The last time I posted about this issue. People mentioned the lack of a real flame being a major drawback to the electric fireplace models. I have to say I agree, as a result I kept searching Craigslist for a deal on a gas insert. While I do think that I will eventually find something, I wanted to gather some opinions on another option. While perusing the vast and boundless interwebs I happened to come across these gel fireplace inserts. They provide both a real flame in addition to a reasonable amount of heat.
Real Flame Ashley Gel Fireplace
You can buy the entire operation for about $500.00 and they have a plethora of options to choose from in terms of mantle styles and finishes. But, If you know me well enough, by now, you’d know that I’d think that was too easy and still too expensive. You’d also know that the options they have are not Craftsman enough for me. So wait until you see this:
These are intended to be used in existing fireplaces and this one retails for around $180.00. With one of these I could modify my existing mantle to include a fire box with a top, sides and bottom made from a noncombustible material such as patio pavers or tile. I’d also add a tile hearth and screen for added protection and to complete a seamless illusion.
The flame burns from a small can of odorless alcohol gel fuel which is supposed to be environmentally friendly and clean burning. The cans are a little pricy, running about three dollars each. They claim to last about 3 hours each and you can use between one and two at a time. Each can of fuel burns at nearly 3,000 BTUs. So, if you burned two for three hours you’d gain 6,000 BTUs (comparable to many small space heaters) an hour for three hours setting you back about six dollars. looking at the reviews on Amazon it was very evident that people love these things. Many have five star reviews drawn from hundreds of commenters. The product is billed as being incredibly safe in terms of both fire safety and emissions.
If six dollars is too much, there are all kinds of videos on YouTube which outline simple ways to make your own gel at home inexpensively from isopropyl alcohol, vinegar and chalk dust or even hand sanitizer.
So now I leave my question to you. Should I persue the gas insert for the ease and convenience of instant on demand heat and flame? Or, do I look further into a gel fuel option for time to time ambiance and marginal heat benefits on chilly evenings or with company?
In order to do my due diligence, I stopped by the fireplace store in my neighborhood and they gave me a lot of great information about gas inserts. I learned that the whole operation is really quite simple and could be done without hiring help. I also learned that they are expensive. For the basic model it was going to cost me around $1,400, add to that about $700 for a grill for the front, plus a $200.00 vent. All said and done, we are talking about two grand. While that’s certainly not extremely expensive, there are a lot of other places where two thousand dollars is more desperately needed at the bungalow (like the driveway).
They also had the same electric fireplace insert that was used in the guest house at A Country Farmhouse on display; and I must say, it really doesn’t look too bad in action.
Next stop… Craigslist!
There is hope. I did find quite a few used options that were less than $500.00 however, there was an awful lot of ’90s bass on them. Granted, I think I could paint away any brass with the high heat spray paint,(like has been done here) but I was less than enthused about the style of the listings. But, I think with any Craigslist endeavor time and persistence will pay off. So for right now I’ll be putting the fireplace on the back burner until I find an appropriate option.
I am however inquiring about this one. Its not perfect but… It might just work.
Its honestly one of the better Craigslist options I have seen and if I can negotiate a little on the price it might be able to be jazzed up a little with nice mantle and some tile.
Speaking of tile…
Since this puppy is being built into the house I think its important to try to be as authentic as possible and I would like to use a little bit of Arts & Crafts style Art Tile like these from Duquella Tile & Clayworks to put into the surround. I must admit even though I like the Arts & Crafts style, I am not very much of an earth tones kinda guy. I like these because they subject matter seems very Arts & Crafts but the colors are not so dreary.
As I research, I am also learning about something I believe is called Field Tile. It is usually green and has an uneven, but natural looking glaze. You can see an example of it here. I really the color and the subway tilesque used pattern in this application. That firebox also looks very similar to the one I enquired about on Craigslist.
Hopefully I hear back from the seller with some favorable news. In the meantime just keep you fingers crossed!