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Fireplace Buyers Guide
The HotPrice Buyers Guide is here to assist you in making an informed decision on your purchase, whether you´re looking to find out about the latest technology in flueless gas fires or narrow down the electric fire to suit your needs, our guide is designed to help you understand our products.
Once upon a time, an open fire was as much a necessity as a treat, providing not only easy access down the chimney for Santa on his yearly visit, but much-needed warmth to a chilly home too.
The fireplace has transcended its original purely functional role as a heat provider to reach its present position as the focal point in many interior design projects. With innovative and regular features in lifestyle TV programmes and magazines, the fireplace has become an aspirational furniture purchase designed to enhance any home.
There´s a whole host of sexy fires and stoves to choose from, but the kind of flue you have will determine the type of appliance you can install. Many homes don´t have a flue so first find out whether you have one. If so, what type of flue is it, and is it clean and sturdy? It needs to be in a good state of repair to allow fumes to escape safely.
A traditional chimney, or Class 1 flue as it´s known (usually found in pre-Sixties houses), gives the most heating options.
A Class 2 Pre-Fabricated Flue is a metal flue box that is situated behind the fire connecting to a series of metal flue pipes running up through the house terminating with a pipe and terminal through the roof.
Class 2 Pre-Cast Flue are commonly found in more modern homes. Constructed using hollow concrete flue blocks which create a flue up through the property usually terminating with a ridge vent on the roof.
If you don´t have a chimney, don´t worry! You can still create that much needed focal point with a balanced flue, powerflue, flueless or electric fire.
How much heat?
Thankfully, the majority of modern homes are now blessed with a sufficient central heating system to ward off that winter chill and, as a result, many modern fires are designed to be more decorative than to pump out huge waves of warmth. Even so, the cosy glow of real flames ensures that any form of fire instantly becomes a focal point, not to mention a real selling point.
Nothing beats crackling logs or glowing coals on a cold winter night, but if you live in a smoke-controlled area, you´ll need to use smokeless fuel and be prepared to clean the grate between fires. Also think about the practicalities, ie: where are you going to buy seasoned wood or smokeless fuel, and how will you store it? If wood or coal is your fuel of choice, you could also opt for a stove. A Class 1 flue is a necessity for solid fuel fires.
Gas fires can be fitted into most existing fireplaces, while a new hole-in-the-wall style fireplace can give a really modern look. Moving a fire up off the floor creates a contemporary style statement and can work well in a period property. There are gas fires available for all kinds of flues. Remember, too, that all gas fires should be fitted by a CORGI-registered installer.
Electric fires have really moved on in recent years. They are now great value for money and have all the benefits of a decorative gas fire. They´re also a great way to incorporate a fire into a room without a flue and are really easy to install. A world away from old-fashioned bar models, modern electric fires look good, but heat output can be limited.
A relatively recent innovation, flueless fires don´t require a chimney as they use a catalytic converter to remove fumes. Flueless fires are an expanding market. The great thing is that none of the heat is lost up a chimney, so they´re 100 per cent energy efficient, and they only use 25 per cent of the gas consumed by other decorative models. Flueless fires require a minimum room size and additional ventilation into the room.
Once the preserve of country cottages, stoves are appearing in modern homes, thanks to new, sleek, contemporary designs. Most use wood, a renewable source of energy and an eco-friendly option, but some models can also be fuelled by coal, gas or even electricity. There´s a trend towards wood-burning stoves, the European, rustic feel is becoming really popular.
In terms of the size and output of your stove, choose one slightly more powerful that you think you´ll need, in case of a cold snap. But don´t assume that bigger is always better. You shouldn´t under-run a stove as this can cause problems, such as creating creosote and tar in the flue, which are highly flammable. As with other fires, get your flue checked to see whether it´s the right size and in good condition. If it isn´t, you can get a liner fitted. An appliance is only as good as the flue it´s connected to.
Modern stoves needn´t be in an inglenook. They can be freestanding, sit proud from a wall or even hang from the ceiling. If you do have a large alcove, don´t automatically buy a huge stove to fill it. The size of the appliance should be dictated by the size of the room, not the hole it fits into.
If the stove sits on a surface, that needs to be non-combustible and at least 5cm thick.
Select your surround
Marble, limestone or cast iron; wall-mounted, traditional or contemporary – the fireplace you choose is very much down to personal taste, but do take into consideration the style and period of your home when making your decision. Scale and proportion are everything, make sure you go for a surround that sits well in the room, to ensure your scheme doesn´t feel unbalanced.
Luxury materials are becoming key in fireplace design. Now stainless steel and aluminium are the norm, designers are using surfaces such as mirror, bronze and stone, and finish is all-important, too. It´s like investing in the best-quality tailoring, but for your fireplace!