The hearth appliances of today are more popular -- and advanced -- than ever. Available in sizes and shapes to fit virtually any room or corner of your home, today s fireplaces and freestanding stoves give you a great deal more than ambiance or heat -- they are literally design statements.
Traditional or ultra-modern, fueled by gas, wood, electric or pellets, they are standard offerings in more than half of the new homes built -- nearly 1.8 million were projected for 2004.
According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), new home buyers rank a fireplace among the three features they want most, along with outdoor porches or patios and upgraded kitchens. Shipments of hearth appliances have grown 500 percent since 1994. Gas-fueled products represent two-thirds of all new fireplace shipments, and technological advances such as direct-vent fresh air replacement gas systems can actually heat the whole house.
Nearly three-quarters of all factory-built fireplaces are installed at the time of new home construction; the time to make changes is before the house is built. Contractors will likely choose a very basic, economical fireplace, so it s up to you to make it known from the outset that the fireplace is important to you and you want to explore options for an upgrade. HPBA studies have found that a fireplace typically adds $12,000 in value while also enhancing your home.
There are some 3,200 hearth specialty retail stores across the U.S., many with National Fireplace Institute (NFI) certified installers on staff. These retailers are the source for all the information a homeowner needs on the types and sizes of products available as well as on the all-important local code and regulation data. Unlike many appliances you purchase, hearth products don t lend themselves to do-it-yourself installation, so rely on an HPBA member retailer.
You need to keep an open mind about whether a wood burning, electric or gas fireplace best suits your lifestyle and needs. Non-wood burning units add flexibility by allowing installation and safe use without the requirement of a chimney. Direct vent technology enables the expulsion of gas fireplace emissions out the side of a house. Electric and vent-free fireplaces need no venting.
New materials and accessories make the fireplaces of today easier to maintain, more fuel-efficient and eye-catching. The wide range of fuel and venting choices as well as unusual sizes, shapes and designs enable the hearth appliance to be customized and readily installed literally anywhere you choose: bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, family and living rooms -- even hallways. And outdoor hearth products such as firepits, chimineas and patio heaters are now being sold in record numbers.
Get with it, and find out just how far fireplaces have evolved. Much more than simply a place to light a fire, they have become an important element in our quality of life at home.