What to Expect: Finding Your Perfect Gas Fireplace

So you’re interested in a gas fireplace! First off, let’s make sure we’re on the same page by defining just what a fireplace is. This post deals with gas fireplaces, which can be installed on combustible surfaces and framed with wood studs and drywall for ease of construction. Finishing options are unlimited, and can be as simple as painting the enclosure or cladding it in stone or metal panels

A Direct Vent fireplace burns propane or natural gas with models  primarily for ambiance or ones that serve as efficient, thermostatically – controlled heaters. The burner is completely sealed in a metal case with a removable glass front and customized with interior and exterior options according to your tastes. Metal venting draws combustion air from outside your house, and sends exhaust gases outside so you’ll only get the warmth without soot or smells.

If you have an existing masonry or factory-built fireplace, consider a fireplace insert, which uses your existing fireplace and chimney in place of wood framing. An insert may look and behave much like a fireplace but has a different set of installation requirements. Inserts are not included in this post.

Wooden Sun carries gas fireplaces in a range of sizes, styles, and heating capacities. Our sales associates and skilled installers are happy to answer all your questions – and to ask questions that hadn’t necessarily occurred to you – so that we can recommend the product that will work best in your home. Our self-assessment form goes over many of these questions, and here are a few other things to keep in mind during the planning stages of your hearth project.

First: what are your goals for this project? Are you looking for primary heat, backup or secondary heat, or just a source of cozy ambiance? If you want to simply cozy up a small room, a large fireplace like the Valor H6 may put out considerably more heat than you want or need. On the other hand, if you want to heat a large, open-plan house with vaulted ceilings, a Valor Portrait won’t have the heating capacity you need. If you know what you want your fireplace to do, it is easier for us to show you the most suitable products.

Next is location, location, location. Whether you’re planning a new building/addition, or looking for a fireplace for an existing space, it’s important to keep in mind how much space you have available, not just for the fireplace front, but for framing and venting. Each appliance has its own set of framing requirements, and some require more “surgery” than others to work them into your existing home or new design. If your preferred location is on an exterior wall, we can either build the fireplace framing into the room (a cabinet mantel is a popular choice for an enclosure like this) or out from the side of the house, in what’s usually referred to as a bumpout or doghouse.

The second part of location planning deals with venting requirements. One advantage gas appliances have over wood-burning appliances is the flexibility of their venting requirements. Venting for wood fireplaces must follow the 3-2-10 rule (which states that a chimney must rise at least 3 feet above the point of roof penetration, and at least 2 feet higher than any point on the roof or building structure within 10 feet). However, a direct-vent gas appliance can be vented straight back through an exterior wall with a wall cap (see the “what to bring with you” link from the first paragraph). This saves material and labor costs, making exterior walls an excellent install locations. If the install location is on an interior wall, or you’re faced with zoning or HOA restrictions, vent pipe can be run vertically to exit through the roof of your house (Wooden Sun has run into some challenging installs, but we are able to navigate unusual wiring or other home design setups – an advantage to having highly-trained sales and installation staff!).

The final question for today’s post is the scope of the project. Are you interested in having a stone veneer or a set of steel wall panels installed around your fireplace? Would you like a shelf or cabinet mantel, or perhaps some built-in bookshelves? There are some types of finishing work that can be done in stages once the fireplace is installed, and some that are best put in place at the same time as the rest of the project. Let us know what your design plans are, and we can advise you on the best way to achieve them, and what order makes the most sense.

This blog entry is meant as a starting point for that conversation, and help you narrow down some of your project ideas. Each hearth project is unique, of course, and there’s no way for one post to cover every detail or take the place of a one-on-one conversation with a dedicated sales associate.

Awning, Shade, & Canopy Styles

We’ve previously discussed several aspects of why awnings are a good choice for your home, and how best to take care of them, but when it comes to the products themselves, the options can be a bit overwhelming. In this post, we’d like to offer a brief overview of different types of awnings, canopies, and shades available, to help you figure out which might best suit your needs.

Awnings

Eclipse Retractable Awning

Wall-Mounted Retractable Awning

Our most popular shade product is the retractable awning, which we offer from Eclipse and Aristocrat These awnings can be motorized or manually controlled, and are available in custom sizes to fit your space. Both Eclipse and Aristocrat use fade-resistant, marine-grade fabrics. While Aristocrat makes their awnings and canopies with a variety of fabric brands, including Sunbrella, Eclipse uses Sunbrella fabric exclusively for all of its awnings. Sunbrella has received the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Approval, documenting that it “sufficiently and safely aids in the prevention of sun-induced damage to the skin” (read more about Sunbrella’s safety certifications and sustainability initiatives).

