If you are considering buying a fireplace for your home, it doesn’t take long before you realise there are a lot of models on the market. How do you know what’s good value? What’s a quality product? And how much you should spend.
With the help of the team at Jetmaster Heat n Glo, we’ve put together a buyer’s guide that summarises, plus explains the key features that you’ll find in a quality fireplace and slow combustion unit, what the trade offs are if you go for a cheaper unit, and an indicative range of what you can expect to pay for each of the fireplace types.
So, if you are in the market to buy a fireplace, choose the type of fireplace you are interested in from the list below, get informed about the features that make a quality unit, and understand what features are left out from budget models:
Open Gas Fireplace Features
Open Gas Fireplaces are the perfect option if you are looking for a fireplace that brings ambience to a space that already has adequate heating. Here’s what you should be looking for in a quality Open Gas Fireplace unit:
Features of a quality open gas fireplace
- Should be simple to operate – with just the flick of a single wall switch.
- Fully compliant with Australian Standards
- You should be able to choose whether you have logs, coals or pebbles (these are called media).
- You should have the choice of fronts and burner styles, so that you can find the perfect aesthetic fit for your home.
- There should be a wide range of sizes available
- A quality unit will be easy to install, saving you installation headaches.
- Will give you the option of being able to be installed into an existing chimney.
- Will look decorative whilst providing some ambient heat to complement other heat sources.
Australian made brand of Open Gas Fireplaces?
If buying Australian made is important to you, then you should take a look at the Horizon brand of open gas fireplaces made by Kemlan.
Horizon open gas fireplaces offer lots of great features:
- Simple operation (single wall switch)
- Choice of media (logs, coals or pebbles)
- Floating burner with hidden controls
- Five styles and sizes to choose from, a wide choice of trims
- Made and designed in Australia
- Can be installed with a power flue
Plus they have one other big benefit:
- They can be installed in apartments. They offer the option of power flueing, which makes them suitable for apartments where a traditional flue is neither practical nor possible.
Trade-offs when you spend less on an open gas fireplace
If you are comparing open gas fireplace units at different price points, make sure that you get all the features described above – especially check that the unit is compliant with Australian standards; plus make sure it is simple to operate.
From an installation perspective, some of the more budget units aren’t as straightforward to install, which means you may incur additional cost when getting your unit installed. Plus quality fireplace brands have a really wide range of trims, fronts, fascias and mantel options available, this means that the installed unit will look great in your home no matter what your décor or style. With budget brands you’ll find that the choice of finishes is much more restricted.
What can you expect to pay for an open gas fireplace?
Prices start from $2780 (plus flues if required) for a Jetmaster Universal 400/440 insert with gas coals.
Closed Gas Fireplaces with a Balanced Flue
A fireplace with a balanced flue is an awesome addition to any home. Heat & Glo originally invented the technology, and its central feature is that it draws fresh air for combustion from the outside to the fire and then expels any by-products from the heating process direct to the outdoors. The benefit to you is that you maintain optimum indoor air quality.
When you are looking to buy a closed gas fireplace here’s the features that you should make sure are included in your new unit:
- Balanced Flue technology
- Full function remote control
- Adjustable flame height and fan
- IntelliFire electronic ignition eliminates the need for a standing pilot, saving money on gas
- Range of sizes and styles
- Choice of medias and trims
- With more control over the fire, you’ll have a greater range of adjustability of the heat output into your room.
- More efficient, meaning lower gas bills for a warm house.
- There is a model to suit just about every home, size and style requirement.
Trade-offs when you spend less on a gas fireplace
If you’ve been shopping around, and are wondering what you might miss out on if you buy a lower priced unit, chances are you’ve been quoted on a unit that has:
- A standing pilot rather than electronic ignition, which will burn more gas
- No choice between logs, pebbles or coals.
- No trim
- No option for internal mirrors or refractory panels,
- Maybe lacks a fan
- Has no adjustable flame so you can’t adjust the heat output – your fireplace will either be on or off.
Plus – check out the “fake” logs and what they look like – some brands have much more realistic looking ceramic logs than others. Overall though – its likely your cheaper model will cost you more to run, using more gas and producing less heat.
Open wood fireplaces
If you are one of those people that love the smell, the crackling sound and ambience of a real wood fire, you know that you are in the market for an open wood fireplace. But even if you know that you want a traditional open wood fireplace, there are still different options at various price points. And like everything, you get what you pay for. So read on to see what a quality brand will offer you:
Features of a quality open wood fireplace:
- A well designed open fireplace will ensure the right amount of draw – so your fire will burn well & won’t smoke. The Jetmaster universal firebox draws cool air into the heating chamber, and as the air heats, it rises and is forced back out into the room, thus creating a convection process.
