Selecting a fireplace is all about personal choice.
Homeowners can purchase fireplaces based on a variety of criteria, including appearance, convenience, cost, amount of heat needed and environmental friendliness, said Mark Chenoweth, owner of Elite Heat.
Gas fireplaces are clean and convenient, Chenoweth said. Owners never have to clean anything out. They can heat an area or a large room. A lot of people in the Steamboat Springs area purchase gas fireplaces, he said.
When it comes to wood fireplaces, a lot of people buy them because they enjoy the look and feel of a real fire, Chenoweth said.
There also are fireplaces that burn wood, coal and pellets. The pellets are environmentally friendly because they are made of waste product such as wood shavings. And biomass fireplaces can burn pellets, corn, wheat, oats and other elements.
There are a lot of new fireplace products coming out this year, Chenoweth said. One company is building woodburning fireplaces that are also kitchen ovens. There is another fireplace that has a waterfall above it. And, he said, there are units that are see-through or have three sides.
There also are outdoor furnaces that burn a variety of elements. Some outdoor units hook up to indoor heating systems.
When shopping for a fireplace, it helps to know what you're looking for, Chenoweth said. He said people might want to start by selecting the element they want to burn. He also asks customers about their interests and fitness levels; some people enjoy the exercise associated with chopping and hauling wood and some do not, he said.
It also helps to know how big of an area you plan to heat, he said. Fireplaces can act as area heaters or room heaters. People should also consider where the fireplace will be located, because that affects hauling convenience and venting issues.
Chenoweth also asks people about their style and taste. Fireplaces range from conventional to arched to freestanding. They can come with mantles and built-in entertainment centers. Chenoweth also has antique stoves and does restorations.
There are local regulations concerning fireplaces.
Unlike wood-burning fireplaces, gas fireplaces do not fall under Routt County's environmental regulations because they are cleaner when they burn. However, homeowners still need to get approval from the county planning department, have their plans reviewed and pay a small fee.
The city enacted an ordinance in 1987 limiting the use of open wood-burning fireplaces. Under that ordinance, fireplaces must be registered, new fireplaces must be the approved type and existing fireplaces must be converted to include pollution-control devices.
All wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, except for those in single-family and duplex homes, must be a nationally approved solid-fuel burning device or have air-pollution-control devices put in place.
Within the city limits and county air shed, property owners are allowed to install one wood-burning fireplace per household, and that fireplace must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. The approved fireplaces are clean burning and most have catalytic converters.
The county's air shed extends to Stagecoach Reservoir, meanders along Emerald Mountain, crosses over U.S. Highway 40, extends to the Steamboat Golf Course and travels a little farther north. The limits do not go as far as Oak Creek, Hayden or Clark and those areas have little or no regulations when it comes to wood-burning fireplaces.
The city does have a loophole in its wood-burning fireplace regulations: fireplace rights. If someone takes out an existing wood-burning fireplace that is not EPA approved, they can sell the rights to it.
Under the city's ordinance, the owner of a single-family or duplex home can purchase or otherwise obtain the right to permanently eliminate two existing fireplaces. The two fireplaces have to be converted to approved units or removed from the home and sealed to the city's satisfaction.
With those two fireplace rights, the new owner can put in a non-EPA approved fireplace or have more than the one allotted fireplace per home.