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Hot Texas Fireplaces New technology adds efficiency to fireplaces' romantic
Texas Fireplaces were never hotter. We love them for the
romance and cheer they bring to our lives, and it is nice that they add at least
10% to the value of a house, but right now we are also thinking that they might
bring some relief from cruel fuel prices. A comforting thought, but is it
The truth is that conventional Texas fireplaces send
more heat up the chimney than they provide to your home. But the good news is
that exciting new technologies now add energy-efficiency to the romantic
tradition of the hearth.
Fireplace inserts, gas logs, freestanding stoves,
masonry heaters and new fuels are just a few of the dozens of options that make
a fire in the grate more affordable, convenient and efficient as well as safer
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For example, fireplace inserts, which the U.S.
Department of Energy applauds for superior energy efficiency, have left their
drab appliance look far behind. Today, they are great looking and come in a wide
variety of styles, from traditional to contemporary. Designers and homeowners
alike sing their praises.
"Many inserts include such aesthetic features
as decorative tile, cast iron or enameled fronts, glass bays and brass trim," "They won't embarrass
even the most elegant rooms."
Homeowners became a fan of inserts during a
severe winter a couple of years ago. "We were hit by a power outage at a time of
plummeting temperatures," "With our heating system out of
commission, we kept our Texas wood-burning fireplace going, and thanks to the insert
we were able to keep the entire first floor toasty and the second floor warm
enough to keep pipes from freezing and bursting."
Texas Fireplace inserts are heating units that fit
into existing fireplaces and can burn wood, gas or wood pellets. They can
generate more than 70,000 BTUs per hour and can warm up to 1900 sq. ft. of
Some models extend onto the hearth
while others stay flush with the front of the fireplace. Most have tight-fitting
glass or metal doors and built-in circulation features. The most efficient
models supply combustion air from outside the house, and virtually all inserts
are controlled-draft units with manually or thermostatically controlled air
inlets. Some units are also available with catalytic converters for improved
Glass doors, heat exchangers, dampers and flue
sealers can also up the energy efficiency of an existing Texas fireplace, but
don't expect too much. According to the Department of Energy, those devices
combined could only improve efficiency by some 10%.
If you want a whole new Texas fireplace, you
can take energy efficiency as well as great-looking design to the max. For
example, Texas stone fireplaces that have heated Swedish and Finnish manor houses for
centuries are gaining ground in the U.S., and it is easy to understand why. They
are stunning, but they are also very efficient. Since they are freestanding,
they cast heat all around them, not just in one place, and the stone surfaces
store up heat and release it over as many hours as needed. Expect to shell out
big bucks for these beauties.
Another interesting option is the new Texas fireplaces that
don't require masonry chimneys, for they can be installed
easily and safely in most any room. They are simply vented through an outside
wall, and they are available as wall units, islands, peninsulas and two-sided
models that let you enjoy the fire from adjoining rooms. They may burn wood, gas
There is no question that Texas fireplaces are
terrific and getting better all the time, but your mom was right on the
money when she warned you not to play with fire. Safety is all-important, so
before changing a Texas fireplace or adding a new one, consult an architect or
fireplace specialist. Also check local codes with your town's building