Does anyone in Phoenix use a fireplace? Should you have fireplaces built in your new home? We take apart those questions here.
Having a Fireplace in the Desert
You should have a fireplace in Arizona if you love the way a fireplace looks. From a decor perspective, fireplaces and mantels can make the focal point of a room beautiful.
If you have lots of square footage, a fireplace might be a good option. A fireplace requires space; you obviously wouldn't put furniture in front of it or right next to it, so you need a spacious room to enjoy a fireplace.
You should have a fireplace in Arizona if you install a gas fireplace and don't intend to use real wood. If you are buying a resale home, you will want to consider converting it to natural gas. Why? In the Phoenix area, as the temperatures get cooler, the air pollution gets worse, and the County issues air quality advisories. On those days we are prohibited from using wood burning fireplaces or stoves. Some areas don't even allow wood-burning fireplaces to be built in new construction homes.
You Don't Need a Fireplace
If you are concerned about fires or carbon monoxide poisoning, then you don't need a fireplace in Arizona. Furthermore, if you think it will reduce your heat expense in the winter, then think again. Fireplaces remove more heat, through the openings, than they replace.
There are some cool days and nights, even in the desert, and a natural gas fireplace may be right for you. Generally, though, don't assume that it will save you money on your electric bill. Even if it gave off some heat, it would take you years to recoup the cost of the fireplace itself, not including any maintenance. Install a fireplace if you love the way it looks. It's also very popular to build fireplaces and stoves outside. If you entertain in the back yard, this might be something you'd enjoy.
About 10 years after posting this article (originally written in 2005), we received the following comments from a local fireplace contractor, HR Contracting LLC in Anthem, AZ:
"Wood burning and some B vent fireplaces are generally inefficient as they create a draft, some do now come with fresh air ducting but still I agree that they are not very efficient. When it comes to direct venting fireplaces, they are quite efficient as they have a sealed glass front and exchange the required fresh air from the outside therefore they do not create any draft. The popular opinion of those who do not understand functionality of fireplaces would think that the sealed glass restricts the amount of heat and the open faced fireplaces gives off more heat but it is just the opposite. A direct vent fireplace builds heat and the glass actually radiates the heat into the room and in some cases you can actually put a fireplace in that is too big for a room and cook yourself out unless you have additional features such as adjustable flame, thermostats, etc. Additionally, a blower unit will maximize the efficiency of a direct vent fireplace and push more hot air into the room. Ceiling fan in the room will also help push the air through the home. Vent free is also fairly efficient, the downside is the odor and the concern of Carbon Monoxide exposure and those alarms are required for their use."
What have you decided? Fireplace or no?