At Home Places

Home is Where the Hearth is

A Crackling Fireplace or Stove Creates a Cozy Focal Point and an Efficient Heat Source

written by Stacey Campbell
photography by Joe Crocetta

“A fireplace makes a house feel more like a home, makes a house more appealing,” says Larry Rush, owner of L.T. Rush Stone, which provides custom masonry work in addition to selling and installing fireplaces and stoves.

Fireplaces once were a necessity for cooking and heating, though more often than not they were terribly inefficient at keeping a home warm. Today, fireplaces remain focal points and gathering places, and new designs and stoves have vastly improved their utility as a heat source. And, thereʼs just something about the glow, crackle and warmth of a fire that says, “home.”

“All humans like fire. In the winter time when the fireplace is burning, it changes the whole room and the feel of the house,” says Larry Rush, owner of Waynesboroʼs L.T. Rush Stone. “Once you have a fireplace, the house is definitely more enjoyable.” And, a heat pump doesnʼt produce the same type of warmth as a stove or fireplace can (not to mention the abysmally low ambiance level of heating vents). “When you have central heating, sometimes when itʼs cold or wet outside, you just want to get cozy by a heat source,” says ThompsonGas Mid-Atlantic Region Vice President Martin Mendes. “You can make a room really toasty and relax by that fireplace.”

Local companies like L.T. Rush Stone, ThompsonGas and Smithsburgʼs Mace Energy Supply make it easy for clients to bring the warmth and appeal of a fireplace or stove into their homes — even when there isnʼt an existing fireplace or chimney to begin with. A visit to the showroom allows customers to see the broad range of options available and discuss their needs. ThompsonGasʼ Boonsboro showroom features a full line of free-standing and wall-mounted propane fireplaces, as well as freestanding gas stoves that mimic the look of wood or pellet stoves, complete with ceramic logs, Martin says.

Larry describes the styles available today as spanning “the whole spectrum, from a traditional gas log fireplace to a contemporary, clean face, sleek look, and even fireplaces with LED lights that go around them.” In addition to selling and installing brands like Napoleon gas fireplaces and Quadra-fire pellet and wood stoves, L.T. Rush provides custom masonry work. “We can take a blank wall and create a stone fireplace with custom masonry in any design: bookshelves, a shadowbox above for mounting a TV, nooks to store wood,” Larry says.

Traditional fireplaces, energy-efficient fireplace inserts — which help prevent heat loss up the chimney — and stoves add style to a room in many ways. “A stove is an attractive piece of equipment in the house, almost a piece of furniture, with a nice appealing fire that you see through the door,” says Tad Tweed, president of Mace Energy Supply, which carries top stove brands available in cast iron and steel from Jotul, and soapstone versions from HearthStone. “It provides ambiance in the room as well as provides the heat that youʼre looking for.”

Rob Benish had a HearthStone wood stove from Mace Energy installed in his Sharpsburg-area home to use as an energy-efficient alternative to his geothermal heat pump. Fueled by wood cut from his surrounding land, the stove kept the home at a cozy 70 degrees or so this past winter. “Running the stove at capacity from November all through the winter heating season, there were only a few nights that the main heating system came on,” Rob says. He acknowledges the work involved in emptying the ash, and cutting and moving the wood. “Youʼve got to enjoy the whole ambiance of the wood stove, because there is a lot of work involved,” he says. “But I enjoy that part. Itʼs good exercise.”

“All humans like fire. In the winter time when the fireplace is burning, it changes the whole room and the feel of the house.”

Minor cleaning and maintenance are required throughout the heating season for Norm Morinʼs pellet boiler, a whole-home heating option that Mace installed in his Smithsburg home in lieu of its original oil boiler. “Itʼs very quiet. And it does a great job,” he says, adding that if itʼs extremely cold, the oil backs it up.

“Especially with a pellet stove or natural gas, you can save a lot money on heating bills,” Larry says, even to the point of paying for themselves in one year based on the money they save. In addition to saving money on heating fuels, a stove or fireplace can allow homeowners to zone heat, rather than turning up the thermostat. “In a bigger or older house, when everyone hangs out in one room and wants it a little warmer in there, you can heat just that one room instead of the whole house,” Martin says. “Or with a colder room, smaller units can heat that room very nicely.”

Overall, itʼs a bargain that frequently results in increased comfort and cost savings. “A lot of people come in and theyʼre just amazed that theyʼve saved so much money,” Tad says, “[and theyʼre] amazed at how comfortable they are because with a heat pump theyʼve never felt warm.”