We Have Fire

Drywall is almost done and siding is finishing up, so I thought I’d write a little about the fireplace that was installed several weeks ago and how we picked it.

Before we took down the old house, there was a bit of discussion about keeping the old wood burning fireplace. I don’t mind traditional fireplaces at all, and the existing one carried with it the benefit of being able to heat both the basement and the main floor. In the end, however, the masonry just took up too much space and didn’t fit the overall design plans. I was not sad to see it go, but I think Build might have shed a tear.

The old hotness

In shopping for a new fireplace, it quickly became clear that if I wanted something that wasn’t going take up a whole lot of room, a gas or denatured ethanol burning one was the way to go. Although the ethanol burning ones were really sharp looking and flexibly designed, it seemed silly to buy one considering I’m already running a natural gas line to the house. The choice between never refilling my fuel supply and doing it every few/several weeks was easy.

When it comes to natural gas fireplaces, you can either go with direct-vent or vent-free. In a direct-vent setup, air is drawn in from outside the house while the fumes are blown out the same way. In a vent-free setup, air is drawn from the interior of the house, heated up, and then blown back into circulation. While vent-free fireplaces are generally thought to be safe enough, they do reduce the oxygen level inside a house, and some people point to this as a potential hazard. They are also a potential carbon monoxide hazard if improperly designed. For these reasons, it didn’t make any sense to go vent-free, considering running a vent was relatively easy.

Another important safety consideration is purchasing a fireplace that is “UL Listed”. This designation means that an organization called Underwriters Laboratories has tested the product for safety. Many insurance companies will not cover damage caused by non UL Listed fireplaces, so unless you’re not worried about burning your house down, it’s best to stick with UL Listed equipment.

If you’re looking for a direct-vent gas fireplace, your options are abundant. There are probably 1000 models to choose from. If, however, you want a modern looking one without fake logs or other distracting elements, your choice of manufacturers drops to about 4. Not only that but your price explodes into the ridiculousphere.

To see what was out there and how much it would cost, I contacted three fireplace dealers in Puget Sound and was less than impressed with the results. Two of them had nothing modern and weren’t particularly interested in pointing me elsewhere. The third one, Kirkland Fireplace, was even worse. I called to explain what I was looking for, and the guy on the other end told me he’d e-mail me some models to choose from. After a week, I still had not received an e-mail from him. Then I called again, told a new guy what happened with the first guy, and after apologizing he said he would send me the information. One more week went by with no email, no phone call, and no other follow-up from Kirkland Fireplace.

I don’t understand how a place like this stays in business. It’s like I’m calling them up and saying “Here, I have $5000 I want to place into your hands” and they are saying “Thanks, but we’re playing X-Box right now.” Especially in the middle of a severe economic/housing downturn, it shocks me that a place like this would be so unresponsive to unsolicited business. If you’re looking for a fireplace, I would stay away from Kirkland Fireplace.

After researching the options from Montigo, Spark, and Lennox — the only UL-listed modern gas fireplaces available in the U.S. — I happened upon the spankin’ new Heat & Glo site.

“Heat & Glo” you say?!?!

Yes! The trusty old manufacturer of fireplaces your grandparents would own.

Turns out Heat & Glo now makes a line of sharp looking modern fireplaces at convenient sizes and lower price points than their competitors. There were two models that looked great: the Red 40 and the Cosmo SLR. Both models were similar in appearance but the Cosmo was less expensive and didn’t have the crazy LED stuff I didn’t need. At just over $4000 delivered and installed, the Cosmo SLR was less than half the price of some of the other options (again, I can’t believe how expensive a simple gas burner can be if it’s marketed as “modern”… non-modern models can be had for $750).

Upon deciding to go with the Cosmo, the only question was where to purchase. Thankfully, I found Bill at Fireside Hearth & Home who hooked me up, delivered and installed the thing within three weeks, and gave me great service along the way.

The new hotness (photo from Heat & Glo)

The fireplace isn’t connected yet because we’re still waiting for the gas line, but it’s sitting pretty, ready to light up the living room right now. We’ll be hooking up the gas line and installing the blackened steel fireplace surround in the coming weeks.

