Zero Clearance Fireplaces Are A Great Alternative When A Real Fireplace Isn't Possible

by Jerrico_Usher

These fireplaces are found in most apartment complexes and newer homes without chimneys now

A fireplace is a great way to add ambiance and warmth to a home, but for homes without a chimney, this can be an extremely expensive and complicated add-on. For those that would like to have a fireplace, but would prefer to save a little money and time, zero clearance fireplaces may be the next best thing.

This type of fireplace can be installed in a home without a chimney or a hearth. Zero clearance fireplaces simply need a ventilation system to run to be a great addition to a home. They are known as "zero clearance" because it is not necessary to leave additional space below the installation to insert the heat source. These come in wood burning and gel fuel models (fake wood). The gas models require more complex installation and infrastructures in place.


Zero Clearance Fireplace

Zero Clearance Fireplaces And Fuel Gel

The great thing about the zero clearance fireplaces is that it is completely customizable to a home's style and the homeowner's preferences. Styles range from contemporary to classic, simple to robust, with the options to choose colors and mantles that best complement a room design. The possibilities are endless, and very easy to find with a variety of options.

Can Be Found On Amazon
SEI FA6000 - 24 Cans of FireGlo Gel Fuel

FireGlo helps create the perfect ambiance for your decorative fireplace or gel burner. An alcohol based gel fuel, FireGlo provides genuine flames and a realistic crackling sound...

Southern Enterprises Inc.
$103.00  $79.65

View on Amazon

Real Flame Gel Fuel - 13 oz cans; 24-Pack

Real Flame is the leading brand of gel fuel in the market. Lasting up to three hours each can creates bright yellow, orange, and red flames that crackle just like a real fire. B...

Real Flame
$85.00  $71.99

View on Amazon

Sunjel 12 Pack - the extraordinary clean burning alcohol gel (Alcohol Gel) (12 - 13oz Pint Can)

A cutting edge mixture of science and organic ingredients come together to form the extraordinary alcohol gel, SunJel. SunJel has been developed exclusively for use in un-vented...

2 Burn, Inc

View on Amazon

Zero clearance wood fireplaces are often fueled by a gel fuel canister. These canisters last about 3 hours and offer the popping and crackling of a real fireplace, without toxic fumes.

These canisters may be preferable to electric fireplaces because of their realistic aesthetics. You can also choose to use just one canister at a time, or to increase the number used for a larger fire and to produce more heat.

They are also a safe and efficient alternative to traditional options. In a way it's likened to the Duraflame logs but indoors- burning for hours and providing heat as well as a beautiful and real fire.

Having zero clearance means that any combustible materials around the fireplace won't likely catch fire. A well-installed and properly used unit can also produce heat for a room and cut back on other heating costs in the home.

Finding the right fireplace will take some time and some research. Prices can range from a few hundred dollars up to a few thousand and there are a lot of places to find them especially online. 


Benefits of zero clearance fireplaces

In many respects, these fireplaces are like an outdoor fire pit you can use indoors. There are a few different options in design including the type you can actually build into the wall for a home renovation. You can put these in rooms as well bringing a new atmosphere to a master bedroom. When reselling the home this will definitely add value and appeal to the property.

The other version that's quickly becoming popular is the stand alone model that doesn't require building into the wall but it does require a ventilation system to remove the expended fumes and chemicals from the gel or real wood burning in it.

This ventilation can be built into the wall behind the unit or you can create a funnel to vent it outside. This will require some safety precautions and may not be very attractive.

Another choice for consumers is the popular television stand often used to host an HDTV.

This model doesn't burn fuel or logs but rather has a realistic flame animation effect and is essentially a beautiful wood heater designed to look like a fireplace.

It also has shelves for home entertainment accessories (DVD Players, VCR's, Cable boxes, satellite boxes and so on).

These units put off a lot of heat and are safe even around children.

The zero clearance fuel/wood/electric options are also safe as they are self contained units that don't heat up the external parts of the unit but provide excellent heat and aesthetics.

You could even take the unit with you when you move providing you cover up the vent hole which is cheaper than buying a new fireplace!

In many places where a typical fireplace would both limit the placement (only where on both floors the chimney exists could you install one i.e. in a bedroom) of a fireplace and would be very expensive to accomplish.

The zero clearance models can go anywhere so long as you can create a vent hole.

Many of the zero point models built into the wall utilize a vent that is directly behind it and leading outside.

Since only fumes and heat are generated no toxic fumes, fire, or burned peices will cause alarm for a fire as in a typical fireplace concept where hot soot could land on the roof and catch fire.


Other Types Of Zero Clearance And Portable Fireplaces

Just 100 years ago there were a very limited selection of fireplace types. Mainly, you had to have a chimney often made from brick and that could be an eyesore on certain types of homes. With the modern day homes the chimney concept just doesn't fit into it.

It was nice for rustic homes and is still used in cabins and some classic styles of home, but in the city or urban areas the chimney fireplace has practically vanished from existence.

New designs use either the zero clearance wood burning models or the more popular gel fuel burning models.

This made it not only inexpensive to add to new homes and offers more variety with "where" you can put it including up in the higher part of the wall for a unique and wealthy look aesthetic but you can also find versions that are highly portable and can be placed in a home or removed without any problems or holes being bored into the wall.

Fireplaces have also become smaller and in exotic shapes as well. Below are just a few of the available styles and types of portable units:

Fireplace Mantels

One of the classic hallmarks of a fireplace is not really the actual chimney but the mantel built around the fire hole in the home.

For many homes, this is the distinction between cool or "ordinary".

The new evolution in fireplace design from the zero clearance fireplace built into the wall to the version that sits in front of it to the fire-less models (heaters and entertainment centers) doesn't change the necessity for a great looking mantel.

The fire-less models or entertainment centers with a fireplace center piece (heater no actual fire is created but a rendition of fire is simulated) often are designed to themselves look like the mantel (built into the look / aesthetics) but the fire burning / gel fuel burning models you vent out could always use a great mantel to bring it closer to the classic built in look of a chimney fireplace.

You can purchase prefabricated mantels that either hang on the wall as a shelf or that surround the fireplace or you can build one yourself.

Below are some resources for books that have full illustrations and plans for building your own. Others there show you some design ideas to inspire the Carpenter in you!

Build Your Own Fireplace Mantel Guides!

In Conclusion

Fireplace models are increasingly becoming more innovative as the demand for inexpensive heat but a more modern contemporary look and feel are in more demand. The boundaries often perceived in fireplaces have been broken again and again with new technologies coming out that makes fireplaces as easy and inexpensive to buy and place in the home as an aquarium! 

You can often save money by purchasing your unit online at places like Amazon and eBay and like anything you can find new and cheaper used models saving you money.

I hope this gave you some insight and helps you find your next fireplace and fuel. I built this article as my own research (what I found) to finding a unit for my parents and they now own the TV stand fireplace/heater unit and it looks amazing in their home!

Thank you for reading my review!

Updated: 07/05/2012, Jerrico_Usher
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