Posted by: Timothy Ellis (The Tim)

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

15 responses to “Poll: What’s Your Fireplace Preference?”

  1. toad37

    Gas fireplace FTW

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  2. kjburg

    I don’t want a real chimney, too much maintenance, give me a direct vent wood stove or gas stove. Most people don’t maintain their masonry chimneys properly, and if you do, it’s expensive – or time consuming if you do it yourself.

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  3. Blurtman

    Wood burners, what right do you have to pollute the air that others breathe? Second hand smoke kills.

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  4. Charlie Rogers

    Fireplaces radiate heat into the house, but they actually suck a lot of hot air out of the house, too (assuming, of course that your fireplace is drafting and your house isn’t full of smoke!). Radiant heat decreases exponentially relative to distance so in order to get any of the heat you have to be standing close to and in the line of site of the fireplace. That’s why everyone “huddles around” the fire—if you’re not you’ll be freezing cold. For these reasons, nobody really uses a fireplace as a source of heat; it’s there for ambiance only.

    There is a rare exception: Rumford fireplaces which are really quite ingenious. Invented a couple hundred years ago, they are designed to reflect as much heat into the house as possible.

    Theoretically anyone can follow the principles of Rumford and build their own, but there is also a Rumford fireplace shop in WA. They have tested their fireplace and certain models meet the EPA criteria:

    http://www.rumford.com/index.htm

    If money was no object, I would build one of those.

    There are also some very efficient and clean burning stoves available that are “EPA certified”

    http://www.pscleanair.org/actions/woodstoves/certifiedws.aspx

    Pellet stoves are clean burning and inexpensive but there’s something about those pellets that takes the romance out of the fire.

    I suppose gas is OK, but having grown up with a wood stove I like the process of chopping wood and starting a fire. Plus, I wouldn’t plan to have any other gas appliances in my home so I wouldn’t want to pay $130/yr in monthly service fees just to have an active gas line to the house.

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  5. Erik

    Gas fire if it is natural gas from the street.

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  6. robotslave

    As much as I love a nice wood fire, there’s no getting around the fact that a fireplace of any kind is a horribly inefficient way to heat a home. It’s an environmental disaster on the grounds of conservation alone, before you even consider emissions.

    On an emotional level, yes, please, give me an open hearth and a cheery pile of brightly burning wood. What a shame that the rational level has to poop all over that.

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  7. Christian

    All you people saying things such as “That’s why everyone “huddles around” the fire—if you’re not you’ll be freezing cold.” or “there’s no getting around the fact that a fireplace of any kind is a horribly inefficient way to heat a home.” have a far too narrow idea of what a wood fireplace is. Your most likely thinking of just an open masonry fireplace. An open masonry fireplace is nothing more than a hole in your wall waiting for a stove to be installed.

    A properly designed wood stove can heat a house to the point where it can be negative degrees outside and you’ve gotta open windows to avoid overheating.

    My dad has a 3500′ish sqft home in Norway with two wood stoves (our only heat source), one upstairs and another downstairs (daylight basement). As a kid I can’t remember us ever using the downstairs stove because the upstairs stove would make the entire house so incredibly hot. We only use about a basket of wood per day (2 or so cubic feet) in the coldest parts of winter.

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  8. ray pepper

    gas hands down..unless I find myself at some rustic cabin then heave in some wood..pellets r crap..

    btw..
    Where is Craig Blackmon? Don’t tell me he left Wa Law? What about all his dreams he told us about? His visions of a real estate society without agents ? Stuck at one too many open houses? Inspections?
    If he is starting 400 Realty then I’m going to attend one of his events and heckle him from afar…

    Doesn’t anybody stay put anymore?

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  9. softwarengineer

    Propane Fireplaces

    Are the way to go. When the electricty goes and your gas blower is out, don’t use your gas furnace….it could overheat or malfunction, look at the instruction book.

    Propane furnaces work fine to heat a home without a blower [electricity] and will cook things on the top too.

    I turn my pilot light off when its not on, saves me $50/mo in propane.

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  10. Astro Kermit

    Choosing propane over the edge case of a blower going out is hardly a good reason IMHO. Natural gas costs less than propane. There are gas insert designs that don’t require electrical blowers. Radiant fireplace designs are trending for current and future designs. Now for areas that don’t have natural gas, then I agree with propane.