This house has an eclectic mix of window awnings

This house has an eclectic mix of window awnings

As well as the traditional retractable awning, both Eclipse and Aristocrat offer smaller window awnings, which can cover a smaller area than their regular awnings. Eclipse’s Drop Arm Window & Porch Awning opens in an arc that stops at any angle from entirely retracted to almost entirely flat against your window or porch railing to give you maximum coverage. Aristocrat offers both fixed and retractable window awnings, in multiple shapes and styles, including fixed-frame aluminum awnings.

Shades & Screens

Please check out our post on solar shades and screens, for custom window products that keep your house cool and shaded, without  having to install a full awning or canopy.

Canopies & Outdoor Rooms

Sun Roof Plus

Eclipse Sun Roof Plus

Eclipse Pergotenda System

Eclipse Pergotenda System

For those who are looking for a shade system that functions as an outdoor room, rather than just a shade, a retractable roof system or freestanding canopy is an excellent option. The Eclipse SunRoof Plus is a roof- or pergola-mounted retractable sunroof, while the Pergotenda system is a custom-made outdoor structure offering full protection from both wind and rain, with optional side curtains to create a fully-automated, retractable screen porch.

Aristocrat Retractable Canopy

Aristocrat Retractable Canopy

Aristocrat’s freestanding and pergola canopies offer you the flexibility of a wall-mounted system extending from your home, or a freestanding canopy in your yard or next to a pool. In addition to Aristocrat’s usual range of durable, fade-resistant fabric, the canopy comes with an optional water-resistant second layer, to help you keep your outdoor space usable, even in a light rain (note: not suitable for snow loads, and Aristocrat recommends always keeping the canopy closed during high winds). Aristocrat canopies have a sturdy aluminum frame, with or without additional pergola rafters, or you can order a system designed to mount underneath your existing wooden pergola or arbor. As with the awnings and roof systems, Aristocrat canopies can be installed with optional side curtains to provide additional privacy, or protection from late-afternoon sun.

Wooden Sun has shade products to suit a wide range of needs, styles, and budgets. Call our showroom at (434) 760-8659, or submit a contact form, to speak to one of our experienced sales associates and learn more about which of our custom shading solutions is best for you. Don’t forget to ask about our summer sale on Aristocrat products, 10% off through July 4th!

Grill Safety & Maintenance

Grilling season is once again in full swing, so it’s time to revisit the subject of grill safety and maintenance. Wooden Sun services both gas and charcoal grills, and we recommend having your grill inspected and serviced by a qualified technician once a year. Additionally, there are some simple safety and maintenance tips you can follow to extend the life of your grill and make sure your outdoor events are safe and fun for everybody involved.

Let’s start with the safety precautions:

  • Never use any grill indoors; carbon monoxide can build up in an enclosed space, posing a possibly lethal health hazard to everyone in the home.
  • Grills should never be used underneath a deck or balcony, or directly next to a wooden structure. Keep your grill away from flammable materials, and make sure children and pets stay a safe distance away.
  • When using a charcoal grill or smoker, there’s always the potential for sparks, embers, or hot ash to escape. We recommend a non-flammable grill mat to provide ember protection, as well as to make it easier to clean up food spillage. Wooden Sun carries these grill mats in a few stock sizes, but other sizes, shapes, and colors are available from the manufacturer.
  • When starting a gas grill, the lid should always be open. If the flame has gone out (blown out by the wind, for example), turn off the grill, wait 15 minutes for the gas to dissipate, then re-ignite the pilot.
  • Prior to the first cookout of the season, check the burners and air mixers for spiders and other insects. They are attracted to the smell and cozy spaces under the hood of your grill. Webs can reroute the gas so it comes out and ignites where it shouldn’t. Come by the shop and we can show you where to look, or schedule our techs for a thorough checkup.
  • Before you use your grill for the first time each year, be sure to check the gas line and connections. You can do this by applying a soap-and-water solution to the hose, gasketing, and connector valves. If bubbles form, there is a leak. Turn the gas off immediately and have your grill serviced by a professional before trying to use it again! Any time you are unable to trace and eliminate a gas smell, call 911.
  • Never store propane tanks in an enclosed space like a garage. If you store your grill inside, remove the tank an store it outside.
  • And, of course, always read the user manual that comes with your grill, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding use and proper maintenance of the grill.
This ceramic smoker cover has space for the top chimney vent.