UPDATE: For a look at the finished fireplace, complete with custom blackened steel surround, see this post.

Costs accrued during this stage:

Heat & Glo Cosmo SLR Fireplace$4,319.00

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8 Responses to “We Have Fire”

  1. Toronto Modern Says:

    The house is looking great! Congratulations, and hang in there. It will all be worth it.

    I know what you are saying about how difficult (and expensive) it is to find a modern gas fireplace. It’s really hard to find a place where you can see one “live” as well.

    You’ve already made your fireplace pick (and it’s a good one), but I was wondering about the Spark modern fireplaces and if you ever considered them. We got 2 of them (one for upstairs and downstairs) and we love them. It was a huge leap of faith as we never did get to see one “live” before we committed.

    Was it the UL approval issue? They have some alternate approvals. Their FAQ’s say:

    “Are your products UL approved?

    All of our products are certified to industry standard ANSI and CSA codes. We use OMNI test labs, which specializes in the certification of gas products. UL is a certifying agency, equivalent to OMNI. OMNI tests our products to the same codes as UL listed products. OMNI is approved by all 50 states and all local municipalities in the US and all territories and Provinces in Canada. For additional information, click on our approvals page. ”

    The company is extremely helpful as well. We were having problems getting the flame look just right and when we called them, they referred us to their chief engineer (who happened to live an hour or so away!). The designer sent one of his guys out (gratis) and they tuned up the fireplace (and even touched up the black trim!). Obviously, we got lucky on the geography as well.

  2. Mike D. Says:

    The Sparks look great and I almost got one, but at the time they only had the three footer and the six footer. I wanted something in-between. It appears they recently released the Direct Vent Slim 46, which looks perfect. If that was out at the time, I might have gotten it instead. Then again, it doesn’t look like you can do glass or rocks inside the Slim 46, which would suck. It also would have probably cost more like $6000 shipped, taxed, and installed.

    As for the Omni vs. UL Listed issue, I bet Omni is fine with the insurance companies as well… not sure.

  3. Kevin E. Says:

    For what its worth, and we very rarely dish on anybody in our industry, Montigo was much more frustrating for us than Kirkland Fireplace. Once we found the unit for Mike’s house that fit the bill, one of Montigo’s only pre-manufactured (and theoretically, “available”) units, we communicated with them 2 DOZEN times trying to get a price, confirm specs, and get a quote for the unit. And this is for a $9000 unit! After 4 months of total frustration, Mike located the Cosmo and we were off to the races. Assuming the Cosmo works out as we’re anticipating, I’m looking forward to losing Montigo’s contact information- in fact, I think I’ve forgotten their name already!

  4. Katrina Says:

    Hi…have found your website really interesting. We are extending and renovating a house in Perth, Western Australia..Seems we have similar issues, even this far away. Mind you, I think you have much more choice of product than us, possibly making it even harder!!
    We are at the gas fireplace stage and also are having trouble finding real images of the gas fire we want. The Cosmo is new to Oz and I was wondering if you have had yours installed yet and if you may even have some images?? How have you found it.
    Would love to hear your feedback as there’s not much around here because they are so new!.
    Good luck with it all,
    Perth, Australia

  5. tim Says:

    question on the cosmo slr…we bought one after stumbling onto your website. We love it, but my installer has not done any and I have yet to have him close the drywall on the service panel. Worried I’ll never get to clean the glass of screen again if I inclose. I see you went a different route with your install. we it to be able to access the valves and remote?

  6. Mike D. Says:

    Tim: Hmmm. Closing access to the service panel doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. What happens when you have problems? With our install, I think I can take a steel panel off of my surround in order to access the panel.

  7. ruth Says:

    Hi: Love the look of your house. Fireplace looks great. Do you have an issue accessing the fireplace if you need to service it? Looks like the steel covers the frame of the fireplace.

  8. Tim Says:

    Mike… I found out from Heat & Glo that you can cover the metal surround at install. The unit is capable of service after install by removing the rocks and burner from the top. My local install company did not know this.