There are several issues about installing gas logs in a traditional site-built fireplace. We were informed by the company installing it that is was a building code that the damper must be modified to keep it partially open all the time. This would prevent accidentally building up carbon monoxide indoors. Good idea. But it also meant that in cold weather it allowed warm indoor air to escape.
When the fireplace was in use, it seemed that all the heat went right up the chimney, along with more heated indoor air. The room actually felt cooler when the fireplace was on. Definitely not very energy efficient.
So we started investigating, and learned about direct vent fireplaces and that they could be installed inside the existing opening. The concept of a direct vent fireplace is pretty simple, really: The combustion chamber is sealed tight. Two flexible metal tubes extend from the top of the fireplace insert to the top of the chimney. One tube draws in outside air for combustion. The other tube exhausts the vapors created by the fire…probably just like a typical flue on a gas furnace. The result is that almost all of the heat stays in the fireplace, which very quickly provides plenty of heat.
I learned all this at a local fireplace firm called Dealers Wholesale. And I also learned that our contemporary home didn’t have to settle for a traditional looking fireplace. We chose a Heat & Glo brand contemporary design that really fit the style of our home. And its remote control allowed us to adjust the flame so we could control the amount of heat it was generating.
Two weeks after ordering it, Dealers Wholesale called to schedule a pre-installation inspection of the existing fireplace, and the next day the two-person crew showed up to install it. Ninety minutes later, we had a beautiful new, high efficiency direct vent fireplace putting out plenty of heat in our living room.
This was really the first investment in our quest to make our home more energy efficient that was actually pretty to look at. Everything else had been concerned with making the home more air tight and better insulated. But I knew it was all worth the investment. Especially after we had the triple pleasure of: 1) a draft-free, cozy home; 2) extra warmth in the room where we spend a great deal of time; and 3) instantaneous reductions in our gas bills.
But the reality remained: to really make big inroads into the home’s energy usage, we were going to have to address the HVAC and water heating.
Posted: 3/9/2010 9:45:30 AM by
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