Burning Issues

From: tulsaworld.com, Keeping the home fires burning
By KIM BROWN World Scene Writer

Gas and electricity are fueling more and more fireplaces

When sweater weather first arrives and there's a snap that hangs in the air, many people want to curl right up to the fireplace.

Whether it is a marble masterpiece in the great room or an electric model in the bedroom, homeowners love their fireplaces. Now, it is easier than ever to create warmth in your home with a fireplace even with a small budget.

"Fireplaces can cost anywhere from $500 to $10,000," said Bud Farris, owner of Tulsa Fireplace Supply, 9251 S. Garnett Road in Broken Arrow.

The hearth products industry has seen the most growth in recent years in electric fireplaces, he said.

"I think it's the ease of having electric, and it's very energy efficient," Farris said. "There's no flue, and manufacturers have made a lot of really attractive electric fireplaces."

The units can be installed anywhere in the home that has electrical power, and because there are no actual flames, they can be installed near wood or other flammable items.

Farris said electric fireplaces are also very realistic looking, and a homeowner can buy one for as low as $1,500. People with flat-screen televisions on their walls can install electric fireplaces right underneath them without worrying about heat damage.

"They can have heat or no heat, so if you want the ambiance of a flame in the summer you can turn it on," he said.

Gas fireplaces are also desirable to homeowners because of their energy efficiency and ease, he said.

"Some people think they're not, but they're very safe," he said. "A lot of people remodeling right now want to update their fireplaces for energy efficiency. Most people don't realize that a wood burning fireplace is only 10 percent energy efficient. Ninety percent of the heat goes up the flue."

Popular alternatives to traditional fireplaces in Tulsa homes are wood burning stoves, said Bertie Gorden, who owns Buck Stove Home Energy Center, 4735 S. Memorial Drive, Suite C, along with her husband, Marlyn Gorden.

She said that most customers prefer wood and wood pellets for their stoves, but she has seen sold more gas and even electric stoves this year than before.

"With a wood pellet stove, it pushes heat into your house and keeps your furnace from kicking on," Gorden said.

Homeowners are placing the stoves in bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens -- anywhere they want to have a comforting glow, she said.

"Some people just like to look at a wood fire," she said.

For traditionalists, wood fireplaces are the only way to go. Maybe it's the crackling and popping sounds, or they enjoy poking the logs.

"There are still those die-hard people out there that want to burn wood just for the overall experience of smelling wood burning," Farris said. "But that market is continuing to dwindle.

And although they are the most expensive option, masonry fireplaces -- installed with brick, stone, marble or other building materials -- are always popular regardless of the style of the home.

Tulsa architect Jack Arnold said his clients have been requesting larger and wider masonry fireplaces to accent their homes.

"They're wider and taller, some even tall enough to stand in," Arnold said.

Kim Brown 581-8474

Related Photos & Graphics

Fireplaces fueled with gas and electricity are growing in popularity, but some people will always prefer the smell of wood.
MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World

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