This ceramic smoker cover has space for the top chimney vent.

Covers are available for both freestanding and built-in grills.

Covers are available for both freestanding and built-in grills.

A common maintenance issue we’ve encountered is condensation buildup when a tarp or other impermeable material is used for a cover. There are a wide variety of grill covers on the market with a water-resistant exterior, and some sort of breathable material on the inside. Many are ventilated to allow additional moisture to escape. If you need a grill cover that Wooden Sun doesn’t carry,  give us the dimensions of your grill (height, width including any side shelves, and depth), as well as whether your grill is built-in or freestanding, and we can find a cover to fit.

A few additional maintenance tips:

  • Clean cooking grids and drip trays regularly. Grease and salt speed up corrosion, and pooled grease can easily ignite.
  • In addition to checking for gas leaks, check all valves and connectors for rust and other corrosion. Remove all rust with a wire brush, and apply a rust-resistant paint to the area.
  • After you finish grilling, turn all burners on high for about 10 minutes; this will vaporize most of the remaining drippings and grease.

Enjoy your grilling, and have a safe and happy summer cooking season!

Level II Inspections: What Are They, and Why Should I Get One?

In accordance with CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) standards, Wooden Sun highly recommends a Level II (video scan) Sweep & Inspection for all new customers and for customers who are selling their home, have had a chimney fire or if the certified chimney sweep recommends this service. We sometimes have customers ask us why a Level I visual inspection (an assessment by one of our certified technicians from both above and below, with the aid of a powerful flashlight) doesn’t meet the industry’s highest standards for chimney safety, or show us a recent building inspector’s report certifying that the flue liners are in good condition.

The difficulty here is that, although a visual inspection will catch obvious damage to your tiles within a couple of feet at the top and bottom of the flue, even a highly-trained chimney sweep or building inspector can miss hairline cracks in a flue tile, especially if those cracks occur towards the middle of the flue. As discussed in our HeatShield post back in March, even small cracks in your terra cotta flue tiles can allow heat, sparks, and combustion gasses to escape into your home, putting you, your family, and your house at risk. In a vid-scan, our chimney technicians lower a special camera down your chimney, rotating it to get a full 360° view of the inside of your flue. This allows us to see small cracks in your flue tiles or missing mortar joints between them. We can then recommend any repairs required, before the flue tiles can degrade to the point that would require a full relining of your chimney.

Even if you have a factory-built or class A chimney, a Level II vid-scan can still be useful to you. These chimneys are put together in sections, and some brands and styles are less secure than others (Wooden Sun uses Ventis chimney components, which are held together at each joint with screws, but some brands are held together with a twist-lock system, which is less secure). A chimney sweep using improper equipment can damage these joints. A gap between chimney sections will have the same effect as a missing mortar joint in a flue tile, only a factory-built chimney is usually surrounded by wood framing, rather than brick or stone.

Bottom line: even a small crack or gap in your chimney or flue can be dangerous, and sometimes the damage is difficult to observe from the top or bottom of the chimney. Following industry safety standards, Wooden Sun recommends getting a video scan at least every two years, to make sure you’re aware of any potential problems in your chimney before they have a chance to become major hazards to your health and the health of your home.

 

Of Chimney Swifts and Chimney Caps

ChimneySwift23It’s nesting season, so that means chimney swifts are back! Chimney swifts often return to the same nesting site every year, so if you had them last year, you’ve probably got them again, cheeping away from inside your chimney. Swift nests are small, and don’t do any damage to the masonry inside your chimney; however, the abandoned nests and other debris are flammable, and can contribute to chimney fires if left during the burning season.

In 2010, the chimney swift’s conservation status was changed to near-threatened, and swifts are protected under Federal law. This means that reputable, law-abiding chimney sweeps are unable to remove the nests while swifts are still living in your chimney. However, the birds will vacate your chimney as soon as the young are old enough to leave the nest (generally by late August or early September), and we can clean your chimney out after that. Once the birds are gone and the nests have been removed, we recommend capping the flue to keep your unwanted houseguests from returning. Ideally, we recommend putting a cap of some sort on before the nesting season begins, but sometimes a family of swifts will move in and set up house before you have a chance to schedule your appointment, and we wind up having to wait until they’ve moved out again.

