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Fireplaces for all your spaces

What’s better than an autumn stroll to take in the brightly coloured leaves and the cool, crisp air? Relaxing afterwards in front of a roaring fire. “The fireplace has always been the focal point of the home,” says Alan Baroey, owner of Marsh’s Stoves and Fireplaces in Toronto. But what if your home doesn’t have a fireplace? Or you’d like to add one, but have limited space. Good news: you can easily add a fireplace to just about any room, these days. Here are some modern options.

ELECTRIC FIREPLACES

Forget those fake-looking, glowing logs of the 1970s. Today’s electric fireplaces use the latest technology to create a realistic flame and even “smoke,” explains Lauren Redman, marketing director for Dimplex Electrical Fireplaces in Cambridge, Ont. “Our Opti-Myst model is a fireplace that utilizes water and ultrasonic technology that creates a flame and smoke effect,” she says. “And because it’s an open-air product, you can put it in an open setting and you have no risk of people burning themselves.”

Other benefits of electric fireplaces include energy efficiency and eco-friendly technology. “It’s green so there’s no combustion or particles going into the air,” says Redman. “It’s also safe. Many of our products stay cool to the touch because it’s not a real flame.” But it can be a real heat source. “You can operate with or without heat,” she says. “Even when it’s 30 degrees outside, you can have a beautiful looking fireplace without having the heat. When you do want the heat, it’s very evenly distributed. When you put on a gas fireplace, the intensity of the heat can kind of blow you away.”

If you do go the electric route, it’s as easy as choosing your style — consoles, built-in, wall mount or insert, for example — bringing it home and plugging it in. “It’s instant ambiance,” says Redman. “We have an application to suit any style or need, but really, it’s that ease of installation — there’s no venting or gas lines that you need to worry about.” Prices range from as low as $300 to $500 up to between $1,250 and $2,100, depending on the model and style you’re looking for.

WOOD-BURNING FIREPLACES

Think “wood-burning fireplace,” and you might imagine a big stone hearth with a square opening housing a roaring fire. And you’d be partly right. Old-school fireplaces allowed for crackling fires that created a cozy ambiance, but were an inefficient way to actually produce heat. But that’s all changed now, says Baroey. Today’s wood-burning fireplaces are modern, sleek and linear with roll-up glass screens.

And they’re great heat producers: “These fireplaces have become extremely efficient,” says Baroey, “almost as efficient as a wood stove. They’re anywhere from 50 to 65 per cent efficient compared to a negative-10 per cent when you have an old open fireplace.” So it’s a heat source that creates that primal ambiance, he points out, without drawing air from the house for combustion. “So you only have a positive effect on the house,” he says “and it can fit into practically any decor.”

Modern wood-burning fireplaces are surprisingly easy to install. “You don’t need a huge masonry foundation for these fireplaces,” says Baroey. “We deal with homes that have already been built and we can deliver and install a fireplace ready to burn within two days — I’m talking about a built-into-the-wall fireplace.” Pricing for a built-in fireplace ranges from about $15,000 to $20,000.

ETHANOL-BURNING, PORTABLE, FLUELESS FIREPLACES

Imagine having a glowing fire anywhere, anytime you like. The reality is, you can—with an ethanol-burning fireplace. Fuelled by clean-burning bioethanol—an alcohol that comes from agricultural and forestry products—these fireplaces don’t require flues, chimneys or any sort of connection. So you can use them out on the deck, in the living room, on a tabletop or even mounted on a wall. Plus, they come in a variety of sizes and designs so it’s easy to find one to suit your lifestyle. You can even convert an existing fireplace into an ethanol-burner by choosing an insert.

Lighting the fire is simple: pour a bottle of ethanol into the burner and light it with long lighter. You’ll have flames within minutes.

While you can’t expect much heat from this style of fireplace, it will warm a room and create a cosy ambiance. Plus, unlike wood, ethanol doesn’t emit dangerous fumes while burning and won’t create any ashes. Instead, you’ll be left with a small amount of water and a safe level of carbon dioxide.

Pricing varies according to size and style. A tabletop ethanol fireplace can cost as little as $125. A wall-mounted or freestanding style can be had for $499, while a full-on automatic bio fireplace can run upwards of $3,000.

-by Jacqueline Kovacs