas, and the low cost of natural gas."

Another reason for the move away from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces is the air-quality restrictions placed on them during critical burn times. With a natural-gas appliance, owners can always have a fire available at the touch of a switch.

Still more reasons focus on the problems of getting fuel for wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, especially during the coldest times of the year.

It is a fact, however, that fireplaces and stoves have come a long way in recent years. Nothing tells this more than the introduction of the direct-vent fireplaces and stoves.

It used to be that stoves and fireplaces needed to be vertically vented, either through a specially framed and insulated area, or a masonry chimney that vented outside. Also, it was necessary to bring in an air supply to be burned.

Direct-vent fireplaces and stoves can now be placed almost anywhere within the home. It can be vented up, or it can be vented out, horizontally, to any outside wall.

Also, the direct-vent fireplaces and stoves supply their own outside air to use in burning, which is even more critical today with modern building techniques being as air-tight as they are.

Carter points out, also, that some of the direct-vent appliances now carry the same classification as wall furnaces.

"You can put a thermostat on them, use them like a wall furnace, and get just as much and sometimes more heat. In most cases they're being used for this purpose in basements that have been finished. What happens, though, is that heat rises, and that along with warming up the basement, the stove or fireplace heats up the higher levels of the home as well," he says.

"Always, though, every year, there's new technology and new models being introduced into the marketplace. The hearth industry is booming right now in natural gas and direct-vent products. One of the innovators has been Heat-N-Glo. It was a pioneer in direct-vent development. Currently, they offer one of the largest and most complete natural-gas lines available."

One of the newest products introduced by Heat-N-Glo, and gaining in popularity, has been the outdoor or patio campfire. It looks like and burns like a campfire made for roasting hot dogs or marshmallows in a picnic or camping area. This fire, however, uses natural gas or propane, and will burn for as long as there's a fuel supply.

"This has been the hearth industry's biggest addition this year. In fact, there are not a lot of places that have them available," Carter notes.

Another popular item this year has been the large cast-iron stoves that have been adapted to modern natural-gas technology.

They have been designed to fit into a number of decors. Carter says people are using them in a number of ways, from putting the smaller stoves in bedrooms to using the larger, enamel-coated decorator stoves as furniture pieces in living rooms, family rooms and basements.