Single flue cap

Single flue cap

When it comes to capping the flue, there are a couple of different approaches you can take. The first is a simple single-flue cap (these are made in a range of standard flue sizes, so we’re fairly likely to have the size you need in our warehouse), which bolts onto the outside of your terra cotta flue tiles, and has both a cap to keep rain away, and a heavy stainless steel mesh to keep intruders from making your chimney their new home. A full-coverage cap, on the other hand, is custom-made to the size of your chimney, with a lid that extends slightly past the edge of the existing crown. As discussed in our previous post on maintaining your chimney crown, the full-coverage cap will not only keep rain and animals out of your flue(s), but will serve to protect the masonry of your chimney.

Full-coverage cap

A full coverage, multi-flue cap. The overhang at the edges of the chimney protects the wash.

Gas Appliance Repair

Sometimes when we go out to perform repairs on a gas appliance (logs, insert, or fireplace), we can’t get the appliance fixed on our first visit, or we replace a component and discover a new problem. We understand the confusion and frustration that can result from this. Unfortunately, this situation is sometimes unavoidable, for the following reasons:

First, although there are some common problems and parts among gas appliances, there are many, many different brands and systems out there, as well as a great number of proprietary parts. It would be impossible for our technicians to train on every brand and understand how each and every unit is put together. Additionally, many manufacturers will not provide tech support or their proprietary parts to dealers who do not sell their products. While we will work on brands we don’t sell, we cannot guarantee that we can solve your problem in one service call.

Second, even a fairly basic freestanding log set is quite a complex appliance, with several parts that have to work together to give you the lovely flame you’re looking for. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to diagnose which specific component is the problem in any given situation. For example, it may be that your wall switch has failed, but that your pilot assembly is also malfunctioning. However, since the wall switch won’t work, we have no way of diagnosing the faulty pilot assembly. Fixing one problem can sometimes reveal a second, deeper problem, which now needs to be addressed. For comparison, imagine a severe muscle sprain concealing tendon damage or a hairline fracture. The problems are related, but it’s much harder for a doctor to diagnose the underlying injury until the inflammation is addressed. Once we’ve solved the problem of the faulty wall switch, the malfunctioning pilot assembly shows up; it looks as if a new problem is happening, but it’s just that we had no way of knowing about it before.

Our technicians also sometimes encounter the dreaded Intermittent Fault, where a component of your hearth appliance has malfunctioned half the time you’ve been using it, and just happens to be working during our service call (this writer once had a similar problem with her computer, where errors would suddenly resolve themselves the second her computer-savvy friend sat down to take a look, only to reappear as soon as the friend had gone home). This is part of why we try to get as much information as possible when we’re scheduling your appointment; if we can describe the problem, and let the service technician know it’s only intermittent, that gives them additional ideas of what to look for, even if they can’t re-create the malfunction during their visit. Sometimes, though, the source of the problem eludes even our certified technicians, and we require more than one visit to fully resolve the issue.

 

HeatShield Flue Repair

 

As we discuss on our chimney repair page, an unlined chimney can be very dangerous. Houses built to code since the 1950s have terra cotta tiles or other flue liners, but these degrade over time, or suffer damage from earthquakes, chimney fires, or other extreme conditions. Even minor cracks in flue tiles can allow sparks, heat, and toxic flue gasses to escape into your home; the results can be anything from damage to the structural integrity of your masonry chimney, to carbon monoxide poisoning, to a house fire.

There are a variety of ways to reline a damaged flue to a masonry fireplace. Our preferred method is the HeatShield® flue repair system. Rather than a full poured liner, the HeatShield system is a high-temperature Cerfractory® material designed to fill mortar joints, cover cracks, or resurface your entire terra cotta flue. After determining the extent of repairs needed to your flue, Wooden Sun will use a foam applicator, custom-sized for your flue, to extrude the Cerfactory material into any joints that are missing mortar in your flue. If there are further cracks in the flue tiles, a second layer of the Cerfactory material can be applied to resurface the entire liner. Once dry, the HeatShield Cerfactory cement is rated to withstand temperatures exceeding 2900°F, well beyond the temperature reached by most chimney fires.

