It has long been the focal point of the home and for those who take the time to sit and soak up its warmth, they can transcend time and space to an era where the fireplace emanated security and a welcome spot for all to gather.

The fireplace has served its part in the practical side of the history of home design. For as long as people were making fire it has been one of the most important elements of the home.  As modern heat alternatives evolved, the need for a fireplace as a source of heat or as a means to cook was not as important. Homeowners found cleaner, more efficient ways to stay warm and it no longer meant an early morning trip to the woodpile. However, as home trends come and go like the flick of a lighter, the fireplace continues to be a mainstay in most homes today.  Whether it is the traditional wood-burning fireplace, a pellet stove insert, gas or even alcohol burning unit, the fireplace is a feature of the home that is here to stay.

The popularity of the fireplace is heating up. Where there was once a need for a fireplace in several areas through out the home as a source of warmth, homeowners are now incorporating multiple units throughout their home not only just as alternative sources to heat but also as key elements to their design.

While you can never completely replace the atmosphere of an open hearth, homeowners and designers are being drawn to clean-burning and low maintenance options. Fireplace suppliers say that although wood stoves are not as popular, they still find their way into home design for people who simply love the traditional look and sense of home that they feel sitting by a crackling wood fire.

Kevin Kowalski, account manager at MacGillvary Fuels in New Glasgow, says that buyers are looking for simplicity in design.

“For clean burning fireplaces, buyers are focused on the window and the flame,” he says.

“The popular styles are the more modern feel with simplistic designs that show off the flame of the clean burning fireplace rather than the more traditional style ornate fireplaces complete with decorative molding.”

Kowalski works primarily with propane fireplaces and enjoys educating his customers on the new technology and benefits of the units. “Many people don’t really understand how easily propane fireplaces operate. With features such as remote start and temperature settings for temperature control, propane fireplaces are bringing the old fashioned charm of the  fireplace into the modern and more convenient future.”

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While Diane Gordon of New Glasgow has yet to turn on the new propane fireplace for its first burn, she says she couldn’t be happier about the look and space efficiency of her new unit.  Diane recently moved into a new build.  She is living in a smaller space than her previous homes and liked the space-saving installation. “I have radiant in-floor heat so I don’t really need it for a heat source but I know I will love it for its ambiance on a cold winter night.”

The temperature control features of a propane fireplace are not the only modern convenience they offer. “The propane fireplaces can have a burning efficiency into the 80 per cent range,” says Kowalski. Burning efficiency refers to how well the fuel that is being burned is being used in the combustion process of burning.  Higher efficiency means the money spent on fuel goes farther.

Kowalski also mentioned that propane fireplaces are reminiscent of their predecessors, like the wood fireplace you do not need power to have heat, making a propane fireplace an excellent backup if you lose power during a winter storm.

Brian Burton works in the energy department at Central Home Improvement in Stellarton. He says he sees a lot of people browsing the wood fireplaces and wood pellet fireplaces.

“I have seen an increase in heat pump sales, but I’m still getting a lot of inquiries on wood products,” Burton says.

As for look, Burton says it depends on where the fireplaces are being installed.
“If they’re on the main floor they’re going for a more sleek unit with some flash,” said Burton. “However, if it is in a basement or recreation room they tend to go more toward the solid black.”

Although propane fireplaces may be known for their heat control, some people still prefer wood burning stoves for its stronger heat.

Local stone mason James Stewart of True Masonry Ltd. has noticed a decline in the number of people having wood burning fireplaces built in their homes.

“We have some, not as much as 20 years ago,” he says “but we are repairing a lot.”
Although not many new masonry fireplaces are being constructed in new homes, the sentiment of the family fireplace has held strong throughout the years, bringing families together. Regardless if the time is spent in the kitchen, bedroom, playroom or the living room, the glow of the fire creates the atmosphere for quiet moments in an all too often noisy world. Whether you choose a propane or wood flame, keep your home fires burning and have a safe and cozy winter season.