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Fireplaces and Mantels Education Center

Fireplace Buyer's Guide

Fireplace Types
  • Vent Free
    • Requires no chimney or flu.
    • Uses internal air to facilitate the combustion process.
    • High efficiency. Up to 99% of heat generated stays in the room.
    • Lower BTU’s burn less gas.
    • Currently the most popular among end users due to lower cost of Vent Free fireplaces, lower gas consumption/cost, ease of installation, highest efficiency, and no venting required.
    • STRONG guidelines and building codes regulate Vent Free fireplaces. Please check with your local building codes and/or gas company to determine if there are restrictions or limitations with regards to installing Vent Free gas products. Please note that local codes typically supersede state and federal codes.
  • Direct Vent
    • Most efficient vented fireplace type.
    • Can be vented either horizontally or vertically, these units can vent straight through an exterior wall.
    • All Direct Vent units have a sealed combustion chamber with a glass partition.
    • Good efficiency, up to 70%-85% of heat generated stays in the room.
    • Direct Vent fireplaces are not as regulated as Vent Free fireplaces; however, please always consult your local building codes and gas company.
    • Requires specific venting pipe available in 2 sizes: 4" x 6 5/8" and 5" x 8". Please consult the installation manual for your fireplace to determine if there are venting clearance and/or configuration requirements.
  • B-Vent/Wood Burning
    • Requires chimney or flu that must extend vertically through the pitch of the roof to facilitate the combustion process.
    • Only retain about 10% of heat generated as most of it goes up the chimney.
    • Considered a cosmetic appliance as it generates no heat.
    • Typically installed in warmer climates where the end user desires the look of a fireplace, but does not want the excess heat.
Ignition Types
  • Manual Ignition
    • To operate the logs or the fireplace, the user must manually adjust the unit at the source.
    • The user is required to bend down and adjust the fireplace manually.
    • Remote controls are NOT available for this ignition type.
  • Millivolt Ignition
    • This is the most versatile and popular ignition type.
    • Pilot light generates the Millivolt current
    • If you lose power in your home, you will still be able to operate this ignition type.
    • Also called remote ready, with this control type the user is able to use all of the following remote options:
      • On/Off Remote Control
      • Thermostatic Remote Control
      • Wired Wall Switch
      • Wired Wall Thermostat
      • Wireless Wall Thermostat
      • Thermostatic Sensor (TS)
  • Electronic Ignition
    • If you lose power in your home, you will NOT be able to operate this ignition type.
    • Very few remote controls are available with this ingition type.
    • Electronic ignition is the least popular ignition type.
Log Types
  • Ceramic Fiber Logs
    • Glowing properties.
    • Radiant properties for higher efficiency.
    • 75% lighter than refractory logs.
  • Refractory (Concrete) Logs
    • 3-4 times heavier than ceramic fiber logs
    • Radiant properties for higher efficiency.
    • More durable than ceramic fiber logs
Hearth Vocabulary 101

Complete Packages - Designed as a package to include the Logs, Burner, Firebox, and Mantel. These are complete systems available in Vent Free only.

Fireplaces - Designed as a package to include the Logs, Burner, and Firebox. Available in Vent Free and Direct Vent with multiple ignition types. These systems can be upgraded to include blowers, brick liners and a variety of decorative facings.

Fireboxes - Fireboxes are available in both vent-free and vented. As long as they are Universal you can interchange logs and boxes giving you a lot of choices in designs. These are designed to be either built in to the wall (zero clearance) or used in conjunction with free standing cabinet mantels that most manufacturers also make specifically for their fireboxes. Most fireboxes have several different options like louvered or flush face, black interior or brick liner and most also have facing and door options specifically designed for each model.

Specialty Fireboxes - Specialty fireboxes are available in both vent-free and vented. These boxes are designed to work in conjunction with the specialty log sets. They are available in See Thru, Peninsula and Corner units.

Log Sets - Gas log sets are available in both vent-free and vented. They are typically offered in three sizes: 18”, 24” and 30”, which fit the majority of Universal Fireboxes. Log sets are designed to fit on specific burners and must be installed according to the owner’s manual.

Specialty Log Sets - Specialty Gas log sets are available in both vent-free and vented. They are specifically designed for use in specialty or designer applications such as See Thru Fireboxes, Peninsula or Island applications.

Inserts - Inserts are designed to be installed into an existing masonry fireplace. They are complete systems with a specific log set and an integrated burner. These cannot be interchanged. Because they are designed for insertion, they are typically very compact, measuring just 13” in depth as opposed to a 20” average found with Vent Free Fireboxes. Direct Vent Inserts must be vented through the top of the existing chimney. Most vent-free inserts can also be used for zero clearance applications.

Stoves - Free Standing stoves are available in vent-free, direct-vent and B-vent (vented). Some manufacturers sell the casting and burners separately so you can choose your application, while others provide them as a complete package. These units can be more expensive, but are designed to fit applications for unique spaces like sunrooms, kitchens, etc.

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