But how does the HeatShield system differ from the poured liners that Wooden Sun doesn’t install? Good question, and there are two primary differences. The first is that poured liners often require a lot more material to get a less durable liner, and a great deal of special equipment, which makes them more expensive than the HeatShield system. The application of the HeatShield Cerfactory material requires relatively little by way of installation equipment, and can therefore be installed at less expense than a full poured chimney liner. Additionally, the HeatShield system is specifically designed to address multiple levels of flue damage. Many poured or cast-in-place liner systems are intended for unlined chimneys, or terra cotta flues with such severe damage that the tiles have to be removed completely. However, most of the damaged flues we encounter during our regular service work are mostly sound, but are missing some or all of their mortar joints, or have cracks running through otherwise intact flue tiles. In these situations, our certified HeatShield installers will use only the amount of Cerfactory material needed to seal the damaged surfaces of your flue tiles, rather than creating what is essentially a new flue inside your otherwise intact chimney. While any damage to the flue presents a danger to the home and its residents, the HeatShield system gives us the flexibility to target the specific problems within your flue, without requiring you to spend money fixing a problem you *don’t* have.

Fire is a volatile thing, and not even the best sweeps, installers, or masons can ensure that nothing will ever go wrong. At Wooden Sun, we believe in taking every precaution to make sure that the heat and smoke of your fire are safely ducted outside so that the rest of your home is as protected as it can possibly be.

 

Fireplace Drafting Problems

Every fireplace season, we get calls from homeowners reporting that they can’t get their wood fireplace burning right, or that smoke spills back out into their house when the fire is going. So let’s take a look at what goes into your fireplace system, and what might be interfering with it:

Draft is the force pulling air from inside your house up through the chimney. Draft is primarily a function of the temperature differential between your fireplace and the outside air, as warm air from inside is drawn up the chimney to meet the cold air outside the chimney stack. The first implication of this is that it will be harder to start a fire on a warm day, since there won’t be a significant temperature difference to kick-start the draw of the chimney. It also means that when you first use your chimney after it’s been idle for awhile, you might have trouble getting the entry to the flue warm enough to get the smoke moving. If this happens, try holding a lit piece of newspaper or kindling up to the flue entrance right by the damper for a minute or two to quickly warm the flue and establish a draft. This can also be helpful on cold, damp days; humid air is heavier than dry air, so your chimney has to work harder to overcome that resistance.

If the flue is warm enough, the outside air cold enough, but you’re still getting smoke spilling back out into the house, the next culprit is likely to be a dirty flue or chimney cap. Creosote deposits will interfere with the airflow through your chimney, slowing it down and kicking smoke back into the house. Having your chimney cleaned and inspected every year or so helps keep this from ever becoming a problem, as well as heading off other potential chimney issues.

Sometimes, even a warm, squeaky-clean flue will refuse to draw properly, depending on how your home and chimney are constructed. A short chimney will oftenflue extenders have problems drawing properly; this can be addressed by adding a flue extender or chimney pot to the top of your flue. This flue extender can help address another cause of smoke spillage, negative pressure. We often have homeowners report that when they use their upstairs fireplace, smoke spills out of the fireplace directly below it. This is because basements, which are partially or completely below grade, are negative pressure zones, which try to pull air in from outside the house (think of it as a very weak vacuum cleaner); positive pressure zones, in upper levels of the home, are where the warm air is trying to escape to the outside. Since the two flues are directly next to each other, extending one flue may be necessary in order to get the smoke away from that negative pressure zone.

A flue extender can also combat the problem of stack effect, which occurs when your chimney termination is lower than a nearby rooftop. Hot air wants to go to the highest point in your house; if this point isn’t your chimney, the smoke will be drawn back into your home as it tries to reach the highest point in your building envelope.

Additionally, adequate replacement air can be a challenge for wood-burning appliances in newer, more energy-efficient homes. In an older, leakier house, cold air is pulled in around windows, doors, outlets, and even through the walls. While you normally want to keep that cold air outside, your wood stove or fireplace needs the replacement air to maintain combustion. In tighter modern houses, an outdoor air kit may be needed. This kit is simply a 4″ diameter duct that runs from the outside directly into your wood appliance, providing enough air to keep the fire from choking out and filling your house with smoke. An alternative to the outdoor air kit is to crack a window or door while the fire is going. For obvious reasons, this isn’t a great long-term solution, but it’s a wonderful diagnostic tool. If you consistently get smoke spillage from your fireplace, try cracking a window during your next fire; if that fixes the problem, it’s quite likely that either negative pressure or insufficient combustion air is your culprit, and an outside air kit may be the best solution.

