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Focus on the Fireplace

Construction How-To, FirePlace, Heating & Fireplace Inserts, HVAC December 6, 2013 Sonia

Upgrading an Old Wood-Burning Stove with a Stylish, Efficient Gas Fireplace


By Stuart Hanson


When it comes to which type of fireplace is best, there has always been considerable debate. Many people lean towards the romance, smell and ‘crackle’ of a wood-burning stove, mixed among those seeking gas fireplaces that not only create warmth and comfort for the whole family, but also offer the finest in style, convenience and efficiency.  While it’s true most people will always envision a roaring fire within the family room, the wood-versus-gas debate still continues.

While both types have their advantages with staunch defenders on both sides of the gas-versus-wood conversation, the real winners are today’s homeowners as modern fireplaces truly are a far cry from the unattractive and inefficient hearths of the past.  Whether you’re designing your dream home or just looking for an easy way to maximize comfort and save heating costs this season, there are numerous considerations regarding this popular home upgrade as exemplified via one Pacific Northwest couple from Redmond, Washington.

Homeowners Steve and Tara Fries inherited a mid-70s freestanding wood stove when they purchased their home in early 2000. Since then, an upgraded great room and kitchen outshined the outdated wood-burning appliance. With a baby on the way, they felt a safer, more-efficient change was needed.

“I remember sitting around a roaring wood fire when I was young so I have a natural affinity towards that, but we decided a change to gas was more appropriate with a baby on the way,” says Steve Fries, a long-time media sales professional. “We’re both so busy and about to become even busier, so the overall efficiency, look and convenience of a gas fireplace really felt like the right choice.”

As the Fries’ found out while going through the process of upgrading to a new gas fireplace, there were many aspects to research and consider before they upgraded their inefficient wood stove with a ‘hot’ new home appliance.


Consideration #1:  Determine the Best Fuel Source

Selecting the most appropriate fuel source is often the first step when deciding which direction to go. For more rustic or rural home settings, wood is the preferred fuel source for its classic “crackling” sound, and its low-cost and availability. Natural gas is a convenient way to have a warming fire at the flip of a switch or remote control, and is readily available via the local power/utility company (less so in remote areas). Additionally, there are many cities and states that periodically limit or prohibit the usage of wood-burning fireplaces because of environmental conditions—so warming the home with gas eliminates that potential circumstance. That was an important consideration for this family since they’re located in the greater Seattle area where burning bans occasionally occur.


Consideration #2:  Proper Styling is Essential for Architectural Consistency

Thanks to modern design and styling, many of today’s fireplaces are a far cry from their unattractive predecessors of the past.  Maintaining architectural consistency makes a great difference between a fireplace that looks like an inappropriate add-on and one that looks like it’s an original part of the home. Simply put, it’s a matter of replicating the particular architectural style in other finished materials throughout the space for an overall, cohesive look.

Visiting the local hearth retailer will quickly show any would-be buyer a nearly endless selection of faceplate designs and material choices. Brushed nickel, wrought iron, antique gold and hand-rubbed copper are just a few of the options designed to provide a cohesive, luxurious look unifying the home’s architectural style. The Fries’ selected Kirkland Fireplace, a nearby fireplace retailer supplying the Seattle area with gas, wood and electric fireplace products, including installation services and maintenance. They eventually decided on the Winthrop GreenSmart high-output gas fireplace by Avalon, a brand known for its beautiful wood, gas and pellet fireplaces, stoves and inserts featuring organic styling and natural design.

Homeowner’s Steve and Tara Fries decided on the Winthrop GreenSmart high-output gas fireplace by Avalon for its realistic yellow-flame appearance, heating performance and stylish design options.

Homeowner’s Steve and Tara Fries decided on the Winthrop GreenSmart high-output gas fireplace by Avalon for its realistic yellow-flame appearance, heating performance and stylish design options.