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INTERIORS : Preference for Direct-Vent Gas Fireplaces Over Chimneys Is Heating Up

From Associated Press

Although a traditional wood-burning fireplace in a formal living room may still be the first choice of the fireside-minded, direct-vent gas fireplaces are gaining favor.

These new fireplaces do not require chimneys and can be vented through an outside wall. The direct-vent fireplaces are relatively simple to install and come in small sizes that don’t overpower a room, making them a popular choice for second fireplaces in dens, bedrooms and sitting rooms. They are also being installed in places never possible before--recreation room bars, kitchen cabinets and bookshelves.

Modern gas fireplaces have ceramic logs and instant lighting. The newest ones offer more realistic flames and logs, come with easy controls and usually take up less space.

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Remote control is one of the most popular new features of the gas fireplace. By attaching a remote-control device to the gas line, you can turn off the fire from across the room. One company even offers a thermostat on the remote control, allowing the fireplace to maintain a preset temperature for the area where the remote control is placed.

The convenience of gas fireplaces goes beyond instant lighting and instant extinguishing. Several new gas fireplaces offer installations that require only a short (18 inches) horizontal vent and zero clearance. This allows installation of the fireplace on any outside wall, even in the bathroom or under a window.

At least one manufacturer has a power-ventilation system so the fireplace can be vented through the floor, allowing it to be in the middle of the room with no apparent ties to the outside.

The big saving with a direct-vent fireplace comes from eliminating the chimney. According to R.S. Means Residential Cost Data, the cost of a chimney averages $1,500 for a steel-lined brick chimney on a one-story home. A plain metal pipe chimney costs $750.

Although a direct-vent fireplace requires virtually no chimney, it does need a liquid propane or natural gas supply. Part of the economy of a direct-vent gas fireplace comes from planning for it when having the home built; it is easier to install the gas lines before floors and walls go in.

Because gas fireplaces don’t have to handle the same heat as a wood-burning fireplace, they’re not as heavy, and they’re easier and quicker to install.

A complete gas fireplace can cost from $1,500 to $2,500. A wood-burning fireplace can cost $2,000 more than a similar quality gas fireplace.

Most models are 70% energy efficient. As a result, a gas fireplace can be used to keep one room warmer at a lower total cost than raising the thermostat setting for the entire house.


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