Not every chimney problem has a simple solution, but there are often steps you can take to make it easier for your chimney to do its job. If your chimney isn’t working as it’s supposed to, it’s important to remember that it’s part of a whole-house system, rather than an isolated appliance, and the root of the problem may lie somewhere else in the house, rather than in the chimney itself.

Harvest Season on the Grill!

Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association Offers Nine Tips to Put a Little Barbecue Flame on Your Fruits and Veggies This Fall

Harvest season has arrived, which means it’s time for grilled fruits and vegetables! From grilled sweet corn to delicious mushroom burgers to fresh grilled peaches, there’s almost no produce you can’t take to the next level by throwing it on the grill. The Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association has 9 great tips to spice up your fall grilling and make the most of your lovely fresh produce. Check it out after the jump:

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What Do Efficiency Ratings Mean, Anyway?

Whether you’re comparing wood or gas appliances, you’ll see an efficiency rating listed in the product information. Between uncertain fuel costs and increasingly strict air quality regulations, more and more consumers are looking for the most efficient heaters they can find. But what do those ratings mean? How are they measured?

The bad news is that there isn’t one standard rating system used by manufacturers, nor are they required to tell you which system they’re using. The good news is that by learning a bit about what the ratings mean, you can put manufacturer claims in context and compare apples to apples when buying a stove or fireplace.

What does “efficiency” actually mean?

In the simplest terms, the efficiency rating on an appliance tells you how much of your fuel will become usable heat in your home. A pound of wood, gas, or pellets contains a certain amount of potential energy; some of this energy will be used in starting and sustaining combustion, some of it will go up the chimney (carrying away particulates and other undesirable byproducts of combustion), and the rest will come out into your home as heat.

Wood Heat: EPA vs. Real-World Performance

Wood stoves and inserts are sometimes advertised with two efficiency ratings: EPA and cordwood/real world performance. EPA testing procedures are focused mostly on particulate emissions, and are very highly standardized. These tests use milled lumber (often pine), precisely stacked, with the stove draft set to its lowest (and smokiest) setting; this is also referred to as a “crib wood” test. While this is useful for determining how much air pollution a stove will generate, it has very little to do with how efficiently your stove will convert firewood into usable heat in your home. Many companies choose to do their own testing with cord wood (usually hardwood) and realistic venting setups, in order to give their customers a more accurate idea of stove performance. Unfortunately, there’s no requirement that companies tell you which efficiency rating they’re listing. For environmental impact, focus on the emissions listing (gm/hr of particulates released into the atmosphere) rather than the listed efficiency rating. For real-world efficiency, a good rule of thumb is that 67%-75% is a good range for quality non-catalytic stoves, with catalytic stoves occupying the 75%-83% range.

(Note: just to make this even more confusing, the EPA is currently in the process of revising its compliance and listing standards. While this process is ongoing, look for “cordwood/actual measured efficiency (CSA)” in your stove literature.)

Gas Heat: Steady-State vs. AFUE/EnerGuide

Gas stoves, inserts, and fireplaces are rated in two different ways. The Steady State efficiency rating, which offers a higher and more impressive number, is taken only once, after the appliance is fully heated up and burning steadily. While this number is technically accurate, it has very little to do with how your stove will perform over the course of its lifetime, and under real-world conditions. We prefer to work with vendors who list the EnerGuide, P4, or AFUE (annual fuel usage estimate) ratings. These efficiency readings reflect performance over the entire burn cycle, from ignition to cool-down, and use realistic venting setups. If you’re looking at efficiency ratings, and seeing numbers in the high 80% range, you’re probably looking at the steady-state efficiency of the fireplace. The more honest EnerGuide, P4, and AFUE rating systems give numbers ranging from around 60%-70%. A 65% efficiency rating is actually quite good, and an 85% rating, although it sounds much better, probably doesn’t reflect an actual increase in real-world efficiency or performance.

To sum up: efficiency ratings can be confusing, and don’t always give a complete picture of how an appliance will perform in your home. However, with a little bit of time and research, you can put those numbers in context when comparing different products, and make a more informed decision about which stove, fireplace, or fireplace insert will be the best fit for you!