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Copyright © 2006
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The Sun Valley Guide magazine is distributed free three times a year to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area communities.

Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper will receive the Sun Valley Guide with their subscription.

The Niagra from Max Blank is one of a wide new variety of fireplace designs. With a built-in water feature, this stainless steel wood burning flue stove features a waterfall above the stove. Max Blank products available at Warming Trend

buy habitat
writer: Trevor Schubert

With countless variations in style, a wide array of fuels, and prices from $600 to upwards of $20,000, the multitude of options available to the fireplace buyer make such a purchase a daunting task. “Very seldom does someone come in knowing what they want,” said Travis Zerba, president of Hailey’s Fireplaces Etc.

Terry Roth, who owns the Ketchum-based Warming Trend of Idaho with his wife, Kathy, agrees. “We see customers seven or eight times before they buy,” said Roth. “There is such diversity, so many brochures. One fireplace may come in seven sizes with twelve different faces.”
In the simplest terms, however, your search should boil down to whether you are looking for heat or ambiance. Following is a guide to help you find the perfect fireplace.

Fueling the fire
Wood is tradition, wood is nostalgia, and wood can be a headache for someone who doesn’t have the time or space to collect and store it. “We see wood in living areas—in larger spaces. In bedrooms, it’s mostly electric or gas.” Roth estimates 20 percent of his sales are wood and 80 percent are gas. “Of that 20 percent that are originally wood, about 10 percent of homeowners end up replacing wood with gas logs,” said Roth.

According to Zerba, the debate is often decided on whether the fireplace is for a new or existing home. “For fireplaces we install in existing homes, roughly 60 percent are gas and 40 percent are wood,” said Zerba, but in new homes, the numbers flip to 60 percent wood and 40 percent gas.

“Gas fireplaces allow more flexibility,” said Zerba. The direct-vent technology employed by gas units allows a flue to be bent to fit the space you want it in. Solid-fuel units must vent straight up. Direct venting is efficient as heated room air is not wasted to fan the fire, a problem wood units cannot avoid.
Installation of a gas fireplace in an existing home takes about half a day, said Zerba. And, gas fireplaces turn on with the flick of a switch, push of a button or by remote control. “Gas is much cleaner than wood, and direct vents will not back-draft,” said Zerba.

Pellets are less cumbersome to collect and haul than wood, but Roth warns his customers, “Pellets are a little more trouble than people realize.” A byproduct of lumber mills, pellets are cost efficient: a 40-pound bag costs $3 to $5. However, heating a Ketchum home may require up to two tons of pellets, or 100 40-pound bags a year—and pellets cannot be stored outside. Also, according to Roth, “If your electricity goes out, you are stuck without heat,” he added, because of the fans.

Go electric
Electric fireplaces are another option. “They are becoming quite a hit,” said Kathy Roth. “They provide a little heat for someone who cannot bring in wood or does not have natural gas.” Electric fireplaces are easy to install and do not require a flue or chimney.

Art in your hearth

Lastly, one must consider the multitude of exterior options available. “Everyone is looking for that custom look, and it seems everyone has the trickle water-Zen thing going,” said Roth. Modern-day fireplaces have evolved into fine art, employing aromatherapy, water features, swivel mounts and a dizzying array of stylish and sleek casings.