    Completely agree with everyone here supporting gas. I would go a step further and distinguish gas inserts as opposed to the older style gas logs (while they generate heat, it is mostly cosmetic considering the amount of energy burned).

    I still love the feeling of wood burning fireplaces (especially the crackling of cedar). However they are not energy efficient at all, exhausting out the warm air and can pose as a health hazard.

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  11. Corndogs

    I had propane log fireplaces up and downstairs. fake wood is for kitties. I pulled them both out, now I have propane flames below a real wood grate. Put in the bone dry Madrona and light the propane. Madrona burns HOT! and it’s a crock of BS that the fireplace sucks all the heat up the chimney…. it will if you’re f’ing around with low heat presto logs or using fake logs with gas/propane, not when you burn hardwoods. My fireplaces snap crackle, and roar, and radiate heat into your bones, only way to go.

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  12. Charlie Rogers

    By Astro Kermit @ 10:

    Natural gas costs less than propane.

    Yeah, no kidding. Propane is about three times as expensive as natural gas. You might as well burn oil in your fireplace because it costs just as much! Natural gas is dirt cheap right now, but once they finish retrofitting the natural gas import facilities they had been building and instead turn them into export facilities, then it becomes a global commodity and who do you think the gas companies will want to sell their fuel to: American consumers at the same low prices or to energy poor countries like Japan who will pay four times more?

    By Christian @ 7:

    All you people …have a far too narrow idea of what a wood fireplace is. Your most likely thinking of just an open masonry fireplace.

    I agree with you entirely. EPA certified wood stoves are a great way to heat a small house.

    By robotslave @ 6:

    …a fireplace of any kind is a horribly inefficient way to heat a home.

    Efficiency is one of those words that gets tossed around without any real meaning or reference point. If the wood you’re getting is culled from a sustainably managed forest then one could consider it to be highly–if not the most–efficient and sustainable heat source. Now, I’m by no means advocating for widespread use of wood heat by any stretch of the imagination, but on a small scale and in communities that have access to lots of forest that they manage sustainably it makes perfect sense.

    By Corndogs @ 11:

    “it’s a crock of BS that the fireplace sucks all the heat up the chimney…

    If your fireplace has a vent to draw combustion air from outside then it will help a lot, but most fireplaces don’t have this. When the hot exhaust air goes up the chimney, cold air from outside has to come into the house to replace the air that’s going up and out of the chimney. If you’re sitting in the same room as the fire or if your house is small and it has an open floor plan, you might not feel that chilly cold air coming into the house; but if it’s a larger house or has a closed floor plan, that cold air will significantly drop temperatures in rooms away from the fire.

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  13. kfhoz

    We added a direct vent gas fireplace stove this year to our living room. I think that it has lowered our heating bills because most evenings we do not turn on the main heat in the house. Most importantly it has dramatically increased my enjoyment of the space I especially like it for warming me up fast, and the faux logs and embers ebb and glow attractively.

    This was a “must” feature for me, so when we bought a house that did not have one, we added it ourselves.

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  14. joe dirt

    Smoke from wood burning is a terrible pollution problem. Would be unhealthy to live in a low income area where there is a lot of that.

    Have also found a problem with direct vent gas fireplaces. You only use them occasionally (unless you want to live in the dark ages and heat your whole house by having one room hot as hell). But the units have no, or minimal insulation, and no way to close the vent. So you have this large metal object with single pane glass right there in your room, filled with ice cold air in the winter, sucking heat out of your house. I believe an infrared camera would show the coldest spot in many homes is these direct vent units.

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  15. Mike

    Unless you are putting in a proper wood stove, both wood and gas fireplaces are largely decorative so I can’t imagine not going with wood if you had the choice and being able to hear the logs actually pop and see the flames flicker. I want everyone to “huddle up” at the fire to feel its warmth on days like last Saturday when it is nasty out, that’s a benefit in our family not a defect.

    The fire will suck some air out while it is running but if you shut the flu when it is not in use it isn’t that bad. At the end of the day it’s a small luxury and not any less “efficient” than other things people put in like the giant soaking tubs.

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