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The pros and cons of heating your home with a fireplace

The way you heat your home can have a dramatic impact on your comfort, health and pocket. To help you decide, we’ve rounded up the pros and cons of fireplaces

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The pros and cons of heating your home with a fireplace

Choosing a heating type might be one of the most important decisions you make for your home. Not only could you end up saving money upfront and in the future, the right type of heater can make your family healthier and improve your quality of life.

It pays to do your research before choosing what type of heating to install in your home, so we’ve rounded up some of the main pros and cons to get you started. But first…

Insulation

Effective home heating starts and ends with insulation. A little money spent on insulation now will save you thousands on bills in the years to come and will create a healthier environment for you and your family.

Check the required R values (the resistance of a material or building structure to transferring heat) for your climate zone and, if you can afford it, insulate above these minimum requirements. Installing double-glazed windows and cosy carpets will maximise the health and efficiency of your home even further.

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Fireplaces

Flickering flames provide a wonderfully cosy atmosphere. Today’s fires come in a vast range of styles and burn a variety of fuels, including wood, gas and biofuel.

Pros

+ Very efficient
+ Cosy and atmospheric
+ Woodburners are cheap to run and can heat a large area
+ Biofuel fires burn clean, don’t need a chimney and use a green energy source
+ Gas and biofuel fireplaces fit a number of spaces
+ Gas is easy to turn on and off and provides instant heat

Cons

+ Woodburners can’t be turned on and off and surfaces can get hot
+ Wood needs to be stored and smoke contributes to air pollution
+ Woodburners may need building consent
+ Gas price may fluctuate; non-renewable resource
+ Gas usually heats only one room
+ Biofuel fires are not a primary heating source

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Akaroa radiant woodburner, $2999, from Masport. Brooklyn bioethanol fireplace, in bronze and black, $5000 or under, from Living Flame.

The purchase

Carefully calculate the heat output your home needs and do lots of research. For a woodburner, you’ll need to find out if you’re in a clean air zone or not and check emissions requirements for your area; consult your local council for help.

The installation

Location is everything for your fire but there are also options out there for all types of homes. Get a range of advice and check that your chosen fireplace installer has New Zealand Home Heating Association certification.

The latest tachnology

Many fireplaces can also heat your hot water or even boil the kettle. There are some innovative new looks – Pyroclassic fires come in over 200 colours, and Living Flame’s biofuel fires can be installed anywhere, with no need for a chimney.

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R1500WS freestanding radiant woodburner, $1699, from Masport. Pyro mini woodburner, $2899, from Pyroclassic.

The look

If you’ve got an existing fireplace, you can research the era of your home and restore its original character, but make sure you have a professional check it over for safety. Or you can start from scratch with a modern freestanding fire in the most convenient spot for your family.

Energy efficiency

Burning wood is carbon-neutral because it’s renewable, but burning it cleanly is the key to making it environmentally friendly. Ensure you ask your installer about the best way to run your fire cleanly and efficiently.

Tips

  • If you have an open fireplace, installing an enclosed fire will make it safer and more efficient.
  • If your home isn’t open plan, a heat-transfer system will help to move warm air around the whole house.
  • In a wood-burning fire, only burn dry wood that’s been seasoned for at least a year to enjoy clean heat.

Words by: Sally Conor. Photography by: Shannia Shegedyn and Martina Gemmola/bauersyndication.com.au.

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