- Some, like the Jetmaster fireplace unit will have the option to buy matching trims and integrated screens so that your traditional fireplace has clean and contemporary lines.
- The product will be easy for your installer to fit – you’ll have the choice of going into an existing or new chimney, as well as zero clearance installation as an option.
- Your unit should have an adjustable damper to control the air flow to the fire
- Plus, a quality fireplace brand will offer you the choice of single sided, double sided, or freestanding models.
Benefits of buying a quality wood fireplace:
- It will look great with or without the fire lit and add to the style of your room.
- When lit, it will be an effective source of radiant heat for your room
- And, a well designed fireplace will actually burn better, so there’s less risk of smoke in the room, and will definitely generate more heat.
Downsides of choosing a cheaper brand
So you’ve looked around, and you’re wondering what happens if you spend less? Here’s where you may miss out:
- The key thing you’ll trade off is the effectiveness of the firebox. The firebox houses the fire, but an effective and efficient firebox will radiate heat back into the room. If the firebox isn’t designed with convective heating, it will simply be a metal box to house the fire, and your fireplace will be less effective at heating your room.
- Generally a brand with a lower price will have a much narrower range – so expect fewer available sizes and options, with less flexibility to suit a range of install spaces.
- If there’s no air damper, then you’ll have limited or no control over the airflow to your fire, making it less efficient.
- Plus you should make sure the trim and overall finish of the fireplace you’re buying is up to the overall standard of your room.
What can you expect to pay for a quality open fireplace insert?
Prices start from $1795 (plus flues if required) for a Jetmaster Universal 400/440 insert with logpan.
Wood burning heaters or slow combustion heaters
With slow combustion stoves you get the best of both worlds – an efficient way to heat your home & the beauty of a real wood fire. Wood burning fireplaces have more technology built in than is commonly understood, so when you are comparing models at different price points there are genuine differences in the product and subsequent performance that you get.
Top of the range Slow Combustion units:
If you are looking at a slow combustion heater as being the primary source of heat for your home, then you should probably look at units from a premium brand like Quadra-Fire. A Premium brand of wood heater will include features like:
Features of a top quality slow combustion heater
- Automatic Combustion Control (ACC) technology
- Patented four point burn system
- Manufactured from all high quality components – 6-8mm steel, glass air wash system
- Long burn times
- High efficiency heat output
Benefits of purchasing a top quality slow combustion heater
- You’ll have more control over the fire – while you’re not quite able to set a thermostat and reach an exact temperature, a premium quality slow combustion heater will give you greater control over the heat output, and therefore the burn rate of your heater. This will mean you’ll heat the fire up quickly and maintain a comfortable temperature in a shorter period of time.
Mid-Range Slow Combustion units
As you come down in price, naturally you’ll reduce in features. If you are looking at buying a brand like Heatilator or Kemlan, you’ll absolutely get a quality unit that is:
- Clean burning unit with very low emissions
- Air wash system to help keep glass clean
- Long burn times with great heat output whilst maintaining good efficiency
But the trade offs are:
- The unit is made from slightly thinner steel than a premium model like Quadra-Fire
- Slightly less control of the burn rate
With Australian made brands like Kemlan, you’re supporting one of the oldest wood heater manufacturers an Australian designed and made product, as well as getting a unit that:
- Offers a large range of design and installation options
- Offers long burn times and fantastic level of control
- Has a primary airwash system
Kemlan have been manufacturing fireplaces since 1969 and are continually developing their products to suit Australian conditions/ fuel types and in demand styles. They have a reputation for getting hot fast and will burn well throughout the night.
What can you expect to pay for a slow combustion heater?
Prices start from $2870 (inc. standard flue kit) …. and for that price, you get Australia’s most efficient woodfire – the Heatilator WS-18.
Every brand of slow combustion heater on the market, no matter what the price point, has to comply with the Clean Air regulations, however price should not always be a true indication of the quality of the fireplace. It is always best to consult your local heating specialist to find the best fit for your individual requirements.
Its no surprise really – you get what you pay for. The basic equation is –pay more for the unit up front and you’ll get a more efficient heater, that will cost you less to run. This can mean paying less for gas or wood needed to run them, or needing to rely less on your complementary heating source.
Plus a quality unit will last longer without a doubt.
Thank you to the team at Jetmaster Heat and Glo Richmond for sharing their insights & knowledge on the quality differences between different fireplace brands.