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The traditional brick or stone fireplace creates a warm, inviting atmosphere in any room, but framing fire has changed dramatically in recent years.

Space heating options are exciting for those in search of products that not only raise the temperature but also enhance the décor.

A couple of elegant choices are the Solas and Solas-Nua gas fireplaces from Hearth Innovations. They hang on the wall, and therefore don't require a cavity in the wall, just a small 6-inch round opening for an exhaust. They are available in landscape and portrait format, 38 3/4 inches to 23 1/2 inches wide, and come with an optional corner installation kit. They can be installed on either outside or interior walls and remote controls are standard.

The newest and largest Solas-Linear gives a wide view; the fireplace is 58 3/4 inches wide by 25 5/8 inches high by 8 inches deep; the viewing window is 46 inches wide by 12 inches high. Costs range from $3,000 installed for the smallest Solas unit to $4,000 to $4,500 installed for the Linear. The choice of the surround can affect the price - black matte being the base price and stainless steel the most expensive. Colours also include burgundy, sand, steel grey, and nutmeg. Greg Martayan, sales and marketing director for Hearth Innovations and Hearthstone Stoves, says these fireplaces are chosen for aesthetics and are intended to heat small areas, 800 to 1,000 sq. ft.

Hearthstone Stoves produces a cast iron and soapstone wood stove that is a modern take on a traditional design. "The soapstone woodstoves do not have a lining inside. The flame is touching the inch and a quarter-thick soapstone walls," Martayan says. "While a steel stove will keep the heat for likely an hour after the fire dies down; and cast iron will hold heat for possibly two hours, soapstone will retain the heat for five hours. Soapstone is for people who will use the stove 24/7." The stoves also come with a side loading door.

Hearthstone Bari wood stove is a freestanding stainless steel and soapstone cylinder with a glass window. The stove rotates 180 degrees, so owners can adjust the position when guests move from the dining room into the living room, giving them full view of the fire.

Hearthstone gas stoves have an airtight steel firebox but the outer tiles can be changed to suit the room décor-tiles slide in easily and are not glued in place. Ceramic, granite or soapstone tiles can be used on these stoves. (People building a new home, or renovating, may choose to have the floor tiles cut to fit the stove as well.)

The move to space heating is a green choice, says Juanita Corrigan, co-owner of Corrigan's Stove Centre, Charlottetown. "Space heating keeps the living space at a comfortable temperature, while the rest of the house can be cooler."

This year she says demand is for wood, wood pellet and propane stoves. Jøtul and Pacific Energy woodstoves are very popular. "Jøtul has been making stoves since 1853 and people know they are getting a quality product. These stoves can be a workhorse and be beautiful as well," Corrigan says. Pacific Energy has everything from traditional to modern styles, in steel and cast iron. Pacific Classic series are clad in rich gem tones of porcelain enamel, while the Fusion is a European-inspired design with sleek lines, a hi-tech firebox and wood storage. The website, pacificenergy.net/ also has a fun, "Build My Stove" feature that lets you choose models and colours and see the finished product.

Corrigan says, "Propane is a fantastic heat source, it's a lovely heat. They are beautiful space heaters and people like the fact that they can flick a switch and have a real flame and instant heat that is clean burning," she says.

Diane McMasters, of Vintage Stove & Fireplace in Amherst and Truro, says most of her clients are homeowners with large areas to heat who choose either Pacific Energy woodstoves or Harman wood or pellet stoves. "Pellet stoves are most popular. They are convenient, give excellent heat, are very comparable to wood heat and are very clean. They come in a wide range of sizes and styles to suit a customer's needs." McMasters has pellet-burning education/information sessions a couple of weekends each year "A lot of the time, we will get families here with cottages who put a wood or pellet stove, in and they will want an electric fireplace for their condo." McMasters says.

Juanita Corrigan says people choose electric fireplaces when they are just looking for a little cozy comfort in a smaller area. "It's more for aesthetics," she says. Electric fireplaces require no venting so are very portable. They come in a wide range of sizes and styles, from freestanding to wall inserts and wall mounts. They also provide a view of a fire without the heat on warmer days.

When choosing a space heater-wood, pellet, gas or electric-consider the size of the space you want to heat, the cost and fuel efficiency of the unit, daily or regular maintenance required, cost of fuel used, and the appearance.

You can buy modern heating technology in a range of styles from traditional to contemporary. If you are looking for a backup when the power goes out, then obviously you'll seek out a unit that operates without electricity.

Check to make sure the stove, fireplace or insert is EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) approved. Hire a WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) certified installer for woodstoves and inserts. EPA approved stoves emit two to seven grams of particulate per hour and use 30 per cent less wood; while older stoves could emit 30-50 grams of particulate per hour. New woodstoves also use outside air for combustion, where older stoves used inside air. Gas stoves, fireplaces, and inserts are fitted by the retailer's installers.

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