Choosing the right fireplace
There’s nothing like a roaring fire and its warm, cozy glow. Wood fireplaces are controversial, however, due to their negative impact on the environment. In fact, units that fail to meet the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standard for fine‑particle emissions—that is, no more than 2.5 g/h—will be banned in Montréal come 2018. Nonetheless, wood fireplaces are cleaner than ever, and Quebecers outside the metropolis can still install one if they’re willing to pay the high cost. Remember, a professional cleaning should be carried out every year to avoid chimney fires.
Pellet fireplaces burn wood by-products and generate a lot of heat, while polluting considerably less than traditional wood fireplaces. They do still need regular maintenance, and this type may not be the best option for people looking for an alternative heat source in case of power outages, as certain pellet stove systems use electricity.
Gas fireplaces are an excellent choice for a main or backup heat source, and are currently undergoing a surge in popularity. They produce heat that spreads evenly at the flick of a switch—and if there’s a power failure, they can run on batteries. This type of fireplace requires very little maintenance, apart from keeping the outdoor tank filled, and they imitate the look of a wood-burning fireplace—but without the pleasing crackle of logs.
The benefits of ethanol fireplaces are more about aesthetics than energy—they can be installed outdoors as well as in, there are wall-mounted and tabletop models, and their flames are very realistic. They don’t produce much warmth, but they are lovely to look at and easy to move. But be warned—although they don’t give off a lot of heat, the ethanol residue they produce can emit a small amount of carbon monoxide. This means that the rooms in which these fireplaces are installed need proper ventilation, and many insurance companies and municipalities require the presence of a carbon monoxide detector and an extinguisher.
This type of fireplace is by far the easiest to install and you don’t need to have a chimney. They simply plug into a wall socket and produce heat similar to that of a small furnace. Their appeal has more to do with appearance than any ability to warm, but they are eco-friendly—however, should the power go out, they are rendered useless.
Prevention above all
Whichever type of fireplace you choose, vigilance and prevention are key. When buying a unit, you must ensure that it’s approved by a government agency, and the installation must be carried out by a certified professional. Exercise caution when using your fireplace, and teach children about its inherent dangers. You are required to inform your insurer that you have such an appliance in your home or on your property, to ensure you have the appropriate coverage.
For questions or information about home insurance, contact your insurance broker. Remember, a broker is your best advisor!
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